4 years later

“Perhaps grief is not about empty, but full. The full breath of life that includes death. The completeness, the cycles, the depth, the richness, the process, the continuity and the treasure of the moment that is gone the second you are aware of it. Alysia Reine”

When I started out on this life long journey of grief, I wasn’t aware of where this path would take me. In the early months and years I could not really believe I could withstand this intensity of the pain. I could not understand how everything could be taken away from me in an instant.

Before my wife was diagnosed with cancer, we had a blissful life for many years. From the moment we got married in 2002, our life had been full of excitement and adventures. We had bought our first home together, travelled to exotic locations, lived abroad for many years and were so fortunate and privileged to be parents to our little boy who was born in 2007.

In the years prior to that fateful day when we got the fatal diagnosis, we led a busy but very happy and prosperous life. I was busy at work and she was busy at home being a full-time mom to a bright and mischievous child. We celebrated festivals, birthdays and anniversaries with great gusto which was so characteristic of her positive and outgoing personality.

Life seemed to be moving ahead in full steam. Every year we would go on 3-4 vacations. It was her favorite activity to research new places and plan family trips. Looking back it seems those years flew by in a blur. Of course I had never anticipated our life together being interrupted permanently.

I had thought this was how life would continue, in fact it would get even better as we looked forward to the next stage of life. We had so many things lined up – vacation trips, moving to our new house, making annual trips to our parents place and the thing she looked forward to the most – enjoying every minute of our little boy’s childhood.

She was extremely fit and led a very active lifestyle. In all our years together I never ever saw her brooding or worrying about something. If something bothered her, she would just take it head on. We all counted on her for everything from small to big, being well networked and informed she was a natural decision maker.

Disease,treatments and hospitals were alien concepts to me. Those were things I read in the papers and generally avoided. Both of us had never been admitted to a hospital. She understood the importance of good health and frequently spoke about it and it was evident in the discipline and zeal she had about fitness.

And then out of nowhere Cancer entered our lives. It wasn’t just any other easily treatable variant but Cancer in its most lethal form – Leukemia. Even after the diagnosis and the subsequent treatments, I didn’t realize how potent it was though I consider myself to be of a scientific temperament and read everything I could get my hands on about the disease. I read other people’s accounts of fighting this dreaded disease, I read in depth about treatment options and even medical research papers and studies that were publicly available.

I guess my vision was blurred because of the fact that I thought she could defeat anything. I had more faith in her than in anything else.Those seven months of gruesome treatments turned our life upside down. I found myself managing home, work, my child and the relentless  hospital admissions and treatments.

Of course this was nothing compared to what she had to endure, rounds after rounds of brutal chemotherapy treatments took her to the edge but every time  she would rally and come back and recover. Only a person with an extraordinary willpower could have endured what she did.

Not even once she would complain. In fact on the good days when she was feeling better, she was very much her usual self, checking on everything, watching  her favorite  master chef on TV and even enjoying the hospital food. We would often talk about all the things we would do once she was better.

In between treatments we found time to go on what would become our last vacation together. And then just as things were looking up and we thought the worst was over that our world folded on itself. The cancer had returned after a brief remission. Once more we rallied.

When Leukemia returns, its ferocious and the only option is a very strong dose of chemotherapy. This proved to be fatal as her body had been weakened by continuous rounds of treatments. The risks were grave but there was no other option.

Her last words to me were “I’ll be fine” and I told her not to worry about our son. At the time I had no idea that this would be our last words to each other but that’s how it turned out.

Plunged into widowhood at 39 with a young child to look after, my world collapsed around me. I had counted on her for everything from running the household to taking major life decisions. Suddenly I found myself to be the sole decision maker. I cringed with disbelief when I had to sign forms and mention that I was a single parent.

But life didn’t stop, the world moved on as if nothing had happened. There were bills to be paid and other pressing responsibilities both at home and at work. I don’t know how I dragged myself to work each day but I knew I had to keep my head down and keep moving forward. I had made her a promise and I would honor it in every way possible.

Most of the people around me didn’t get what I was going through. People whom I had considered close friends parted ways for inexplicable reasons. There were few who stayed and I’m extremely grateful for them.

I met several other people on this journey through my blog. Their thoughtful comments and their own experiences provided much needed peace to my shattered soul. I read extensively about grief, spirituality,  afterlife and many such things I had not bothered to think about earlier.

Today I’m married again and have a great family. Life is good once more and I have come a long way since those early days. I used to read that grief changes and I can understand what it means now. It never goes away and there are always days and moments when it rears its head out of nowhere and in most unexpected places.

I’m still bitter and angry about what happened and how unfair it was. I don’t know if I will be ever able to make peace with it. I have moved forward not ‘moved on’ because no such thing exists.

Our son just turned ten and he’s a bright and happy child. I talk to him often about his mother telling him funny stories and all the things that she used to do for him. He has a new mom in his life who also loves him a lot and he begins each morning with giving her a big hug. He also has a big brother now and though initially it was hard for both of them, they have bonded and are now just like any other siblings. They share a room, fight, play video games together and are protective about each other though being boys they would never like to admit it.

Life turned out to be very different from what I had imagined. Just a few years ago, I would never have imagined undergoing so many life changing events in such a short time. I have changed in ways that sometimes I also cannot understand completely. Life meanwhile has continued to move on regardless.

Yesterday marked four years since I lost my wife. The loss was multifold as I also lost my best friend and the person who knew me inside out. We were together for 12 years and though I should be grateful I got those with her, I also feel a deep sorrow that she was taken so early and left behind so many unfulfilled dreams.

I don’t look for answers because nothing can justify her absence. Her extraordinary spirit is very much alive and with me always through life’s ups and downs and I carry her in my heart wherever I go.

Yesterday when I woke up and looked outside I saw cherry blossoms  blooming on a tree nearby. They were her favorite flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A life full of colors

“Red: [narrating] Sometimes it makes me sad, though… Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.”

Today is the festival of Holi in India. It’s a festival celebrated with colors, with joy and with abandon. It was my late wife’s favorite festival. After four years, I still hate to put the word ‘late’ or departed before her name. She was anything but late, full of energy and perpetually busy.

This festival gelled so much with her personality, her presence was electric. She didn’t have to do anything to create this impact but it was just the aura that she had. If she was around, you would feel it instantly. She was a natural leader, taking charge of things and bringing everyone together.

So much of life has passed by in the intervening years but I feel her void everyday. Its like living with a huge void that is impossible to fill. Memories come and go and lately I have started a personal project to write about them. I’m fearful that in time, they would start slipping from my grasp and they are all I’m left with.

When I started this blog, I wanted to immortalize her through my writings. But now I don’t write here that often. I write much more privately in my journals and on the memory project that I’m working on slowly but diligently.

When you lose someone so dear, its hard to explain in words what you feel on such occasions. The vocabulary that you need to express what you feel doesn’t exist in the form of letters and words. You feel the pain always – sometimes its in the background and sometimes it all just comes back.

March is a difficult month for me. I lost her in March and also its my birthday month. But March in India also has the festival of Holi and I believe its only fitting. If anything else, I want her to be remembered for things that really set her apart – her indomitable spirit and her incredible zest for life.

She would have probably admonished me for feeling sad and down. It was just not the way she looked at life irrespective of the circumstances. When I see pictures of people celebrating I often feel that familiar lump in my throat because she was supposed to be here but isn’t.

She was only 37 and left behind so many unfulfilled dreams. She wanted to travel and do so many things, the little home projects that we had planned, the 40th birthday celebrations that never came for both her and me, our son’s childhood that she had lived for and so many things.

Cancer took a lot away, it took away the central figure around which our lives revolved. Over the years, I have become so much more responsible and different from what I was. The innocence and a sense of invincibility has been replaced with indifference to life at times. I have felt the weight of the world.

But I have carried on regardless. There have been good days too. I have come a long way in these years. Today I’m able to participate in life again, I have been able to rekindle my old interests and hobbies. I have a new family and its because of them that I have been able to go forward in life.

Grievers suffer in silence. They are expected to be strong and carry on as if nothing has happened. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms. Mine is to write, to take long solitary walks or just observe nature.

Few days ago at night I just happened to look up and saw it was a clear night and the stars and the moon glittered, its something that never fails to move me. I thought to myself ” I don’t even know where you are”. It’s a thought I struggle with a lot. I wish I had some answers.

But on the other good days, I see her in the colors around me, in the chirping of birds in the morning, in the beautiful formations they make when they fly home in the evenings, in the joy I see in children playing outside, in the festivals and all the good things in life. I know she loved life and specially festivals and celebrations.

I feel I should live for both of us but often I fail because I’m just not wired the same way she was. She lived every moment of her short but incredible life.She took in the experiences and her grit and her courage is something I can only get inspired with but never possess.

I’m an ordinary mortal and I try as best as I can. I wish everyone peace and courage in their journeys. I read stories of others like me, I silently empathize with them because I know what it feels like. We are all alone but our life stories connect us in miraculous ways.

 

 

 

Evolving grief


I don’t write too often these days. As time passes I have noticed that the urge to share and write about my experiences have diminished. The feelings however have not certainly. Grief is a life long journey,it’s not something that just goes away with time. It’s hard to exactly translate how loss uncovers itself as days,months and years go by.Many days it stays in the background and then on others days it leaps back with a ferocity that is totally unexpected.

I’m nearing three years since my life changed for ever. Life has continued to change in myriad ways since then. Today I have a brand new life and a family whom I love very much . I’ve continued to move forward with my life while trying to integrate my loss . Sometimes I feel I’m successful and making progress and on other days I feel I’m failing. Either way life goes on regardless.

Recently we celebrated my younger sons ninth birthday.It was his third without his beloved mother. I remember the last birthday we celebrated together.She had just been back from a very high dose chemotherapy treatment and yet she made it a point to celebrate her little boy’s birthday as if nothing had happened.I felt too stressed to celebrate that day and it was certainly difficult to feel happy with all the uncertainties that cancer can bring into your life.

But she was different,her spirit remained untouched by the disease.I remember her laughing,clapping and throughly enjoying her little boys birthday.In the years when all was well,she would plan for months – deciding the venue,shopping for outfits and exploring new cake receipes. I guess this was the highpoint of the year for her. On the birthday she would always take a picture on the exact time of his birth.

The first birthday that we celebrated without her,I tried my best to do everything as she would have liked. It had only been a few months since her passing but I felt I couldn’t let her down.So we celebrated as we had always but without her it felt soulless. However to see our son happy and enjoying with his friends made it all worth it.

The duality of grief can be very difficult to handle. A perfectly happy occasion sometimes has grey hues underlining it. It’s a new normal that I have learnt to accept. I feel the pain everyday at realising she is missing out on his growing years and so much else.So many milestones and occasions and she’s not around to experience it.

I guess this is the greatest challenge for people who have undergone deep loss – integrating the loss into life that goes on and living with that bottomless void each day. I hear a lot of ‘everyone’s life is difficult ‘ and that is true but other life challenges don’t even measure up to the endurance that is required to go on in the face of loss of the most important person in your life.

The thoughts that she’s already missed out on so much is unnerving to me. I don’t know how it will feel to have the years go by. I look at pictures of people who celebrate their anniversaries every year, I marvel at the years they have accumulated together. And I’m constantly reminded of what I have lost. I got twelve years and they will stay with me forever. I just didn’t think it will be over so soon when we were looking forward to life so much.

And yet,life goes on..

2 years today

Today marks the second anniversary of death, I’m still unsure of how to attach ‘death’ with someone who was so alive. The heart still refuses to believe what the mind has known all along. I’m not sure if it will ever feel real, if it will ever sink in. There’s nothing good about this day as it permanently marked the end of life as I had known it. In one single instance, the innocense and spontaniety about life evaporated.

My late wife lived her life with remarkable enthusiasm down to her last days.Despite the gravity of the situation, there wasn’t a day where we felt that all was lost. Infact just the day before, she had shown visible signs of improvement. I had thought that the worst was over, that we would survive this eventually.

Early in the morning on Mar 12th, I received a call from the ICU. The doctor on call said I shoud rush immediately, I didn’t know how to react. My logical faculties were on the verge of shutting down. It had been almost 10 days since she had been in the ICU fighting with extraordinary courage for life and for the people she had dearly loved.

Before cancer invaded our lives, there was not a single day either of us had spent in the hospital. She was extremely fit, full of energy and filled with a life force that was infectious. Perhaps it’s a testimony to her physical and mental strength that she was able to withstand months of such gruesome treatments.

The day before she was moved to the ICU, she was in unbearable pain.Even getting off from the bed was a nightmare. Yet, she walked to the restroom refusing support, teeth clenched and eyes fierce with determination. I guess  that was her way to defy the odds. The two channels that she had watched most during the long and innumerable hospital stays were comdey central and the food channel. Laughter and food – her two great loves.

In the wee hours of the morning when I got that call, unknown to me the last day of her life in this physical realm had begun. I was handed an xray and told that fluid had filled up in her lungs. I remember asking “surely there would be a way to drain this”, we had come so far in our battle against cancer. How could this be a road block? No one told me what next, I was just told it was serious and they would try a procedure to alter her position so that the fluid could be drained but there were no gaurantees it would work.

By afternoon, I was informed that she might need dialysis as the kidneys were failing. It was only much later that I read that this was the first sign of multi organ failure which means that the end is near. But on that day, I couldnt even remotely fathom it. I was allowed in the ICU in the evening and I sat near her – just the nurse and me surrounded by flickering screens and medical stats that defined life and death.

My eyes were fixated on the screens, I was watching the numbers go up and down. I have no recollection of what I was thinking because I wasnt – I was in a deep mental void, the kind when your brain has decided to shut down in the face of extreme stress. I dont know how long I sat like that, time stopped and freezed on me. I remember being told to take a break and go out but I didnt hear anything. Words no longer registered.

I saw the nurse hustle around and pump in more and more meds to stabilise the falling blood pressure -“pressers” as known in the medical jargon. I looked at my wife and she seemed to be in a deep sleep. The breathig was labored but it was hard to tell as she was on life support.

Then just past 910 pm, the dreaded straight line appeared on the screen. As for me, I still registered nothing. I got up and adamantly asked the nurse and she was too shocked to say anything. Then she murmurred “the doctor will soon come”. I had no idea what she was talking about. The doctor came in and as a matter of fact said “She’s no more”. Still nothing registered. I asked him how can that be as she was still breathing. Of course in my almost comatic state, I had not realized that the life support machine was still on.

I held her hands for the last time – limp and cold. She hardly looked like the person I had known all these years together. Something seemed to have left the body. The absence of the life force was unmistakable.I didnt cry or wail, tears streamed but I was numbed beyond belief. I left the hospital a few hours later, all alone in this world filled with people but without that one person who made my world go around.

I had switched off from this world. I saw everything that was happening around me but they seemed to be coming from a far away place. A few days later, the last rites over,I found myself carrying an urn of ashes.Twelve years of laughter,happiness, countless memories and unfullfilled dreams rested in that urn.In accordance with religious customs I submerged them at the confluence of three rivers.

On the way back, we stopped at a cafe on the same highway that we had gone on numerous holidays together. I recalled the last time we had stopped here, enroute on yet another vacation.I felt a brutal coldness in that moment. It was a feeling cold, unforgiving and of being scaringly alone in a world full of people.I still shudder when I think of that moment.

It was only after everything was over that the pain erupted with its mind numbing intensity. There was no getting away from it. I woke up with it and till I fell into a troubled sleep, there was no respite. My insides screamed with pain but no words would come out.It was almost like I was drowning and no one heard me.

It was then that I realized that getting out your thoughts was a healthy way of grieving. I started this blog and since then have shared my journey here. These two years have been the toughest years that I have had to face and no matter what comes next, I know I would be ok as I came through these – bruised and weary but alive and even thriving on days.

I have not given up on life as that is what I learned from her. Her courage and determination in the toughest moments have inspired me to get back to life and try to live it in the best manner possible. I’m not successful on many days as the weight of memories is sometimes difficult to carry but I try to move forward a little each day.

Today the pain has eased and on most days its a dull ache untill something just brings everything crashing down but hopefully those days are far and few. I have been fortunate to find new love and a new family. Its not been easy for either of us but together we have pushed ahead towards a new life for us and our children. My new life partner is a strong but compassionate person who has not let losses in her life diminish her spirit.I owe much of my recovery to her support and encouragement.

I know that my late wife is with me on this journey and though I have abandoned God just as He abandoned me, I find peace in the fact that I have someone to whom I can pray to. In difficult moments I ask her to show the way forward and it almost always helps in ways that are difficult to explain rationally.

In this journey of two years I have found that grief isolates people. There were some who avoided me like plague. And yet I’m thankful to family and friends who stayed and offered support – through messages, reading these blogs and checking on me when I was down and out.

I have found that no matter what, you will be judged and that’s ok with me. I have never conformed to rules that people impose on others. It seems strange to me that there are some who think that one should be resigned to a miserable life after a loss. Moving forward is considered being selfish and self aborbed.

Though she lived for only 37 years, she lived a life that was full. She got to travel, make numerous friends and lived each day with energy and passion so characterestic of her.She became an incredible life partner, and the most endearing mother to her little boy. People who knew her best often remember her fondly and always talk about the warmth and happiness that she exuded. I know that because it came from within.

On days like this, though I battle raw grief again,I also take pride in the fact that she shared her life with me. We created memories of a lifetime. But losing her has also been the hardest thing that I have had to endure. I believe she would be happy to see me go forward and not give up on life.

I’m now the keeper of precious memories and her enduring legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A return to blogging

“Piece by piece, I reenter the world. A new phase. A new body, a new voice. Birds console me by flying, trees by growing, dogs by the warm patch they leave on the sofa. Unknown people merely by performing their motions. It’s like a slow recovery from a sickness, this recovery of one’s self.”— Toby Talbot

 

Its been a very long time since my last post here. This blog is very precious to me as I have recorded so many memories and days of pain, heartbreak and the occasional relief and happiness. In the months that have gone by, my life has changed in many ways which I could not have foreseen a year back.

I got married to a wonderful woman back in Oct last year. She has been on a similar journey as me and we understand each other in many ways. We are quite different individuals and that makes life interesting and enriching as we bring different strengths and weaknesses together. We have a beautiful family now with two boys aged eight and twelve.

While its been an exciting time for all of us, its also been a transitional phase as we try to integrate into a new life together.We still live in different cities but we plan to get together later this year and finally start living the life we have been planning and talking about for some time now.

We will be moving to a new house, a new community, new school for the boys. I’m really looking forward to truly starting a new phase in my life.It has taken a lot of pain,sweat and tears to get to this point but its been worth the struggles.Of course the challenges do not end, there are many new things to be learned, new issues to be addressed.

I think the reason I stopped writing was that at some point it just wore me down. In the beginning when the times were the toughest, it really helped me get my emotions out. I wrote almost everyday, through the intense pain and tears and I found that it helped me survive those days.

Though grief never really goes away, there are still moments of intense sadness but with time and effort you learn to manage it. My reasons for writing are primarily that I love to do it and also I would like to continue so that I can help others who are walking this difficult path.

As I start a new phase in my life, I want to write about the new emotions and feelings I have, the new challenges we face as a blended family and last but not the least how we are continuing on this journey to accomplish new goals and dreams.Not all of this has to be sad and serious. We had a terrible terrible thing happen to us but we are doing ok, we are doing alright.

I used to follow a lot of blogs here, and I will continue to do so because we all share a special kinship. We are survivors, we will go on to live full and enriching lives. The ones we have lost will always have a very special place in our hearts, dearly loved and forever missed. Our lives are richer because they touched us in ways manifold.

Its a journey of ups and downs, not all days are the same but I strive to improve each day.Meditation and walking has really helped me stay calm through all of this.I’m learning new things just for the pleasure of it – long forgotten dreams from my twenties have been reignited.

And then there are days that I feel I’m back in the darkness,the pain is raw again and it feels I have failed myself. I guess, its part of the healing process, and you start all over again. For all those who are on this path, please know that better days will come. For now it might seem improbable, but its true.

The journey continues..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the road of life

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” – Louise Erdrich

I haven’t been writing too much of late because after a long time I’m trying to live life instead of documenting it. Writing has been extremely therapeutic to me on this journey. It has kept me company on numerous days and nights when all seemed lost.

For me things have become a lot easier than it was in those early days and months. I would never ever want to go back to that space again. At the time it was essential to lean into whatever emotions surfaced and just try to survive the darkness.

Over a period of time grief does ease out, it becomes more manageable though it never entirely goes away. Life in the afterloss has many shades. In many ways it’s a transition into a new life.

Much of the battles we fight are fought in silence. Unlike movies, there’s no moving background score, no quick leaps into the future and no dramatic change of scenery.

Instead, life moves painfully slowly sometimes. Weeks and months pass before you suddenly look back and realize how far you have come. Grief has a nasty way of ambushing you from time to time.

Memories and triggers creep up on you seemingly from nowhere but then you find that if you deal with them honestly, they go away and the landscape seems that much more clearer.

I have realized that sometimes you have to consciously let go of things, it helps to look forward in life when you feel you have made some kind of peace with the past.

None of these things happen in sequence or have a logical time frame. I guess it’s all about how you feel at a given point in time. I believe I have made a sincere effort to step out of my grief and move forward with life.

Moving forward doesn’t have to mean forgetting because that’s not possible. My past is very much part of the person I have become today. It’s also a source of strength because I know I’m a survivor, I have fought, I have taken the blows but I have tried to move forward step by step every day.

People say life goes on and it does go on but to go forward new meanings have to be found. When something significant ends, it seems like final but somehow you have to fight your way through so that new beginnings can be made again.

In Aug it will be two years since the cancer diagnosis and the world that I knew ended. It has been the most difficult years in my life. Through it all, I don’t know how I have survived and today I have reached a point where I’ve started living again bit by bit.

It’s taken me a long time, lot of pain and tears to reach this point. I still stumble and fall sometimes but I continue to move forward. I don’t want our lives to be defined by loss.

My love and my loss has chiseled me into someone who values life and relationships much more now than I ever did in the past. I have paid an unthinkable price for having this perspective but I was never given choices.

A grief journey doesn’t have to be only about grief. There are happy moments, there’s laughter and anticipation of new things and most importantly there’s hope for the future.

I’m trying my best to live my life with optimism one day at a time.

The way forward

“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels; 
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way! ”

I’m back after a hiatus and I’m feeling much better than I ever was. Love, grief and loss is a part of who I am today and the journey continues. Over the past year I have traveled many paths and valleys.

I haven’t come to any destination or a resting place but I do think I have turned the corner in my journey. I’ve met someone special and remarkable and it has brought hope back into my life.

I still have moments of darkness and I guess I have learned to tide them over and keep moving forward. Sometimes life feels surreal, as if too much has happened in too short a time.

My life has undergone a massive transformation in the last two years. Much of what I had up until that point was completely torn apart in the storm that came from nowhere.

Today I feel I have moved to a place where I can again look at the future with a generous amount of hope and positivity. I have a long way to go but I believe the foundation to rebuild has been laid and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Spending so much time alone has been extremely tough but it has had its benefits. I have a different perspective today, about the world and myself. I think much more deeply about things that matter and am able separate the wheat from the chaff.

There are reminders and triggers and they always will be there, I can’t avoid them but today they don’t hold the same power over me as they once did.

I looked through some of my earlier posts over the last year and while I couldn’t read them again because I fear the pain, I can clearly see how far I have come.

I write this for everyone that is on this difficult journey. There’s hope out there but the only way to it is through the pain. I never thought I would feel better, I never thought I would have a future again and I never thought I would meet someone again.

The challenge for me is to look forward to the future while keeping the memories alive. It’s easier said than done. I have a long way to go but I believe it is possible.

I still feel a lot of pain and anguish from time to time but I believe I have begun to heal in a lot of ways. I have rediscovered my interest in reading, traveling and many other things that used to make life so pleasurable. I believe those are good signs.

Some evenings when I’m by myself, my mind wanders and I think about all the things that have happened that have got me to where I’m today. I could have never seen it coming. Just goes on to show how precious life is and how redundant it is to plan too far ahead.

I have learned that life is to be lived in short bursts and with the hope that someday it will all come together and make sense. As long as we have dreams, love, hope, grief..emotions, it means we are alive to the moment. In essence it’s all that there is.

A bend in the river

“Andy Dufresne: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

I’ve been very busy at work recently working late nights and several weekends. When push comes to shove, my mind goes into auto pilot and even though I detest the long hours, somehow when I’m involved, I’m in.

So in the midst of it all, I suddenly realized after a few days that I had been actually thinking about work all the time. I was scared that once the work pressure plateaued, I would be sucked into the emptiness again.

It did hit again this weekend as the now familiar silence started ringing in my ears. But I noticed that the pain wasn’t as intense. Yes the sadness was there but suddenly there was also a new determination to move ahead.

I don’t know if this is momentary or something more lasting but whatever it is, I welcomed the feeling. I had forgotten what getting up in the mornings and not feeling the stabs in the heart were like.

I found myself talking to people at work, making small talk and outside of work, actually reading the current issue of national geographic. The past editions still lie on my desk at home unopened.

I felt like a small window had opened again and though it’s not all rosy, maybe I could do this, maybe I could survive and come out on the other side.

My scarred self refuses to believe what I experienced. It tells me it won’t last, that I’m deluding myself. It says I can’t touch life again. But my heart says there’s hope, just as the seasons change, these dark clouds won’t hover forever.

A grief journey doesn’t have to be only about sadness. Loss is as much a part of life as love is. One follows the other. I don’t believe in moving on for I can’t forget and just move on. I’m not wired like that, none of us are.

But I do believe in moving forward and it only comes after you have experienced pain head on, only after you have let every feeling surface and see it create ripples and then slowly disappear.

You move forward with the past not without it because the past merges into who you are today. People often talk of letting go but I disagree, moving ahead doesn’t mean a clear break with the past. To me it means making peace with your past and letting it become a part of who you are today.

Unfortunately this journey has no milestones because you will revisit the same emotions again, you will walk the same path yet again but you will get back on the highway. And again back on the dirt roads.

But that doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress. You are getting better at getting back every day . This has been my experience as I walk this path every day.

So today as I was driving, my son suddenly started talking about his mom, he often does and so lovingly that you have to be thankful for the dark glasses. Yet another bend and then after a few moments spent fighting tears, back on the road again.

Peace and courage.

I often think

I often think of the moments I still had you
Things that I said and things I should have said but didn’t
I know it doesn’t matter for you knew it all
I just had to look at you and you understood

Now that I’ve been alone for so long I often think about the days that were
I’ve been doing well after so long and yet I feel it’s hollow, it’s all fake

I often think about who I am without you
And then like a warm blanket this thought envelopes me
I can never be alone, I can never be without you

So much of what is left of me is yours
I’m a changed man because of your love
And this gives me the strength to go on
Wherever I’m, there you are..

A year of being a single parent

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Today as I dropped our little boy to the school bus, it struck me that it was the last day before the school closes for summer vacations. I had gotten a note from his teacher few days ago that there was a class party planned today and I was to send cup cakes and cookies. So last night I stopped on the way back from work to pick up the goodies.

It’s the trivial moments like these that hit you the hardest. An entire school year has gone by where I’ve been a single parent. I’ve juggled work, parenting and struggled with my own grief through this year. There are times I’ve felt like a failure, times I’ve felt it was beyond me to get through this. But at the same time, something has kept me going as I have labored through each day.

I don’t know how I’ve done, perhaps it doesn’t really matter. Every morning I’ve gotten up, woken up my son, coaxed him to finish his breakfast and got him ready for school. Every morning after waving him back as the school bus disappeared from sight, I’ve returned to the loneliness in my life. I start work later in the day so mostly my mornings are not rushed.

These few hours in the morning are still the most difficult. Many days I just slept through them, many days there was nothing to do but to just lean into whatever emotions surfaced. Sometimes I wrote, some days I read blogs and tried to find hope. I tried meditation, listened to calming zen music and it all helped keep me sane.

I’ve taken care of my son when he’s been sick, helped him with his homework, done his class projects and the million other things that come with raising a child. I’ve felt profound sadness that I’m all that he’s got left. I’ve struggled with the thought that I’m doing what his mom loved to do,that she was denied her motherly right to watch her boy grow up.

And then there have been times I’ve just not been there because of my work responsibilities. I’ve felt guilty about it but it’s just amazing to see how strong my little boy has been through this, perhaps he gets it from his mom. Courage is in his genes. I wish I could  be in the moment and look forward to the next thing like kids do. But we are grown ups tethered to the emotional chains of our past.

The last summer vacation was a blur, I was so deep in shock that I don’t even remember. My superiors were supportive and I worked from home many times just to be with my son. A year later, the shock  has dissipated but the deep sadness remains as it always will. I remember the fun both of them used to have during the holidays – playing games, going to movies and doing the many other little things that only moms can do.

I can’t do many of those things simply because I’m not there, I need to also earn to give him a good life and that means mostly I’m away during the day. He has his grand parents to take care of him. I guess we are all trying to do the best we can but the void of her absence is just so deep that no one can ever fill that space for both of us.

I often wonder what goes on in his little mind, what he thinks of how life has turned out to be for us. It’s hard to know what goes on there, we can only do the best we can and hope that when he grows up, he will remember that this was the hardest thing anyone can go through but we still thrived,we came through.

So this morning I asked my son if I was invited to his class party and he promptly replied “No, it’s only for those who are in my class”. I love the pristine honesty that children have. They never hesitate to say what is right. I’m both proud and sad today – proud because I’ve been there for him every single day in the year and sad that I’ve been there alone without the person who deserved to be doing what I’ve been trying to do all along solo. It’s just the way our life has turned out to be.