Once upon a time I thought you only grieved people you had lost. Now I know you can grieve anything you’ve lost-even beliefs or ideals or things you can’t even name. And I’ve learned you grieve those intangibles long after you quit grieving the things you can no longer touch.

There are things that trigger grief. When you’ve lost something you know when to expect the waves of grief. You expect the bouts and you arm against them. Anniversary’s, holidays, big moments-you understand those will hurt and you prepare as best you can. It’s the unexpected waves that bring you literally and figuratively to your knees. Once the grief starts there is nothing you can do. You have to let it wash over you-even when you feel like the weight of it will drown you.

Today it was a million little things. It was a normal errand running, kid chauffeuring kind if day. Nothing exciting happening, nothing tragic either; it wasn’t an anniversary of anything-It was just a day. An ordinary day. A day so ordinary that I didn’t expect one of the worst days I’ve had since sinking to the kitchen floor when all this was new.

Today’s wave started when I awoke early. I was awake but didn’t have to get up. The sun was soft in the room. I was warm and cozy tucked under blankets. The air around me was cold and sharp. I snuggled in deeper-happy-when an uninvited thought flitted through my sleepy mind. The early morning, the warm bed in a cold and quiet house would have been a glorious time to catch up with a spouse. It was the type of stolen time where you softly talk and have all the conversations there just aren’t time for during the hustle of a busy week.

The uninvited, fleeting thought sullied the moment so I got out of my warm bed into the cold air so as to not think about that any longer. I got up only to drink coffee in the silence. The silence allowed the fleeting thoughts to take hold.

I went through the motions and chaotic planning and negotiating of the children’s schedules. It was distracting because it was just me and me alone to get everyone everywhere they wanted to be. I hurried and hustled from place to place too busy to give much time to anything else. But then there was a new haircut and wanting to show someone because that’s what you want to do when you feel pretty.

The grief nipped and niggled around all that I did. I, in large part, was able to ignore it. To indulge in the pain would be to give it strength and I didn’t-don’t have time for that. So I didn’t.

A dryer needs to be fixed, I need to know what to do about an outside pipe that is leaking water and the vacuum doesn’t work. All those are things that I always thought someone else would be in charge of. I missed the divide to conquer mentality that husbands and wives adopt to get through busy lives-together.

I needed support on handling a temper tantrum or at least another adult voice to stand firm against the whining. Parenting is meant to be a team sport. Life is meant to be a team sport. Doing it solo is like dancing the tango by yourself-you can do all the steps perfectly but you’ll never be able to so the dance.

I got through it all. Buy then it happened. The final levy burst and it burst unexpectedly. And it burst after seeing a couple walk together while children zoomed around their legs. They were at Target. They weren’t at a fancy dinner or on a romantic date. They were walking into a store as a family. It was that simple. That simple sight hurt more than anything has in a long, long time.

“What do you want to do about dinner?” It’s only a significant question when you don’t have anyone to ask
it to. And that was it. My undoing.
I got Into the rental car, starting the car and leaned my head against the steering wheel, just for a moment, to try and let the world right itself because it felt terribly tilted at the moment. But in that moment I heard a new song by Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Outloud,” and the world twisted once again because it talked of a simple and long lasting love. I believed it that once. I grieved that I didn’t anymore.

When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don’t remember my name
When my hands don’t play the strings the same way, mm

I know you will still love me the same

And once it starts there is no control over where it goes. In a blinding terrifying moment I was scared. I had spent the morning talking to someone about a sad situation where a man in his late 50’s is suffering from dementia . We talked of the sadness of that and the courage of the wife that takes care of him. I didn’t say it but I thought. “She remembers and loves who he was even though he doesn’t even know who he is anymore.” Who would remember me? And who would love me enough to take care of me if I couldn’t take care of myself?

I can’t control the grief-not when it comes or when it goes. I can’t help that it comes nor can I help where it goes. The best I can do is hold on and wait until the wave is past.


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