I went down to my daughter Shirley's house for a week. No way did I want to be alone on the anniversary of Ray's death or the anniversary one year out from the day of his funeral. I knew I would just sit around and obsess, crying and making myself sick. I knew that if I stayed with my daughter and her family I would not be able to do that, I would want to put on a brave face for the grandchildren and that is what happened. I was Braveheart in a dress.
When everyone says that the first year is the worst that is true of stroke recovery and of widowhood. The first year is when this time last year you were doing something entirely different and even if that were not the best thing to do you somehow long to be back there, doing it. I know it is unrealistic but it is human nature to want back to regain the thing you have lost. I just miss Ray so much and I know that is not going to change any day soon.
And so you go on day by day somehow living but without a lot of hope in your heart, wishing the beloved one could return, not in the condition in which he/she left but miraculously restored to full health. Or at least to the level where you last felt you were coping with life. If only that were possible...sigh. But now I am living in the 13th month, the weeks stretching ahead of me without much form as yet but I am hoping that will change.
I really hate being on my own. I can keep busy all day but the nights close in on me. I know in my case that is just one of the battles I fight, the old resistance to any kind of change in my life. And believe me once your partner dies it is all about change. You have to get used to changes you never wanted to make, partnerless can seem rudderless, hopeless, without love and companionship of what worth is life? Add the grief of parting from a long-time partner of 44 years and you can see the impact from the moon. Ouch!!
I feel my return home to an empty house every time I leave for more than a day. It was really bad when I returned from England as I had had company for six weeks and suddenly I was on my own again. I know a lot of people envy the fact that my adult children are still around and invite me to join in with their activities, particularly Edie and Trevor and family but that in a way sets up the contrast, the time with them, the time alone. I am grateful they include me but I am sad that I still have so much time alone.
Today I had a busy day, church for the morning service and then I accompanied the Deacon to the Nursing Home Ray was in. There were still some familiar faces but a lot of course have gone after twelve months. Those who recognised me were glad to see me and I to see them, including some of the staff. I guess they like to feel that it is “okay” for me to come back to see them again. Kathy does a good service and I liked her going to sit by some who were staying back to see her for some one-on-one time. We all need some kindness and Kathy is kind and also generous with her time.
There are still three couples left I know from the time Ray was At the Nursing Home. There has been another change – they are no longer the courtyard mob as they have now been forced to leave the building to smoke so sit out the back under a temporary pergola instead. Still it was nice to sit with them for a while and catch up on their news and know that those months we were able to support each other meant something special to us all.
Then I went to a lunch with three other women I met at the Dementia group, starting five or six years ago. We meet about every two months now and catch up on where we are. Two of us still have Mums in a nursing home, two of us have lost ours in the last year or so and are now in recovery. The two with Mums still alive need the help of the rest of us to keep going. Like we do here we are journeying together.
And then on to the shops to fill my empty refrigerator and my cupboards with the staples of life. I have a new pet hate, as a single lady I don't buy in bulk any more and just hate those buy one get one free offers. No I do not need two huge cabbages even if one cabbage is priced at almost the price of two! And all the other things on offer today were not on my shopping list. It is a couples world in that sense too, cheaper to buy for two than for one. Oh my, what a cranky pants I am tonight!
And so here I sit, trying to express that sad and yet resigned feeling I now have, about being a widow, about being alone, about struggling to accept life as it is now. I hope in some way this helps those who will make the same journey some day.