Literally Dreaming of His Return

This is the second time I’ve dreamed that Trey returned.

This is not a dream where he simply still lives.  I have those every so often, but they are comforting rather than unsettling.

In this dream, the full reality of my life exists.  He died, we had a funeral, I have been sorting through our stuff and painting our house in some sort of weird ‘nesting’ reaction to grief.

And then he walks in the door.  As if nothing happened.

The last time I dreamed this, it was a month or so after his death.  At that time, I had gotten rid of his underwear and some of his work clothes and papers.  I dreamed he came down the stairs and I was crying with relief, “I was sure you were dead!  What was all of that?”  To which he responded, “Where are my clean underwear?”

This sounds hilarious, but in the dream it was distressing because I was afraid that he would feel like I was tossing out his stuff too soon after his death.  Like, “Good Riddance to You!  I’m moving on!”  He was confused about why I would have thought he was dead, and I explained about finding him in the living room and the whole experience.

This time, the dream crushed me.  In the dream, just like in real life, it was coming up on six months and he waltzes in the door like it is all normal.  I freak smooth out.  I’m crying and screaming, and he is calm and amused.  I start yelling, “This isn’t okay!  You died!  I held your cold hand!  We all did CPR!  The medical examiner came!  You can NOT come back and act like this is normal!”

I asked him where he had been, and how he could explain all of this.  He told me just to trust him, that he was back, and that I didn’t need to know where he’d been.  He looks around and sees the closet and the cabinets, and remarks on how they’d been cleaned out.  He is again confused that so much of his stuff is missing.  By now I have very few of his clothes left, and sold his speakers.  I explain that he was dead.  We’d scattered his ashes.

In the dream, I was afraid he would find out I’d gotten rid of a box full of his hats. He had an issue with hats.  I believe this is a common trait among men.  I must have three boxes full of his hats.

In the dream I was afraid and confused and angry.  I was so angry at him for acting like everything was normal when I had been through so much.Picture 055

The Little Things That Kill

You think you will be destroyed by the enormity of the situation.
By the knowledge that he will never see his kids graduate or marry.
That he will never be a grandfather.
That you will not grow old together.

This, however, you can survive.

It is the little things that crush you.
The little things rob you of your breath and sting your eyes.

Requesting a table for three.

Sorting laundry without his clothes.

The stockpile of hot sauce that only he liked.

Feeding his cat.

The unused passenger seat in the car.

Getting rid of things we kept out of habit.

Keeping that hideous Scarface poster he loved.

Moving the lamp to my side of the bed.

Helping the kids with their math.

Baking cookies using his recipe.

The empty half of the dining table.

Taking the kids on their first plane ride with my dad instead of with theirs.

Leaving his token in the box when we play board games.

Putting away the Cards Against Humanity we used to play in the evenings.

Watching our favorite shows in silence, alone.

Coming home from the store.

Fourth of July fireworks.

Watching previews for movies we were going to see together, movies that still have not come out because it was so recently that we were sitting together planning our summer.
It’s the daily details that get you, not the grand plans.
We miss you.

The Monkey’s Paw

Well, I have pretty much everything I’ve been wanting for the past couple of years, and all I had to do was lose my husband.

I swear I didn’t wish on a monkey’s paw to be able to be a stay at home mom again.  I didn’t encounter any shady genie types and request to be able to work from home.  I never bargained with a leprechaun to allow me to quit the job I hated and end the commute I hated even more.

Here I am.

We moved here two years ago, when the kids were five and starting kindergarten.  I thought I was supposed to go back to the typical work force once the kids were in school so I got a job and we moved.  I spent the next two years filled with regret, often crying and battling depression.  I loved being a stay at home mom, and could never adjust to working full time with all that entails.  Sometimes he would comfort me, reminding me of all the reasons we moved to a place where we could no longer be a single income household.  Other times, he was exasperated with me, pointing out that I was crying because I had to have a job like most people do.

I wanted to be more involved with my kids’ lives.

But not like this.

Because of a combination of life insurance, etc. and the lessening of household expenses with one less person, I was able to quit my job.  I re-opened my home business and am working for myself.  I drive my kids to school every day.  I help them with their homework.  We eat supper together.  I volunteer at their school and attend daytime events with them.  I bring them to playdates at the park.

All of these were things I missed, about which I regularly cried and moped.

Now I have this all back, but I have nobody to share it with.

I am so lonely.

He is gone.

Most days, it’s strange — it feels normal.  Even though every detail of my life has changed, something about the rhythm is the same.  Wake, pack backpacks, work, get kids, dinner, dishes.  I am in a routine and it feels simply like he is not here.

For much of our marriage, we worked dissimilar schedules.  He worked evenings and weekends, while I worked a standard 9-5.  It has only been the past couple of years that we have had the same hours off together.  It therefore does not always feel odd to not have him around.

Then the anvil drops on my head.  He is not coming back.  I’m not going to tell him about the awesome thing his son said to the neighbor.  He is not going to scold me for dyeing shirts in the kitchen sink.  He will not listen to the new audiobook released by our favorite author, nor will he see any of the movies currently in theaters.

I will never hear his laugh.

I will never drink a beer with him on a hot afternoon.

I will never tell him again that our dog stands up just like Rory Calhoun.

But everything else in my life is falling into place, and the guilt is extreme.  Like somehow that horrible thing happened so these good things could happen.  It’s not a fiar trade though.  It’s not and I can’t handle this.  I can’t handle going to help at the kids’ school knowing that I can only do it because he is dead.  I can’t deal with parking my car in the garage because now there is room for it.  I can’t face my clients knowing that I would still be in my toxic job if he were still alive.

I can’t enjoy these things.  I won’t enjoy them.  Maybe if I reject all of this, somehow the universe will realize its error and reverse this.

I know that doesn’t make sense.  I know it in my head, but my heart can’t bear the weight of happiness or even of contentedness.

I am a Part of Their Healing

The role of widow comes with certain responsibilities.  This was news to me, but is something I have come to understand.

One of those responsibilities is to be a part of the healing process for the other people in your loved one’s life.  If you stop to think about it, you automatically know this on some level.  It is accepted that the widow is in charge of notifying the rest of the family as much as she can, that she will plan a memorial service so others can pay their respects, that she will write or arrange for obituaries.  The widow may have help with these tasks, or she may be able to delegate them entirely.  Ultimately, however, it generally falls to the widow to be the tour guide through the earliest days after the death.

Often during the planning of the service, preparing the house for company, etc. I thought how strange it felt to be in charge of event planning while my insides were dead.  That is how it is done, however.

I am not the only person who lost Trey.  I know this.  I lost him the most, but he had many people who cared for him deeply and feel the loss.

This post is not meant to be about the early days, however, but about the continuing role of the widow in helping others grieve.  Recent events have highlighted this for me in a way that I did not previously understand.

I am planning a trip with the kids to visit my in-laws this summer.  I planned a slow week of family time with my husband’s parents.  I thought I might meet a friend one day for lunch, and visit my husband’s sister one day.  My MIL kept saying that she understood I probably had a lot of people to visit, since I used to live there, and I kept thinking that really I do not.  I don’t do the ‘friend’ thing much.  We are going to visit my in-laws and that is pretty much it.

Nope.  That is not it.

Every member of my husband’s family in a three-state area are planning to make the trip to see me while I’m nearby.  Family members who used to live within a two hour drive of us but did not visit us (or us them — it’s a two way street) suddenly want very much to see me when I come to town.  We are now planning what is essentially a family reunion centered around my visit to the state.

This is because my kids and I are a part of the healing process for Trey’s family.

Some family members may feel regretful or even guilty about not seeing Trey more often.  Many of them were making plans to see us at some point, but never made solid plans.  Some of them were on bad terms with Trey when he died.  Because he was young and it was unexpected, we all thought there was time.  None of us thought that the last time we saw him would be the last time we would see him.

Meeting with me, seeing me and our kids — our kids who look so different from each other and yet somehow manage to both look so much like him — helps them find a sort of closure or peace.  I stand in as a surrogate for the connection they still need with him.

It is a daunting task, and frankly a bit uncomfortable.  I can barely hold myself together.  I do not feel the strength to serve as a support for others.  It is painful to see his family.  Trey laughed exactly like his uncles, and when I hear them laugh it slices me open.  I see his eyes in all of their eyes.  I feel their pain and loss shoved toward me, thick pillows of emotion that smother.  It is infinitely difficult to be what they need.

There are those who will say that I do not have to do this.  I need to do what is best for me.  If I need to sneak in to see my in-laws without notifying half the free world that I am coming, that I should do what I need.  To those people I say you are absolutely right.  I do not have to do this.

I am in so much pain.

I have seen the family in so much pain.

If I can do something to help them through it, I will.  If I have to plan and host a reunion for their family, I will do it.

It is my responsibility as Trey’s widow to do what I can for his family.

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Trey teaching the kids to bowl (image unrelated to post — just a fun memory.)