I wasn’t sure how to take the words offered in our casual conversation.
“You’re doing a lot better than she did.”
The man compared my widowhood to that of his mother’s, many years ago. A different time, a different place, a different woman.
It was awkward; I didn’t know how to respond. Although it’s something I’ve thought a lot about lately, the truth is, I’m probably not doing any better than she did, or any better than any other woman struggling with being alone in a life she never wanted. I might appear okay, in small doses, in brief visits, but I still wake up every morning and stare at a photo of Kevin on my nightstand and wonder if I’ll ever wake up from this horribly bad dream. I feel stuck, in between my life with him that I loved and the life that I’ll have to live without him, the one I’m not sure about. I’m managing our household, carrying on with life and raising our Little Bear, but it’s not easy. I have good days and bad days, and at this point, there are more good days between the really bad days. But I still miss him every single day; that hasn’t changed.
I’ve been thinking about my grief journey because it occurred to me this week that I started this blog a year ago. Kevin had only been gone three months at the time and I started writing because I needed to talk about him. I was full of words and sadness and I struggled living in a world where Kevin wasn’t beside me talking and joking and keeping an eye out for Godfather references. I struggled with my grief, and with the enormity of realizing I had to keep going on without him, because we had a beautiful little girl who needed me. She didn’t quite understand why I was so sad, why living was so hard for me. She’s a wonderfully sensitive, wise-beyond-her-years little girl, but she’s young and it’s hard for her to understand how her Daddy’s death will always be part of our lives now. So I wrote, mostly for therapy, because I couldn’t keep it in, I couldn’t keep stuffing it down, and I couldn’t dump it on a kid. I wrote because I wanted a place for her to read about our journey. I wanted to tell her all the stories about her Daddy, to keep him alive in our hearts. She needed me to show her — I needed to show myself — that even at its hardest, saddest, most desperate times, life curves toward joy. Always.
Grief is hard. Still. Especially on days when it seems like Kevin has been forgotten, when it seems like I’m the only one who misses him, when it seems like the world doesn’t remember he existed. I have to dig extra hard to find any bit of joy on those days. But it’s always there – especially when I find my mini-Kev, hug her close and watch a smile spread across her face, eyes lit up with the same sly blue sparkle I saw in her Daddy.
Am I doing better?
I don’t know. I guess. Grief isn’t a series of boxes that I tick off until I’m finished, and the experience is over. Grief is more complicated than that. It’s one step forward and ten steps back a lot of days. It’s never over. It’s always with me, sometimes as quiet as the silent tear that traces my face and sometimes so crashingly loud I have to hide my face in a pillow and scream at the waves of sadness that threaten to drown me. Sometimes grief is laughing and crying at the same time because my girl is doing something so Kevin-ish that I’m a crazy mix of happy at the life we’re still living, but so sad that he’s not here to share it with us.
I am doing the best I can.
I’m doing it with each person who stops by this blog and reads just a bit and maybe leaves with a new thought about grief and life. I’m doing it with friends who keep coming by to visit and draw me out into this beautiful world. I’m doing it with God, who is keeping me afloat with His love and promises. And I’m doing it with my girl. Like me, she has lots of good days and some bad days, but I am always right there with her; I know I’m doing that part better, at least. We’re doing this together. I am by her side, with her no matter what. We are keeping on together, the best we can.
This is a song that was featured in Disney’s “Bears” that opened in April for Earth Day. I made my Little Bear sit through the credits so I could hear the words. It’s become a song I find myself humming on hard days:
No one said this would ever be easy, my love
But I will be by your side when the impossible rises up
We will travel this life well worn
No matter the cost, no matter how long
We will leave our footprints behind
And carry on