I am officially 74 days into life without Mike. Yes, I count the days. 74 days of silence, self-soothing techniques, cooking for one, figuring out finances, taking care of the dogs, isolating because of this pandemic, and staring out the window looking for “signs.”
The more I research, speak about, and write on my loss, the more I realize I’m not alone. Thousands of people have lost their “person”, “spouse”, “partner.” You start to hear stories of “others” (yes it’s in quotes for a reason), you get referred to people who have sort-of gone through what you’ve gone through. You get told you’re not alone–and that should make you feel better. Now, I’m going to be very raw, and very real for a moment here–it doesn’t make me feel better. Experts across the globe talk about grief, there are experts and doctors and people who have written books, have had groups, start chat rooms, all on the focus of loss and grief. It’s everywhere, it’s all around us. Grief exists for everyone in some way.
Now, I’ve been through loss before; the concept is not new to me. I lost my grandfather when I was 12 (a grandfather I felt a kindred spirit with), I lost my other grandfather when I was in college. Both in their late 60’s/mid 70’s. Then I lost my uncle and godfather a few years back (a bit more than that), he was only 54. Then there are all the miscarriages Mike and I had to grieve through.
I had seen and felt loss. But not like this. I haven’t fully opened up yet about what those 14 months were like, trying desperately to save my husband’s life, what our days looked like, things I had to do that I never thought I would, things I had to see that can never be unseen; not being able to magically spirit away Mike’s cancer. I will eventually tell that story–when I can. Right now I can’t. I can’t do a lot of things right now. I can’t sleep in our bedroom–I can’t even sleep upstairs because one of those rooms was our baby’s room where an empty crib now sits. I sleep on a couch with my dogs nearby for comfort and support. I can’t think about his last weeks or days. I can’t even think about his smile because I end up in a puddle on the floor. I can’t sleep well, and have nightmares. I can’t see past tomorrow, let alone figure out what my purpose is supposed to be in all of this. I can’t take off the necklace that now permanently sits around my neck with his wedding band dangling from the end of it; sometimes I slip it over my finger just to see if I can feel him with me. I can’t take his now defunct debit/credit card out of my wallet because it still has his signature on the back and I want so badly to feel a part of him, any of him that makes it seem as though he is here in living color.
I know so many have these feelings as well, but being told you aren’t alone doesn’t help. Being told you’re not special (not in a bad way) because so many have suffered similar stories of death and loss, doesn’t help. The fact of the matter is, I want to be special, I want to be the only one who is suffering through this. But, why would I say this?
Let me explain what I mean. I say this because I’m afraid that if Mike isn’t the only one to suffer this fate, if our circumstance isn’t special, if there are just so many others like “us,” then what is the purpose of it all? I fear that Mike’s death will just get lumped in with “statistics” of so many other spouses/partners who have died. He will become a number, a story of “he died just like this person did.” And, that fear of him being lumped in with everyone else is almost paralyzing. I want Mike to be special–because he is special, he is unique, he is the purest form of a human-being that has ever walked this Earth. The idea that I am not alone is comforting, but it also scares me a great deal, not because I’m not alone, but because I need to feel as though Mike’s death is special–I need to find a purpose in it, and that is a hard feeling to sit with. And, I also know I’m not alone in this feeling of wanting to be alone, to be special in what I have faced, as I have heard from others. See, that’s the part of all of this that gets lost in translation. Every single person out there who has lost their person, their spouse or partner, their story is unique, it’s special–it should be because their person was special. Out of the 7.8 billion people on this earth, only a fraction of them will experience the loss of a partner/spouse, yet most will face grief in some way. And, a recent Harvard study showed that of those grieving the loss of a spouse or partner, the vast majority were between the ages of 65-89, not under the age of 50.
Grief is complicated, it is messy, and it is dizzying. There are emotions that won’t make sense to those close to you, and yet make sense to those who walk a path close to your own. There are fears you never expect to have, yet surface and stick to you like glue, even as you try to climb the mountain ahead. No matter how many others you meet that have suffered the loss of their person, each of your stories are yours alone. Your loss is special and it holds a special place on this Earth. And, with that special loss are a group of others with special losses of their own where you can lean on each other.
Loss requires help, of which I am getting. I see a counselor and I didn’t waste time looking for one because I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk this path without help. I urge any who have not sought help to do so (no matter how long it’s been), because this is not a burden one should carry completely solo. Not just professional help, but family help, friends help, colleagues help (as I do).
Take your time. Walk through your special type of grief as you see fit. Be comfortable with it. Talk to it. And, don’t let anyone else lump your loss in with others. Your loss is yours alone (so to speak–that doesn’t mean shut people out). Lean on those with similarities, reach out for ways to connect, and share experiences with those who have a circumstance of their own. But be special and allow your partner, your person to be special in what you’ve faced, because there are no two people like you.
There are no two people like Mike or I. There is no person like Mike.
For those who would like to seek counseling help (I know it is difficult to find right now due to the pandemic), here are some resources that may help:
Headspace: Everyday Mindfulness and Meditation for Stress, Anxiety, Sleep, Focus, Fitness, and More.
Teledoc: Virtual mental health therapy and counseling for everyone.
Psychology Today: A site where you can search for local grief counselors in your area.
Betterhelp.com: A virtual counseling site for grief, anxiety, stress and other mental health needs.
National Hospice and Palliative Care hotline:(800) 658-8898 or www.nhpco.org.
Talkspace: counseling from the comfort of your home.
It is with Grace that I try to accept what has happened. It is with Guidance (including spiritually) that I walk this path. It is with Gratitude that I had the unique love of my husband Mike, and work to find a purpose to help others.
May Grace. Guidance. Gratitude be with all of you.