It’s been a while since I’ve written. I did not know what going into the second year after Michael’s death, the third year after his seizure, would mean to me. This is uncharted territory.

I think that in the first year after his seizure, when I knew I was losing him, I still spent a lot of time organizing, leading, learning, caretaking. The year after his death I spent most of it in a grief-filled haze. Like nothing was ever going to be right again. I knew I would survive and I might even be happy, in moments, but nothing would ever be the same again.

But the 2nd/3rd year I’ve not known what to expect. I have been feeling as if I have to take a different direction. Not one to denial and suppression, but a conscious, active move toward a new direction. Not only is this the 2nd/3rd year but it’s also Gina’s last year of high school and she’ll be off to college and I’ll be living back in NYC. So even if Michael were alive, we would be planning new things (though we had plans for after Gina was in college and sometimes I just long for those dreams that will never come true).

As many of you who read GPYP know, I advocate a time in grief where you make a cognitive decision to move forward. Elizabeth Harper Neeld calls it “The Turn” and I’ve done it in relationships where there was a breakup. But I’ve never done it with someone whom I loved with all my heart and is not here and it’s not his choice.

I decided to re-read “The Turn” chapter in her book and the dilemma is exactly as she describes. How to move forward without devaluing the person we love. How to move on and forge a new relationship. Because that is what the end of grief…acceptance…really is. It’s not forgetting the person, it’s not spending forever pining either. It’s integrating the wonderfulness into you so that it’s there, just there, an indelible part of who you are…of who you’ve become. You carry the person with you.

I was watching the Big Bang Theory this week and one of the lines from Leonard was, “You want to put me in a Home, Sheldon?” And I cracked up. Michael and I had the “home” joke going forever. Whenever he would do something weird or forgetful I would say, “That’s it…you’re going in the Home.” And other times when he would say something that was completely unintelligible and I would stare at him, he would say “I know, I know, I’m going in the Home.” It was another one of our running jokes for years. When I mentioned it to Gina, who was watching the show with me, she laughed and said, “And the cats had a meeting and they hate you.” And I cracked up. I used to tell him that just out of the blue, “Oh yeah, the cats had a meeting and they hate you.” And he would say, “Good.” Not cats don’t have meetings, but GOOD. In a screw them kind of voice. It was really quite hilarious. And I had forgotten about it until Gina mentioned it.

And sometimes I fear forgetting him. Forgetting who he was and how he sounded. Sometimes I put my arm in the sleeves of his jackets to try to feel him, but his smell is long gone and I just try to touch things that he was the last to touch. It’s like I’m reaching out for a connection. I’m reaching out, desperately, for him. I want you here with me, honey. I miss you and I hate this.

At the same time I can’t continue to keep things where they were and how they were. I know I have to not only go through things because I’m moving, but because it’s time. And the past week or so I look away whenever my eyes come to rest on something of his that “has to go.”

As Elizabeth Harper Neeld says, “In reality, they are absent. So we remain stuck, unable to make even those changes we want to make and know would be good for us. We are stretched taut, wanting to remain close to the person who is gone but going about it in a way that can result only in stagnation.”

It is, I know, not healthy to just stay surrounded by someone’s things who is no longer here. But it’s hard to think about the gifts he gave, the testimony to our love, and letting them go. Yet I know I cannot entomb myself in them either.

I’ve been so adamant about wearing my wedding rings and the other day, for the first time, I thought, “But I’m not married.” Not married. Not. Married.

The place where I stand is painful and as I read the accounts of others who have stood here, I know it’s normal. It’s incredibly painful. As if I’m losing him all over again. People have said to me for 2 years, you’ll do it when it’s time. But I’m not going to wake up one day and go “It’s time.” I will never get to that day.

Instead I have to force myself to get unstuck in the past. I have to find someway to start moving some of these things around and out and yet hold onto Michael’s memory and his love. I made a collage of our wedding and honeymoon that includes receipts and photos and pamphlets. I think I can make another of important pieces of our life. I can find another way or two of honoring his memory, the memory of us, and yet move on.

And finally, a man flirted with me the other day. It made me terribly panicky at the time but in a way felt good. Reporting it to my kids brought exclamations of horror. But for me, I thought, you guys are all going to be living your lives very shortly. All of you. I still have a pulse.

They would like me to be the matriarch Nonna. The one who is wise and visits with the grandchildren and keeps her wedding rings on and the pictures of Grandpa all over the house. For most of these 2 years, I thought that is who I wanted to be too. And I want to be some of that…the wise, visiting grandmother…but I don’t want to wall myself in with someone who is not here anymore.

There are steps from here to there…I have to deal with the sense of being disloyal…of erasing the person who was Michael DiCarlo, though I know I will never do that….I have to deal with the fact that I have to take active, positive steps toward building a new relationship with Michael. One that will keep him in my heart but will not control my life.

So I’m not ready for a date or a relationship (I’m obviously not even ready to flirt!) but it’s time to start moving things along…my life. I have to start doing new things and going places and finding new interests and all the things I tell people to do after a breakup. Even though I am surrounded with things I love, people I love and I have interests and friends and all of that, I’m ready to shake it up a bit. I’m ready to start turning into the wind.

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