Since Handsome Husband’s death (and, oh how writing those words make me stare unbelievingly at them) I’ve joined a few online communities of women and men who are grieving the death of a spouse. I don’t oftentimes comment on them but I read so that I can find out what their normal is and how they’re getting through this most grievous of losses.
I’m struck at the numbers of people whose worlds, in the time since the death, have narrowed in so many ways and I come away filled over and over with gratitude that out of this great loss, I at least haven’t suffered the additional loss of my social network. To the contrary, my world has expanded. Exploded almost if I really allow myself to think about it. And I don’t say that by way of anything other than I need to look at myself squarely sometimes and acknowledge for my sake of sanity how far I’ve come in these 6 months since my world was flattened and destroyed by a tsunami of such force that nothing is the same or will ever be the same.
The above isn’t a negative statement; it’s a simple observation. I glance at pictures of me and my most dearly loved husband in times past and the me in those pictures is unrecognizable in any way. The joy in my smile as I gazed up at him, the passion for life, the spirit of us together. There is no joy, no passion, no spirit for life in me right now. Not because I’m depressed but because I’m in the darkness of grief. Which is also okay. A phrase from a book I’m reading comes to mind, that it’s in the purging of the soul that space is opened up and transformation can take place.
I’m counting on that. Part of me believes that. The other part wants to believe that. I’m working on not being fearful of the process.
So, back to my original thought that brings my ramblings together. From the moment my husband took his last breath, in spite of the soul-slicing pain, a part of my brain kicked into action for protection. Not protection from the pain, but protection while I’m going through the pain. Even if I could, I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t there. But I knew, and still know, that I need to shore myself up. I was out in California, knew nobody, knew our lease was up at the condo, knew I had to leave, which meant I had to get in the car and drive to Arizona so I could be with 2 of our kids briefly, then start heading East to New Jersey to plan his memorial. And attend a family wedding in New Mexico on the way and get to Indiana to pay my respects to his mom and attend his family reunion for him. When all I had energy for or wanted to do was crawl under the covers and wait for the pain to abate.
Under the covers for any length of time, first and foremost, isn’t my personality. And, were he alive, Handsome Husband would indulge that for a brief time, but only briefly. So, yes, I say my brain kicked in but honestly its’ been instinct and my gut that guided me than and is guiding me now.
I told Handsome Husband I would paint my car pink so that he could find me out on the road. That was my first reason for searching out Anthony of Supreme Garage in Arizona to spin his magic and create my color. The second reason was instinct. Not only do I hope for HH to find me out on the road, I need others to find me. Grief is isolating. Being out on the road is isolating. Neither of which is a good thing for me for long. A pink car? Who isn’t going to wonder about the hows and whys of that? People are drawn to me, they ask me those questions and I get to talk a little bit about Handsome Husband and our travels and our story. Telling the story is a huge part of what grieving is all about but so often, we run out of ears after a while. I’ll never run out of ears. This Pink Magic is named that for a reason. It draws people to me all the time. I tell my story, I hear theirs.
And now I’ve added my T@b, trimmed out in “Chuck’s Watching Over Me” pink, painted by Bob in N. Stonington Connecticut. It’s my home on the road and believe me, the now named Pink Magic Combo makes a statement. On the road, at the rest stops, restaurants, anywhere I go, people seek me out.. I’ve joined an amazing group on fb of fellow T@b trailer owners and they are all reaching out to me with hints on this new lifestyle, with information, with reassurance (which I sorely need).
In the time since Handsome Husband died, his military and AA buddies have reached out to me. In person they’re hugging me, online they’re cheering me on and extending invitations to stop and visit on my travels, attend their weddings, join their festivities. Others who have suffered this loss reach out to me daily with the same sort of invites as I travel. Friends of my kids, women from my community-the list only grows.
How do I say this without sounding grandiose or like I’m gloating? Because I don’t mean it in either way. You know what? I do feel triumph that I accomplished, and continue to accomplish, this feat. I vowed to myself that in spite of the depth of the grief, in fact that in accordance with the depth of my grief, I would open my heart more. And more. Each time my heart beat in pain (which is every beat) it would be a further cracking open that allowed more love. I would reach out and reach out to people with honesty about where I was and allow them to be a part of this and of me. I wouldn’t hide or try to protect them from my grief. I would be just simply me. And I would do it in pink.
I’ve consciously striven to put myself out there, to open up, to invite people in, to search out. The old me would say that it’s been a hard effort to do so. The new me, operating solely from my gut, knows that there is no true effort. I’m not thinking about it. It’s coming right from my heart and straight from my gut.
Handsome Husband oftentimes said that it doesn’t matter what you feel or what you think. It’s what you do. It’s about suiting up and showing up and being right where your feet are. I’ve done that and I’ve done it not because I’ve ignored or shoved away this darkness of my life and the horrible missing-ness of him but because I started digging a space for myself from the moment he took his last breath. I continue to dig by reaching out, by telling people what I need and what does or doesn’t help. It’s up to me, in the end, to figure this grief out, to find a place for it. But that doesn’t mean that I shut people out; it means is that I need to be clear with people and open to life.
His love. My love for him. I carry within me all the strength of his love for me. It transformed my life while he was with me and is my armor now.