One Year After My Husband Died, How I Chose To Mark The Date

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On Monday, Aug. 1, one year to the day after Peter died, I fortified my psyche with specific plans, so that I wouldn’t be surprised by my volatile emotions. I scheduled a long walk with a girlfriend, a lunch at the beach with two friends, and dinner with my son and daughter-in-law at night. I assumed I was prepared for the day. I was armed with plans, plans, and more plans. I was ready to tackle the one-year marker of the day Peter died. Bring it on!

But, what I didn’t expect, was that a few days before, I plummeted from a high perch of salutary tranquility into an abyss of sorrow. It hit me with such a vengeance that I was sucker-punched in the gut. It started on Friday night when I became a little weepy and began to ask the old “why me?” unanswerable questions. “Where are you Peter when I need you?” “Why aren’t you here by my side?” Or the “I miss you so much it hurts” sobbing routine. I was definitely not geared up for this behavior. By Saturday, I was a weeping mass of wet tissues and by Sunday, I was on the floor in a puddle. Just when I thought I was hitting my stride towards my new normal, wham, I got whacked with a sorrow so deep and cavernous, I had trouble finding my way to the surface to breathe. I summoned the doctor in me and administered two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc with a Xanax chaser before bed.

By Monday morning, I was sanguine about the situation. The weekend had been tough enough but now I faced the anniversary of the day Peter died. I have learned from other widows and counselors to mark the day, and NOT call it an anniversary. An anniversary connotes a celebratory situation. I don’t want to celebrate the day Peter died. I just want to mark it off, and get on. I want to say, day done, box checked!

I took a long walk with my friend and then readied myself to see my grief therapist. She is an amazingly kind and caring woman. I appreciate that I would not be this far in my journey were it not for this spectacularly sensitive and wise grief therapist. She has coaxed me to test the waters and try new forms of therapy to help in my process. She knows today is tough for me and she lets me chatter a bit and meander and do my usual end run to avoid the pain.

But today I do face the pain head on. She has me relax and asks me where I am. I tell her I am in the hospital after Peter died. I tell her the doctors asked me if I wanted to say goodbye to him. I didn’t want to see him with all the tubes but I was too weak and wrung out to resist. I tell her I remember seeing him, screaming and falling to my knees keening and wailing. I feel her with me right there and she suggests to me that I haven’t fallen, I am in a supplicating position. Both of us are well aware that I am not a religious person but it is then, that I see that I am almost praying and that I can now allow Peter to let go. I see the tubes fall away and I have an image of the ceiling opening and the goodness of Peter is levitating and flying away. I am ridding myself of the horrific image of him that was so compromised and I am replacing it with a feeling that I am letting him go to some strange stratosphere. I begin to sob uncontrollably with sorrow and paradoxically an unknown form of release. I am shocked at how I have allowed myself to redraw an image in my brain and find peace in the knowledge that the goodness in Peter is still in my heart and has been released into the atmosphere. I am totally spent with puffballs for eyes but surprisingly aware I have discovered something that will help in the redefinition of my life.

I meet two friends for lunch. Coincidentally we are all dressed in black and white as if we had coordinated in advance. We drive to the Malibu Pier and have lunch overlooking the water. I had originally wanted to throw rocks in the ocean but instead, I take out a pen, and hurl it into the ocean and say “Peter, you would be so proud of my writing.”

That evening my son and daughter-in-law and I consume all the carbs we can in Peter’s honor. I have made it through the first year. Check that box Laurie!

Although this horrendous year has passed, my writing which comforts and heals my soul, will continue for my sake and for the sake of others out there living this unspeakable journey of grief.

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