Monday, July 19, 2010

Death Grip

For the last couple of weeks I have been in Australia with my three kids, my daughter's best friend, and my fiancee. We spent ten magical days touring, laughing, learning Australian phrases, introducing the kids to Michael's friends and family, and exploring our new family dynamics. We couldn't have asked for a better first togetherness trip.

The kids and I arrived home safely, and Michael will be following us in less than a week. We brought home some of the things he didn't want to send on the ocean liner that will deliver his personal belongings to his new address in America. As I unpacked his leather jacket, a few business suits, hiking boots, linens he thought I would like, and t-shirts that all have some sort of Australian logo on them I found myself wondering...whose life is this?! Five years ago I was packing up beloved items of the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with and trying to find an appropriate home for each and every one. Press the fast forward button and I am now trying to find space in this house that I have somehow stuffed full of my own things for a different man that I will spend as much of my life with as fate allows.

As the reality of Michael's eminent immigration gradually sets in, my heart has begun to attempt a daring escape. For the past five years I have held my heart in a vice like death grip. The first months after Phil's death I think I needed to contain my heart to keep myself from bleeding out! As the years past my heart hold remained a constant shield from disappointment. As long as I didn't expect for life to be kind to me, there was no danger of having my hopes dashed. I liked to play any game of the heart very close to the vest. But then love called me out and asked if I was willing to give up the chance to experience joy in a vain attempt to create a safety net that would protect me from future pain. Lip service to the idea of taking a risk is fine, facing the reality? A whole new ball game.

Yet as I unpacked these manly things into my very feminine bedroom my heart would not stop doing a little jig. The concept of a happy partnership with a wonderful man who loves me kept causing my poor strangled heart to struggle to be free to sing. Sing about how great it will be to have Michael here everyday, sing about the wonder of having a man who wants to take care of me right here in this house, sing about the fun things we will do, sing about the projects we will embark on together, sing about date nights, and dinners, and wine tasting, making new friends, enjoying old friends, and calling Michael on the phone in the SAME time zone. All of these things are right on the horizon. On one hand the nearness of joy terrifies me and on the other hand my captive heart is rapidly wriggling free of the clamps that have been securely attached for just about five years and refusing to stop singing.

The one thing that settles me slightly as I face an amazing, but unexpected future is the fact that love is the only thing that never dies.


  1. Thanks so much for this post - it is wonderful to see you so filled with joy and anticipation for your new life!

    The one line that stuck out at me was this: "As long as I didn't expect for life to be kind to me, there was no danger of having my hopes dashed."

    I think that is where I am living now. My 1st marriage was so bad, I had sworn off marriage forever - and had stayed a single parent for 12 years. Then I met my husband and couldn't believe that someone could love and adore me the way that he did. We were married and had 3 years and 3 months together before he died, 18 months ago. My heart is so broken, I think I need that vise grip to hold it together right now. So I find myself living in that place where I keep my expectations of life low - so that I won't get hurt again. I instinctively know this is wrong, and not what my husband would want for me - but it is where I am right now. Which is why I need to read stories like yours - to know that the way I am feeling today is not necessarily the way it will be the rest of my life. And that there can be hope and joy again. Thanks again for sharing!

  2. This is such a hopeful piece. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey, your hopes, fears. Five years since my husband died, I still feel the "As long as I didn't expect for life to be kind to me, there was no danger of having my hopes dashed. I liked to play any game of the heart very close to the vest." as you wrote. I am trying to thrive and not just survive, but still have those feelings of bad things happening. Again, thanks for writing.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I am just one year out so this widow thing is still new to me. I am at the stage of wanting to move on but afraid of letting go of the past. He was my best friend, husband, lover and my life. Some day I hope to be sharing a new begining. Thank You

  4. this was just so entirely accurate in every sense of the word. I'll also quote this - "As long as I didn't expect for life to be kind to me, there was no danger of having my hopes dashed." I'm still in this phase of my grief but it's nice to know I'm not the only one.

    Best wishes for everything to come

  5. Thank you so much for writing this post. Since my husbands death about a year ago it has been hard to imagine my life with someone new. But lately I have been thinking about how to work this new phrase into my life. I made a promise to my dying husband that I would go on to share my life with someone else. I know that he would not want it any other way, it was gift he gave to me before he died, because he knew that I would have spent my life with him it it had been an option. It is good to know that there is hope that I too can someday feel as happy as you seem to at this moment in time! Thanks again!

  6. Uplifting and hopeful. Thank you! Wishing you both much joy and happiness.

  7. I appreciate the hope and happiness in this post, but I can't help but think about the link between those feelings and being in a relationship. I want to be able to have hope and happiness in my life with or without a man. It's almost been a year since my husband passed away (he was 34, I'm 28; no children) and I feel like every positive thing in my life has been taken from me. I'm so lonely and heart is very heavy. I've consistently read this blog and many others, purchased books, and attended support groups. The connection between healing and finding another partner is a bit annoying. I feel that it can be a part of moving forward, but doesn't have to carry as much importance. I apologize if it seems like I'm rambling- these feelings can be hard to express. Again, I appreciate this blog very much and all those who contribute to it.

    Connie H.

  8. This is beautiful! My husband died 5 years ago & I've only dated 3 times, all last fall. I think perhaps I'm holding my heart in a clamp as well & I have forgotten "how" to date, as it's been 33 years since I have done so. Thank you for sharing your story! Maybe there is hope somewhere out there for me someday as well.