Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Remembering is Connecting

Monday, February 17, 2014
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The time around Valentines Day is tough for me because the holiday is paired with our anniversary on February 12th and it was always a big celebration week for us (Aric always loved an excuse for an extended celebration). This year would have been our seventeenth anniversary and it was my second time getting through it without Aric. But, surprisingly, the week went better than anticipated. And, when I woke up on the morning of our anniversary instead of feeling sad or empty, I felt invigorated and deeply connected to Aric.

And, really, when I stop to think about it, why shouldn’t I feel this way? For over fifteen years of our lives we were side-by-side—even when we were apart geographically. We had a soul-deep connection, and an exuberance about one another that overflowed into our mutual impulse to talk about each other—a lot. Indeed, that impulse is so strong that there are many people in my life who have never met Aric, yet feel they know him very well. Always, to know me was to know Aric. And vice versa.

I have always loved talking about Aric. I have always loved sharing quirky stories, showing off his artwork, bragging about his knowledge of music. And he would do the same, telling anyone who would listen just how amazing he thought I was. When Aric died the desire to share stories about him only deepened. Even in the darkest places of my grief, the one thing that could give me a glimmer of happiness was to reminisce about Aric with others, even when doing so made me cry.

But somehow, after Aric died, what had always come so naturally to me, and was the one source of healing I knew to turn to—talking about Aric—became something that sometimes seemed to make others uncomfortable. And as time progresses I worry that this is becoming more and more the case. “It’s been over a year. Why is she still talking about him? Oh no, is she going to start crying? When will she get over it?” Thankfully, no one has ever said any of these things directly to me, but I sense it in the sudden quiet that comes when I talk about him, the uncomfortable shuffles, the glancing eyes that no longer want to meet mine, and in response I shut down and withdraw.

This feeling is most pronounced in social get-togethers. The talk will turn to spouses, or work, or music, politics, or art. And I will be reminded of Aric, or a memory that is of course connected to him (I have so few that aren’t, after all), and will want to chime in with an anecdote that comes from our life as a couple. But, I immediately begin worrying that doing so will disrupt the easy-going vibe, anticipating the subtle tension that emerges and fills the room when I say his name

And, until this week I have often second-guessed, and self-censored, and shut down in some social situations. As a result I would inevitably go home at the end of the evening with an intensified sense loneliness—feeling out-of-place among others, feeling always somewhat disconnected because part of me, part of my experience, was no longer welcome in polite conversation.

But, as last week’s anniversary loomed on the horizon, I had my “aha” moment that changed the way I think about these situations and has created new resolve in how I will face them going forward. I recognized that Aric and I spent over fifteen years together, we were kids when we started dating and we became adults together. We battled his illnesses, going through joy and hell together. And even more important than the amount of time we spent together is the fact that we were connected on such a deep and spiritual level. We were soul mates. No matter how much time passes, Aric is forever part of who I am. This is a blessing for which I am grateful.

The natural inclination I have to share Aric with others is, and always has been, not just about him but a reflection of my desire to share myself with those in my life. Because to fully know me, you must know Aric as well. This has been true as long as we were a couple, and when he died that did not change. Nor do I want it to. I do not want to hide such a beautiful and vital part of who am I from others on the off chance that sharing might make someone else uncomfortable.

And so, going forward, when I feel that twinge in my gut warning me that I may make others uncomfortable by referencing Aric, our life together, or even his death and my transition into this new widowed life, I have made a conscious decision to simply ignore that stupid twinge. If others are made uncomfortable, so be it. But it is my hope that if I do not allow myself to be hesitant or apologetic, then the worry will eventually dissipate for everyone—and then I will be able to share all of who I am with those around me, including the joy of who Aric was, and still is, in the world as well as the grief of losing him.

For those in my life who worry about how to react when I mention Aric’s name or reminisce about our time together… don’t. And, even if sometimes I still cry, don’t be alarmed. Just know that I am simply doing what comes naturally, and treat me as you would any other friend or family member sharing stories about his or her spouse.

Keep in mind the observation of Julian Barnes: “the fact that someone is dead may mean that they are not alive, but doesn't mean they do not exist.” Know that there are few things in this world that make me happier than remembering Aric and acknowledging that he still exists in my life. By allowing me to continue to honor this connection, by listening without pulling back, by engaging me in these remembrances, you are helping me heal and move forward. 

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