The Dreaded “Firsts” After Losing a Spouse

yellow lily

The first year is the hardest. There are so many “firsts” to get through.
My first “first” without Ron was his birthday in October. Waking that morning, I whispered “Happy Birthday” to an empty room. I sat up in bed, put on my slippers, rose and went through the motions of my morning chores. Tears pushed at my eyelids and I willed them away. This was a day to celebrate, right? But how was I to celebrate when he wasn’t here any longer?
The only gift I could give him was a new bouquet for his grave, but I didn’t think I could go there alone. Not on his birthday. My daughter agreed to go with me when she got off work.
Standing in the cemetery, staring at the place where his body rested, knowing he wasn’t there, but feeling connected somehow, I silently said all the words I couldn’t speak without breaking down. The silk flowers were for fall and I knew he would like them. He loved gardening and flowers.
After we left the cemetery, my daughter and I went to a local restaurant to eat. Not the restaurant Ron and I would have gone to, but it marked his special day in the way the two of us always celebrated. I made it through this first, but not without a lot of tears and heartache.
This first was quickly followed by my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our wedding Anniversary (which was also the date my mother had passed). So much grieving. Silent grieving, many tears, and feelings of “what does life hold for me now?”
Christmas was extremely difficult.
A journal entry on the first Christmas:

 

Over three months since I wrote in this journal. I’ve been getting through a day at a time. There have been sad days, like your birthday, my birthday and Thanksgiving. Firsts to get through alone. I truly thought this day would go by like the others with a little sadness. I woke this morning realizing the terrible loneliness of spending Christmas without you. I picked up Traci and we visited your grave. I brought you a new bouquet of poinsettias. We shed tears together and I told her she didn’t have to be strong for me any longer. I know she worries about me a lot. After I took her home, I stopped at Julie’s to drop off the left over barbecue from the Christmas party. It was after I left that the sobbing and tears began. I don’t want the kids or anyone to know how lonely I feel today. My heart is aching so. I sit here next to the tree which is lit as you always enjoyed on Christmas day. The rocking horse you made sits beside it. The other recliner is empty. The house is too quiet and the cats are keeping their distance, frightened by my emotions. But I’ll get through the day because you’d want me to not grieve so much. You’d want me to smile. I just can’t right now. I look at my future and see nothing to strive for. It’s just a life where I wake up and move through another day. The Lord is with me. He shows me beauty in the skies and in this earth He created. I’m grateful for His blessings—so many. But part of me, the best part, is gone. I miss you so much, my love. I just called my brother and they’re having a party at his son’s house. He could only talk for a couple minutes. Everywhere families are gathering together. I feel so alone. None of the kids invited me to their homes. My friend, Pat, invited me to have dinner with them, but I would have been so sad to be with them and not family. I don’t want to be needy but how do I stop feeling so lost and alone on this day that should be so happy? A family day. When you grow old, the circle changes. You know your kids are experiencing the Christmases you once had. If only you were here with me today. I look at your picture, at the pictures of us on Christmas. I think I’ll watch the Christmas CD with you singing. Perhaps I’ll feel your presence.

I made it through Christmas. Grief made me selfish and needy. I realize now that my presence in any of my children’s homes would have put a cloud of sadness on their day. I needed to be alone to grieve. I did watch the CD. I cried. I found another home movie of the two of us opening presents on Christmas morning. It was the year before Ron became too ill to go out and shop. Our tradition changed after that. I would take him to our favorite Christian store and we would each pick out a Christmas card and Anniversary card for each other. I wouldn’t look at what he picked out for me and asked the clerk to put it in a separate bag. The three years of exchanging just cards was awesome. It was all we needed. That, each other, and our love.
New hope came with the new year. I made it through some difficult firsts. There were more to come, but I felt I could handle them. Life began to settle into a routine and I was able to write again. Writing allowed me to use the grief in a productive manner. Filling in empty hours is crucial in moving from a state of constant depression into a new normal.
I knew people who clung to their loved one so hard they couldn’t rise above the grief and back into life. I didn’t want to be like them. Time doesn’t heal the hole left in your heart when a loved one dies. But time does make it easier to bear.
And life does go on.

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