I just came back from taking the entire family to the Dominican Republic. We had a terrific time. Michael was there but not there. It was not a vacation he would have enjoyed or wanted to be on (which is one of the reasons I picked it). We talked about him several times. He was in our thoughts and hearts.

I think that for me, the denial phase has passed. I think that, for me, I couldn’t grasp that he was dying/has died since his diagnosis to a few weeks ago. Every time I would think of life without him, I would feel a deep longing and an unbending sorrow that would sweep me off my feet.

I think that I have accepted that he’s not here and not going to be here. I still have to work through more grief, of course, but for now I seem to have taken a breather from being surprised and bowled over by his absence. Or perhaps I’m just done with that phase of grief.

I don’t really notice couples or wish there was someone like that for me anymore. I remember Michael at those times but it’s more of a sweet rememberance rather than a painful stab in my heart.

There is no way the grief is gone or done. I feel teary-eyed just typing this out, but I think that a page is turning. I have days where I don’t cry and they’re not single anymore. They are two or three in a row. Sometimes five. Occasionally more.

I love Michael and am grateful that he loved me for as long as he did. I will keep his memory alive through the Foundation and by becoming active in the fights against cancer, most of all brain cancer and childhood cancers.

The end of grief does not mean forgetting or never feeling sad again, but of integrating the person into the fabric of your life. Remembering with fondness. Applauding the time they spent and who they were to you. Michael was the love of my life and I had integrated that long before he got sick. But now there is a new phase for us. A phase where I carry us along, alone. And I will.

I thought of Michael while on vacation. He’s on mind almost every second. But I paid a lot of attention to my kids and grandkids and had a good time and appreciated every second. Life is short and you have to be grateful for good times when they are there….and even later when they are gone. You integrate them into your being, into who you are, into what makes you you.

I’m leaving most of the cancer months behind but will remember how gallant and tough Michael was. How he didn’t complain. I’ll remember the wonderful people, caregivers and hospice, who touched our lives and our hearts. I’ll remember that I did many things I did not think I was capable of doing.

But most of all I’ll remember the pre-cancer years. The times that were wonderful and glorious and having a partner who was rock solid and loved me like there was no tomorrow.

I’m still in the active phase of grief but I am seeing the progression of healing if you let your grief happen…which I have.

There are still very painful episodes ahead for me, but there are a lot behind me. I have stopped waking up crying. I have stopped crying on a daily basis. I have learned to balance the need for my grieving with taking care of myself and that which I must do….each day.

The vacation was something I really needed and something that marked not only the end of the horrible 2009 but the beginning of a hopeful 2010. I am beginning to see the clouds part. I am beginning to look forward to things. And I am doing it without leaving him behind.

Here’s to a wonderful 2010.