Thursday, June 12, 2014

Daydream Driving

I was driving around town the other day and I suddenly became aware of my thoughts. You know how when you're driving sometimes it's kind of by rote, and you forget how you got where you were going because you're so busy chewing on some memory or idea in your head?

I paused at a stoplight and looked around. I realized I had been thinking about Mike. Nothing too specific, just allowing random memories to float through my mind; remembering what it was like to ride in the car with him, imagining how he would comment on the view, or some annoying driver on the road, or try and get me to stop somewhere for lunch. He loved driving around this island; he loved just going for a ride.

At that moment it wasn't a deeply sad series of thoughts; I wasn't crying - though the idea that he is really gone is still ping-ponging its way around my brain for sure. I was just thinking about him.

Then, I started thinking about thinking about him. The idea that for the rest of my life, he would be in my head, and in my heart. That he would never be completely gone from my consciousness. That he would always be a part of me. No matter where I go; no matter who I'm with; no matter what I'm doing - he's always there.

It's not an easy thing to come to terms with. It's not an easy thing to live with, all the time, anyway. Maybe it's even a little disconcerting the first time you realize the thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, and memories of our loved one will be with us forever - even though they are physically gone.

It's also not a bad thing, I think. I feel happy I got to know this man. I feel lucky I got to be married to him, and learn from him. I'm glad I got to take care of him, and accompany him on this last leg of his journey here. I'm glad I have the memories, and never want to lose them.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the stages of grief. Maybe the acceptance stage, which comes and goes, contains an aspect of this realization. That our spouses will never be erased from our life; they will never be forgotten, they will never be completely gone. Maybe part of the process of recovering from our loss is learning to live with this new compartment in our heart. The sometimes empty, haunting one; the sometimes laugh-out-loud at a memory one; the sometimes sad and lonely one. Maybe I need to make room for this, and make a peace with it.

I can't see any other way around it, but through. Let's go for a ride, Mike.


  1. I think you're on to something, Stephanie, with the "new compartment" in one's heart, that space whose contents - sorrow, emptiness, warm memories, loneliness, etc. - keeps shifting. And I agree that making peace with that, somehow, is what we now need to do.

    I also suspect we get better at doing this, even though we may not notice the difference on a day-to-day basis. Let me explain:

    Last night, I did a "throw-back Thursday" post to Facebook, including a photo of Steve and me in San Francisco 20 years ago. It wasn't the first time I'd posted a picture of him or the two of us since he died, but this time it really got to me. I went off to bed grieving as if he died just a couple of months ago (I'm coming up on 4 years in September).

    This morning, work email reminded me that my mailbox is nearly full, so I began a purge, going back to the oldest messages. Yes, they dated from shortly before Steve died. I couldn't believe how much it hurt to find them. Deleting away, I got to messages from shortly after Steve died, the weeks when I was so shattered, so numb, I hardly knew what I was doing.

    And I started to feel just a little bit better. Not a lot; a little. I realized I have survived that horrible, dark, cold, scary time. Not that the scariness or sorrow are gone - far from it! - but I'm on more solid footing now. I'm not exactly happy with my life, but I'm not quite as lost and shaken as I was in those first weeks and months.

    So, something is progressing, I suppose. It's still hard to wrap my head around the idea that Steve will never be physically beside me again, but like you, I am glad and grateful that I got to spend as many years as I did with a wonderful man, that I have the memories, that I know what it is to love and be loved.

    And if I didn't have to work today, I'd go out for a ride. Maybe I will anyway (don't tell anyone).

  2. Oh thank you so much for sharing this. It really means so much to hear the voice in your heart, remembering and progressing. I am so sorry for your loss - it's an ongoing process and I'm glad we have this community of support.

  3. I'm almost 2 1/2 years out from my husband's passing and every single time I get in the car, I think about him and have lost track of where I am a few times doing it then I have to back-track to a turn I missed. It's that darn music on the radio that triggers the memories for me but I can't bring myself to not listen. The memories used to bring tears but now I welcome the memories. That gratefulness that you have for getting to spend so many years with your husband, I feel that, too. It's so much healthier to view it that way than to focus on the years we didn't get.

  4. It's nice to hear we share the experience of daydream driving, Jean. And yes - gratefulness is such a good thing to feel. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Thank you for another wonderful post Stephanie. He will always be in your head and in your heart, and he will never leave your consciousness, but I am finding that the feelings associated with the thoughts of Dawn Marie have changed with time. Part of that has come with acceptance I suppose, but I have noticed a dramatic shift in perception. She was my wife, and I loved her. There were good times, and there were bad times. I remember both, and love her equally for both. Today when I think of her I am grateful for what we had, the good as well as the bad. She gave me beautiful children, and I know that she helped make me into the man that I am today. I guess what I am saying is that it's not all gloom and doom anymore, and today when I think of her, more often than not it brings a smile rather than a tear.

  6. Glenn, I am so glad to hear what you wrote. A dramatic shift in perception is what we all as widows and widowers perhaps hope for - and why it's so important that we are sharing here. I am glad you have the good memories and in a weird way, also comforting to know we're not the only ones to have had difficult memories to contend with as well. I'm glad you have children to share the memories with, and love your last post about your coming to terms with your emotions about the relationship. Indeed Mike made me the woman I am now too. Blessings to you. God walks with us.

  7. Hello, oh yes I can can relate to yr post.. Driving around, suddenly I can't see to drive, hv to pull over..same thing for a store, see something that reminds me of a memory nothing earth shakn just little something , I hv to leave store.. This was very bad for abt 4 yrs or so.. It's lightened up.. But it only takes that one soft spot to be activated.. I'm sure now it may always be that one month it wil b 6 goes back to the serenity prayer... I can't change any of it.. I hav to accept it..what one thing I have witnessed in my 6 yrs of loss, is all the Love that has been out there.. So many have Loved so deeply and dearly..only a widow knows our loss..may God continue to gv us strength.

  8. It's been 21 years since Tom passed away. He was 45 years old, he fought depression for many years, but his biggest fight was 6 months with lung cancer.

    We shared a life that was filled with good and with hardship. The fond memories of camping with the kids and family and friends. Memories of how we worked together through his depression, sometimes Tom being in the hospital for weeks at a time.

    His doctor I didn't like, as he was a pill pusher...always adding something and didn't help! Finally, after pleading with him, he changed doctors. The new doctor told him he was a walking medicine cabinet. So, the long process of taking away medicines started. Things were starting look up, he was starting to feel better. Then, Thanksgiving of 1992 we got the news he had lung cancer, took one lung in December, Good Friday we got the news that it spread to his brain. He fought a good fight and hung on, Hospice told me they hang on because they don't want to leave their loved ones. I told him the kids and I would be okay. He passed away June 22, 1993. I was with him when he took his last breath.

    The kids and I weren't okay...the kids then 18 and 20 found support with their friends, I just lost it...I was very angry with God, all my prayers were not answered! I started seeing someone right away. Shoved all my memories and grief deep inside me. Over the years I found my way back to was okay to keep my memories of my husband and have a relationship, to allow myself grieve.

    Four years ago I lost my daughter, so unexpectedly and suddenly. She had formed a blood clot that caused a heart attack. This time I turned to God, He has helped me through my grief with my husband and daughter. I take one day at a time in prayer "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

  9. Hello, I just read yr post..yr reactions were so much like mine..u hv my sincerest thoughts..yr daughter too, oh my, but God bless u for keeping the Faith.. It's all we have.. It's all there is.. I too couldn't pray when my husband died.. Yr reaction an mine same..I went dwn that why road???Not thinking at all rationally, that God knew the day he was Gona take him back.. Just I didn't know..I found this site abt 3 wks ago..up until now I had not Ben able to speak out freely w/ out anger..somedays it still wants to rise will be 6 yrs in aug for me..married 34 yrs.. I'm just glad for u that u turned to God ...and may he gv u Peace in yr Heart...