One FOF describes the singular and universal experience of losing the love of your life.
[Editor's note: The essay below, by FOF Rosemarie Sussex, is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to email@example.com.]
I lay on my side of the bed, still unable to move move to the center. I’ve tried but I can’t.
I thought this feeling was unique to me, but I’ve learned from talking to other women who have lost their husbands that this is not unusual. One friend, also a widow, confided in me: “I don’t flush the toilet at night.” I was so shocked since I did the same thing. We were both afraid that the toilet would overflow in the middle of the night. Then what do you do?
My husband Paul died in 2008. The first three months afterward were the easiest. People were there; the phone rang; I could wallow in the grief and no one expected anything from me. It was winter so it was easy not to go anywhere except work and home.
Then the spring came.
Friends and family wanted to get on with their lives and be happy again. Not that they were forgetting him, just moving on. Well, that was great for them because they had someplace to move too. I didn’t. My life, I learned, was going to stay the same. No one to eat with at night, to discuss the day’s events, watch television, to sleep with or love with.
Before Paul died, I had a time line after work: Get groceries, come home, cook, set the table, eat dinner etc. Now I had no clock to follow. I found myself going to the mall after work and walking until I was exhausted; then I would come home and just go to bed. Except for going to work on time, the rest of the day was not accounted for. If I was standing in line at a store, I didn’t care if I had to wait. Where was I going? Who is waiting for me?
Weekends are the worst time of the week. Everyone else seems so excited about Friday coming. For me the days just loom ahead with chores that also seem senseless now. Before, the weekends held promise of fun, family and friends or even just tacking a project in the house. Being together, sometimes even in silence, but together.
Filling out paperwork at the doctor’s office brings on a whole gambit of emotions.Those horrible little boxes: Married, Single, Widowed (and sometime Other--what does that mean!). Changing your “next of kin” to your kids. Taking his name off charges and utilities. It took me three years to put the car insurance in my name. I’m not even sure it was legal not too. I just couldn’t do it.
The first time I was faced with a repair in the house was numbing. My dryer and hot water heater went at the same time. When the delivery man came to bring the dryer, I burst into tears because I just realized that the gas would have to be shut off to take out the dryer. Luckily the man was so nice, he disconnected it and reconnected the dryer without a problem. But in my head I just kept thinking “You’re alone-handle it.”
My family is wonderful and I am blessed with 6 grandchildren, but they do not fill the space that the love of my life left. We were married for 38 years and together for 42. We went through so many trying times together. Our last battle was his pancreatic cancer. He handled it like he did life--with strength, humor and song. He had the most beautiful voice and sang with a group. Often he would come right from chemo and go onto a stage and sing lead for hours. I would watch him and want to shout to the audience: “This man has pancreatic cancer and just had chemo!!!!”
It will be 4 years soon, and slowly I’m crawling out of the deep hole that has been my life. What I’ve learned through most of this is that the grief one goes through, although one’s own, is also universal and shared. It is my hope that I can help someone else make this journey.