moving on after the death of a spouse

Trusty Uhaul Truck

Image by Open Wheel via Flickr

The last tote was strapped to the topper of the Avalanche at about 7PM this evening. My best friend, Vicki, arrived with her youngest daughter and helped Rob and I load up the remaining items to be sold (or given away) into her van. The house was empty of everything but the few pieces of furniture that will go to my “niece” to furnish her new apartment next month. It was time to leave.




Time to say goodbye.


I went through the house alone. I had to close the garage door and leave the opener on the counter for the new owners. There were two openers. I think the other got packed. Next time we are hiring this packing crap done.


The last time the house was this empty was the day we moved in. Fours years ago in exactly two months from today. Four years ago. Katy was eleven months old. I was packing another house. Will was dying.

I can’t say that I will miss the house. I have said already it has few memories that one could call happy, and it was my prison for a long time. Still, it hurt to say goodbye. And it was silly really because like the hospice and the cemetery, Will was not there. I could hear him admonish me in a tone of voice that ranged somewhere between patience and exasperation, reminding me.


Outside and heading towards the truck and U-Haul with tears still streaming, Rob met me with an already sweat soggy shoulder and a strong, comforting embrace. Everything was still as it was a moment earlier and yet everything was all right as well.


Goodbye house. Goodbye Des Moines. But not goodbye to Will. After all, like Elvis, he had already left the building.

Wedding Dress For Happy Couple in Love

Image by via Flickr

On the morning of June 27th at just about this time in the morning, I will have been married for just a bit more than half a day. Rob and I remind ourselves often that time is too precious to wish away, but as I gear up for another week of separation I wish I owned a Toynbee Convector.


There is an old Ray Bradbury short story that I used to teach to my seventh graders back in the day. It is about a man who fakes a trip to the future in order to give the world hope of a better world to come. The faked proof he presents inspires people to go out and actually create the world he only imagined for them. I remind myself when I am feeling impatient and missing my love’s physical reassurance that what we are doing in our time apart is giving substance to our dreams.


You can’t build a future if you aren’t able to envision it in your mind’s eye.




He’s dead, Jim,” Dr. Leonard (Bones) McCoy (2227-?) chief medical officer on the starship, Enterprise

During the first year, when I was trapped by responsibilities I did as best I could to keep hopelessness at bay and anger to a minimum. But I longed to live life again. To be happy. To set goals and reach for them. To be out in the world and experience things again. Certainly I would have preferred to have had Will by my side, but that wasn’t the reality. He was gone, and I was still here.

Why do some of us see the world for the possibilities it holds for us as opposed to some sort of solitary confinement to be outlasted?

My husband’s dead. I don’t expect phone calls. He isn’t going to turn up in the kitchen one morning when I come down to get breakfast for my daughter. Although there are moments in the beginning when there is a Twilight Zone feel to this, I have a difficult time with widowed people who are further out than I am and still talking about grappling with the reality of their now. They talk about “diverting” themselves with projects and dating and getaways. How does one “divert” grief? It hangs on you like a too large coat, smothering you almost with its omnipresence. I guess what most annoys me about statements like these, and it is annoyance because I can’t empathizewith it  and it is for the rare one that I feel pity, is that they refer to life as a distraction. Living is a distraction? Reality is a time filler on the way to the grave?

Reunification seems to be the goal of many widowed people. While it is a nice thought, I am not so sure that it is the reality that awaits any of us when this life is over. I often have the feeling that Will is farther and farther away from me all the time, and that he is moving forward in much the same way that I have. A dear friend of Rob’s told him that he shouldn’t worry about the configurations of the next life in terms of our earth bound relations. The next plane is not bound by the rules that reign here. I don’t worry about it much myself, but I wonder how I could ever give Rob up. He is too precious and too much a part of me now.

A common question of the widowed is how do you make room in your heart to love another? There is a feeling that a broken heart is just not capable of being repaired to a point where this will be possible. The thing is, though, that your heart isn’t really broken. It still beats. It still feels and aches and has love to give. There is just no one to ease the ache or accept the love anymore. Fear is what holds us back from loving again at some point. Those who have trouble reconnecting with their ability to love and risk not being loved in return more than likely had difficulty with this before they married. I know that when I first tried to date I fell back into the bad relationship habits of my life before Will. It was as though I had forgotten everything I had learned from him and with him about relationships. It was only when I stepped back and acknowledged what I was doing and made an effort to put the lessons of my marriage into practice again that I found my footing and ultimately was able to build a relationship with Rob.

Often I hear widowed people say that though they are in a new relationship, or open to one, they will never love someone else as much as they loved their late spouse, or be loved as comparably. I just cringe. I love Rob as much as I ever loved Will, and I feel as loved as I have ever felt. Beyond that I can’t make any other comparisons. It is not possible and it’s not wise. “That was then and this is now.” Mark says that to Byron in the S.E. Hinton novel of the same now when he is asked why things can’t be the same between them. In the novel it is a rather cynical and very hard assessment of the reality experienced by these teen-aged characters. The two boys had survived hard childhoods and yet the severing of their near-familial relationship was one of the most difficult challenges either had faced yet. Life is hard sometimes, but reality must be acknowledged for what it is. Life is not static. It is ever changing, and it’s direction is only marginally ours to control.

I can’t imagine who I would be were it not for Will. I can’t imagine a future without Rob. My truths.