There are, perhaps, few times in life when we face a page as blank as that following the death of a partner. Recently I spoke to a woman who said that everything in her life had gone, including the friends they shared, since her partner died nine years before. It’s the case with the death of our loved ones that its impact isn’t fenced off neatly, but affects all aspects of our lives.
Facing up to this earlier on, it was a case of facing the devastation, acknowledging and mourning the destruction. Now I find myself looking at the same scene, and although the grief hovers, I am also challenging myself to think about what new life I can nurture there. I’m aware of a need to expand myself somehow, find some new strength and inner fierceness in order to navigate the complexity. It doesn’t feel like a time to give in to the sadness, but instead to dig deep and find the tenacity to remain in this place that isn’t at all comfortable and start thinking about what changes could happen, and start working towards that end.
I am wondering about what to do with my time, about establishing new connections and friendships, taking part in life again. It’s sometimes tempting to try and avoid the pain of facing up to what’s lacking and just resign myself to the life I have. After a year of being very solitary, it can feel frightening and very raw to look outwards, particularly as I’m very aware that I am not moving from a having behind me a beautiful life that shines dreamily from my social media timeline.
But because life feels so stripped back, and I am working from the ground up, I am also finding that, although painful at times, it is a good time to think about the kind of life I want to fashion for myself, about what matters to me and what I want to achieve, the values I want to live out.
Over the past three years I’ve learnt how important people are to me, how much their words and their listening, their presence can not only comfort and nourish me, but often initiates its own kind of alchemy that days, weeks later I realise worked some kind of change. But I also often feel a sense of bewilderment as I begin to look at this part of my life, as if watching a game with rules I haven’t quite grasped. The way of approaching it seems similar to other things that I’ve had to begin to restore in some way, such as food and cooking. Sensing your way into it, feeling for what works, what appeals, and beginning to piece things together. There are a myriad of actions and decisions we make each day that move us towards the bigger goal. And it’s in these small actions, these small tying together of one or two strands that flashes of real beauty can happen and something bigger can come of each small act of hope.