What I mean when I say that grief never ends

It’s been two and a half years since I became a widow.  I still grieve.  I always will.

That’s not to say that my life has stopped.  I have friends, I keep busy; I’ve even dated a little.  My life has moved on, and I look forward more than I look back.  Still, Rick remains a presence.  I miss the little things, like being handed a cup of coffee every morning.  Mostly what I miss is knowing there was that one person who really, truly cared about me.  I miss him.

That entire first year, my grief was immersive and all-encompassing, infusing every facet of my life.  As simple an act as buying groceries became a harsh reminder of what had happened.  Every day was a series of events with the same theme: look, you’re alone now, what you had is irretrievably gone.

Time heals.  I became used to buying only the groceries I wanted.  I created new rituals for mornings and evenings, and the silence at home no longer bothered me.    The 2nd bedroom has almost completed its transition from his studio and office to my work room.   I’m now comfortable removing items of his that have no use or value for me. 

Yet, he stays with me, each and every day.  I talk with him as I walk to work.  I daydream about a world where everything turned out differently, and we are planning a celebration of our 10th wedding anniversary.  I still question how much he knew, what he choose to keep from me, and why. 

This is what grief is after two and a half years. It recedes into the background, but it does not disappear.   I am a widow. That term is a description of what I have been through and what I carry forward.  Grief doesn’t end; it doesn’t fade away, or wash off.   It has become a part of me on a molecular level, the same as the tattoo I had done in his memory.  The person I am now and will forever be is that person because of what I have gone through. That is what I mean when I say that grief never ends. 

A year in review – the honest way

I really meant to create an end of year post for 2014.  It would have gone over the highs and lows of the year, capturing what I’d learned and giving an overall sense of the year.  And, of course, it would been so well written as to seem universal, with anyone reading it smiling and nodding in appreciation.

Instead, as the temperatures plummeted and the amount of sunlight shrank, I spent my time drinking Tom & Jerry’s and binge watching TV.  January, on the other hand, is the perfect month for deep introspection.  January exists as  the hangover to December, the Jiminy Cricket of months when you face up to everything wrong that needs to be fixed. 

Therefore, I am going to do my 2015 year in review now.  Why wait?  This will ensure me of completing it, and I can smugly sit back in realization that I will be the first person to have completed it. 

January 

This year I resolve to fix up my house and myself.  Joined a gym and spent $300 dollars on a gym bag, shoes and clothes.  The first week I went 4 times, proving what a good idea it was to buy all those clothes.  Since I’ll be looking great in just a few months, I signed up for a 6-month membership to an online dating site; I fully expect to meet someone wonderful within the first month or two, but 6 months was a better deal. I’ve also cleaned and vacuumed the entire house and brought 3 bags to Goodwill. 

2015 will be my year!

February

Going to the gym 2 – 3 times a week; 4 times a week was just nuts.   I plan on waking up at 5am to do yoga; spent $200 on yoga pants and DVDs.     I’m bringing healthy lunches to work every day.  Have been busy contacting likely looking single men from the dating site – 4 meet and greets this month!

This is my year!

 March

Decided it was too hard to get to the gym after work, so am going on weekends only, when I can spend a lot  longer exercising.  Also, it turned out that  the cat thought Yoga was an invitation to jump on my back, and 5am is way too early to do anything but sleep.  But that’s Okay, because I’m still exercising once or twice a week.  The dating site meets were a disappointment.  All the men I met were kind of blah, except for one – I really liked him.  He didn’t like me. 

I hope this will be my year. 

April

Something smelled weird in the fridge, realized all the vegetables I bought  had turned to green slime. Made it to the gym twice this month, yay for me!  Stopped bringing lunches to work, instead I’m just eating chips from the vending machines –only 220 calories per bag, so having 1 or 2 per day is fine.   House is a mess, but there is no point cleaning until winter is finally over.

May

Warm weather finally arrives!  No reason to go to the gym because I can exercise outside.  Signed up for a tennis class and plan to go jogging on the days when I don’t play tennis.  Spent $300 on a tennis racket, clothes and shoes for these new activities.    Really excited about this, I plan on playing nightly after work and weekends.  

June

Tennis is hard, and it hurts my knees.  I need at least 2 days rest after playing a game.  Jogging is okay, but so far I haven’t gone more than a few blocks. Have given up on eating healthy lunches at work – the job is stressful enough without having to obsess over lunch. 

July

Remembered I had joined the stupid dating web site when I saw the automated renewal on my credit card bill.  All the men who look good to me want to find women 10 – 20 years younger than they are.  The house is a mess.  

August

Too hot to do anything outside.  Went to try yoga again, but couldn’t find the DVDs anywhere.  The cat had ripped a hole in my yoga pants.  Went to a farmer’s market and spent a lot of money on health, fresh vegetables.    

September

Decided to start going back to the gym, but couldn’t find my clothes.  I spent another $300 on a new gym bags, shoes and clothes.  Went once, but it was crowded.   House looks dusty and dirty, did some cleaning.  Found the old gym bag, shoes and clothes.  Cleaned out the refrigerator; more slimy vegetables.

October

Bought 10 pounds of candy for Halloween.  Ate 10 pounds of candy.  Bought 10 more.   Went to the gym twice, but didn’t see any weight loss. 

November

Ate the 9 pounds of candy left over after Halloween.  Thought about going to the gym, but was too depressed because it now gets dark at 5pm.  This year sucks.

December

What a shitty year this has been.  Next year will be different.  Next year I will exercise on a regular basis, learn yoga, meet a nice guy and keep my house looking gorgeous. 

I can’t wait for 2016.

Chapter 5 – Dropping the Veil

victorian widow

Congratulation, Ms. Widow; you’ve made it through the first year and then some! In the 19th century, this would be the big moment to switch from heavy, concealing black dresses to heavy, concealing navy blue dresses.  Of course, if it were the 19th century and you were me, you’d be stuck somewhere in Czarist Russia worrying about Cossacks coming to rape and pillage your schtetl, and choosing the right clothes would be the last thing on your mind.  However, I digress.  It’s been over a year, and time for the widow’s guide to provide that gentle push to the next stage of your life.

It’s now time to drop that grieving attitude and march smartly into YOUR NEW LIFE.  Perhaps you are unsure what to do next, or how to act.  Never fear, I, your guide to all things widow, am here to help.  While you’ve spent the past year grieving, I’ve been busy researching the vast multitude of culturally acceptable archetypes for widows. 

After exhaustive research I’ve determined there are very few categories :  Sexy, Not-sexy, and Stuck.  However, don’t despair!  Whichever archetype you select, it’s still up to you to personalize it and make it your own.  Just like those paint sample cards, you can create a whole world of different shades of the same color.  I’ll review the 3 archetypes and even provide a few subtypes for each. 

Sexy Widows

black widow person

Choosing a sexy widow persona means you will still be wearing black, but in a whole new way. 

The sexy widow has been a staple of male imaginations for ages. She’s part of the time-honored misogynistic myth that women fall into three roles: mother, virgin, or whore. The genesis of this role is that once married and introduced to the arts of love by a manly man, some women become so unhinged when their man goes away they still have to have that manly love.   

Black Widow

black widow

No, not that kind – this kind!

dangerous widow

Closely related to the Sexy Widow, the Black Widow is her darker, more dangerous sister.   The Black Widow feeds off men and then destroys them, much as her arachnid namesake does.     

If you want to be a sexy widow, the most important thing is your age.  Don’t even consider this archetype if you are over 50 years of age.  Do not indulge in ice cream and pizza for months on end, as the sexy widow needs to conform to standard ideas of female beauty.

Perhaps becoming a Sexy Widow seems to difficult, or perhaps you have interests in things that don’t involve fulfilling standard stereotypes about women.  If that is the case, you might be interested in the next archetype…

Not-Sexy Widows

Not-sexy is mandatory for anyone over the age of 60.  Of course, this only applies to women; as we all know, the attractiveness of men over 60 is calculable by the equation of income times power, minus age divided by 2.  As a simple check of any media outlet will prove, the outlook for women is considerably grimmer.  Hugh Hefner, who looks more and more like a horror film extra, is married to a 20-something woman; but a woman dating a man 5 years younger is considered a “cougar”. 

If you decide to go the not-sexy route, Grandma or Dowager are both good role models.

Grandma 

Satisfied senior woman with eyeglasses

Adopting the grandma persona frees you from ever having to think about weight.  Think Mrs. Claus, but in in more comfortable clothing.   Grandma-widows get to wear fleece every day, and dressing up means choosing the outfit with a row of small ducks across the front.  Your focus will be on family, and you’ll devote the rest of your life to doting on them. 

Your life will be filled with such exciting hobbies as baking cookies and re-posting treacly bits of homespun wisdom and cat videos on Facebook.

For those without grandkids, a “favorite Aunt” version can be used with relatives and neighbors.

Matron

dowager

Similar to grandma but with sharper edges, the matron becomes the guardian of all that is correct and proper.   Matrons share a lack of any romantic life with Grandmas, but their clothes are less comfortable, which may be why they tend to be cranky. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the Matron role is a general dissatisfaction with anything that occurred since becoming a widow.

Still shopping for an acceptable archetype?  There is only one left, and that is…

The Stuck Widow

stuck

She is the saddest of all.  The stuck widow never progresses.  She remains forever anchored to the past, unwilling or unable to resume a normal life.  Being stuck starts off as the easiest widow persona to adopt.  The gist of it is to never, ever change.  Keep everything in your life exactly the way it was.   Make sure you keep doing the same things over and over again, so the impact of having lost your spouse never goes away.  Focus only on the negative, never on the positive.

Though not technically a widow, Miss Haversham is a great role model for this archetype.

So, there you have the results of my research.   As mentioned, there aren’t a lot of good role models out there.  Personally, I hope to create a new archetype: The Wise Widow.  I want to be someone conversant with the dark side, but who chooses not to live there.  A fully functioning human being capable of being sexy and nurturing, good or bad.  I want the freedom to be any or all of these archetypes but not to be bound by any one of them.  Mostly, I hope to create my own path forward, not adopt one created by someone else.   And I hope you select the same.