To Hold On or To Forget?

In grief, people want the pain of a broken heart to end, yet they cling to mementos and memories. Some people get stuck in the morass of a crushing cycle of pain and living in the gray twilight where they stand with one foot in the past and one foot in the constant state of wanting what cannot be had. Some people want to forget the memories and try to numb the heart to shield themselves from pain. I fall into the latter category of avoidance and running away.

In the initial haze of pain so deep that physically I hurt, I ran away from Colorado–the place I fit. I couldn’t deal with my pain and the pain of those around me. I couldn’t drive, run, breathe….anything….because every experience had previously been rooted in being with Phil and our family. I ran to Germany and I stopped celebrating holidays, birthdays, or even much of a life. I worked and I ran. I couldn’t make plans or enjoy moments because to do so would have meant ripping off bandaids.

Three years later, I am starting to feel the need to come out of my shell and to find a place to fit and to discover who I am without my Phil. This process of self-discovery is much like an adolescent who wonders who they are separate from their families. I have spent the past year going back to school because the fire that sparked and then blazed as I stumbled through talking and writing about my loss needed a venue and a platform to make a difference for others on this journey. Making the decision to go to school was the easy part of the growth process. The harder aspects are the walls I face and beat down time and time again.

Where do I want to live? I do not see myself in MA long term, but I may be here until retirement. How do I celebrate the holidays when they were so much fun with Phil and my family? I know that I need to find a way to make holidays happy again because I want my family back. I want laughter and fun, smack talking and family competitions, and I want new memories. The only way that new “normal” will happen is if I fight for it. Yes, sometimes it is a choice to deal with pain or deal with fighting through the not wanting to something to get to a different place.

On my birthday which is a day that reminds me every year of how many more years I have than my Phil, I found myself wishing that I had amnesia. There is a problem with that wishful thinking because amnesia means forgetting the happy times as well as the pain, thus I will take the patchwork healing of my broken heart. There will always be holes in my heart, but the heart has grown stronger and it has developed new strands around the scars. Do I have the journey figured out? Do I even know what I want in terms of where to live and what to do and how to make my family events fun again? I am figuring it out.

I am in MA for the time being and I made a decision to sell my condo so that I can move on base where I do have some connections. I am shy, but I am choosing to pull up my big girl panties and face my fears because I have discovered that forever is a long time to be alone. While I do not know if I will have a chapter two, I have come to peace with being open to it. I even went on a blind date that didn’t work out a few weeks ago. Someone on base set me up. Take a leap of faith, I said yes, and in that acceptance, footing was found. I still do not feel comfortable with many aspects of modern dating (online) and I am very wary, but I do have room in my heart to either love again or to learn to be happy alone.

The last piece of my personal journey is harder to fix. I am waking up again and forcing myself to confront the shrinking violet staring back in the mirror, but how to I sew the tenuous gossamer threads of my family back together. We lost so much in the grief process. Three years is a long time when one’s children live all over the world, and yet it is the singular component that matters to me in terms of finding a new normal. I want to find a way to have fun again. To have fun, I need to find a way to make holidays and family fun happen. 2015/2016 will be the soonest all of my children will be in the states. I want to do a family cruise. One would think that would be an easy feat. Sadly it is not. Relationships need to be repaired and six working adults need to coordinate calendars, but I am ready to rip off the bandaids, face my fears, and deal with the pain of memories passed to make sparkles of happy memories in the present. I am certain a certain angel will be looking on and cheering us on while singing, “How do you like us now?”

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