|Balch Creek, Forest Park|
It has been 11 months today (I'm typing this on the 4th of May) since he left this earth. This morning was taken up by volunteering for the Audubon Society and I couldn't spend a lot of brain power on the significance of the date while I was looking for and identifying birds. And besides, every day is another day without him. Whether the calendar says "3" or "4" or "24", he's still dead, and my heart is still broken.
But later, as I walked in the woods, a place so sacred for us and so important in our relationship, the significance became more apparent. I experienced many so many stereotypical grief emotions in that one hour walk.
Denial: As I started out, it felt like any other hike and I could almost pretend that all I was doing was taking a walk in the woods, as normal as can be. Muddy shoes slapping on slippery trail. Rain dripping from leaves onto coat, onto dirt. Breath in, out, feet finding a rhythm. This is a normal day. Everyone carries on with their lives. I carry on. I hike in the woods. I walk upright. It couldn't possibly be that he is dead. Dead. Dead and Dave. No way those two words go together. No way in hell. No way that I'm still standing if he didn't live.
Anger: The woods were post-rains and the creek was swollen and raging through the valley below me. The new spring growth was chartreuse and actually glowed in the dim light that made it through the canopy. The green was something you could absorb through your pores. It was so vivid it almost buzzed. You should be here to see another spring like this!, I screamed silently. Can you see this? Can you see what you're missing? How could you be taken from me? How could life be that cruel? You will never get to see another spring like this with me and I hate that. I hate this.
Depression: As I hiked back from the halfway point, past some people I tried to hide my grief-ravaged face from, the rain began to pick up and I pulled my hood over my head. The drops battered the fabric, raising a roar inside the hood, filling my ears, and rice-sized hail began to ping off my head and bounce on the ground. My mind turned to a familiar groove. The "I don't want to be alone forever" groove. I thought for the millionth time that I want love again, but I'm so scared to risk feeling this way again. Maybe it's just not worth it, I thought. Maybe it's better to just be alone. Thankfully, this thought was quickly discarded. The thought of a life without my time with Dave because I'd decided love wasn't worth the risk is something I don't want to ponder. Miss out on love to save myself pain? I can't do that. I just can't. But the time I will spend without that kind of love feels eternal to me right now. To be loved so completely by someone for 15 years and then...nothing? To say that it's a shock to my system is a laughable understatement.
Acceptance: As I hiked along the banks of the creek, I imagined what he would be doing if he'd been by my side. He'd have been carefully inspecting the waters with a fisherman's eye. He'd comment on how muddy the water was and point out a pool or two where fish might find refuge from the current. But he's not here, I thought. We'll never have those talks again. We'll never be walking down the path together oohing over a chipmunk or hummingbird or marmot. He is gone and never coming back. This concept is one that I don't wear with ease. It's a new pair of shoes that I can put on and tolerate for a very short time, but all I can think of is kicking them off to end the discomfort.
My mind still bounces right off of this one, but it comes back to it more often these days, gradually getting more and more familiar over time.
As I left the trail for the pothole ridden parking lot, and climbed into my waiting car, I felt heavy with grief, but free of hopelessness. Sad but not bottomless-pit-sad. I realized that my heart is broken, but it's also been cracked wide open. While this makes me endlessly more vulnerable to pain, it also makes me more open to new things, too. New possibilities for ways to carve out this second life of mine. New empathy for others, new appreciation for the small things in life. New depth of spirit and softness of heart.
Maybe a broken heart can mean more room. I hope so.