If you look for it, there is an abundance of advice out there in the world for someone who’s recently lost a loved one. I don’t remember intentionally looking for it or reading it, but I could probably recite it if someone asked. Things like, "don’t make any big life decisions for at least the first year after the loss".
In my case, I waited one exactly one year and started making plans to move. I heard that little snippet of advice in the back of my head every time I got closer to my goal of leaving Northern Virginia. I knew ‘a year’ was intended to be an average. I knew I was probably rushing things. I didn’t care. I couldn’t live there anymore. It was too much, being there without him. Driving past the Van Dorn Street exit on 95 made me cry, every time, so did 5 Guys, and 3 buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. I knew I’d never be able to, or even want to sit in the bleachers at Hayfield High School and watch a football game again. So I ignored the voice and kept on keeping on.
Later, I saw a grief counselor who told me I should write Mark a letter; tell him all the things I was thinking and feeling – just “anything I wanted to say”.
I never did this.
I knew if I started, there’d be no end. There was nothing unfinished between Mark and me. I loved him and he knew it. He loved me and I knew it. There weren’t any harsh words, or ruffled feathers. This should be good news. In the case of the letter writing though, it’s not. How do you write a letter to someone who you told everything to? Even when you don’t want it to, your life keeps happening. You keep meeting people, and if you’re lucky, you make some new friends.
Things keep happening in the world, things you want to talk about. Books and movies keep coming out.
It’s the worst insult. Never having a conversation with him again. Never sitting across from him in the living room, with the fire burning behind me and the dogs sleeping on either of side of him, talking about crazy, brilliant, funny, troubled high school students, or broken animals made well again, or family strife, or exchanging Monica Lewinsky limericks.
A letter? Never mind not knowing where to start, there simply would be no end.
I ran from the ghosts to North Carolina, thinking it would be better, and it was. It is. It still is. I have new people here, a home that he should have seen, a new puppy, and these are things he would have loved.
That wasn’t the worst of it though. The worst of it was when I realized I was in love. In love with a man who makes me think I’ve never been loved before. A man I can’t believe I finally met and a man I would have been proud to take home to Mark.
His opinion was always the only one that mattered. Even when I knew it wouldn’t be a favorable opinion. I took them anyway. Often, their reaction to him was the beginning of the end of it with them. They didn’t know it, but I always did.
It feels petulant to say ‘it’s not fair’. It feels juvenile to scream it.
I want to do both and I probably will.
The dogs won’t tell.
I miss you Mark.