When you have a long-term relationship with someone, you are involved with something that is both you and bigger-than-you. By definition, love and a deep connection to another makes you bigger than you are, expanding your self beyond the barrier of your skin. After he dies, your grief is so enormous that it, too, expands beyond your self, filling some of the empty space he left behind.
And then one day, your grief shrinks into the confines of your body, and all you are left with is you and the unfilled empty space around you, and you begin to feel very small. Doing something to fill in that empty space doesn’t really help because you can’t replace something you were, such as being part of a couple or feeling grief, with something you do, such as volunteer work.
That’s where I am right now — feeling small — as if I am wearing clothes way too big for me. I miss being part of something that expands beyond my self, miss feeling as if I am part of something important.
I still have importance, of course. I am important in my 95-year-old father’s life — he needs someone to stay with him so he can continue to maintain his independence. I am important in my siblings’ lives since my being here with my father gives them peace of mind. I’m important to those who find comfort in my words. I am important to those I do volunteer work for. And yet . . . and yet . . .
My whole life has been a search for meaning, and somehow the importance of the quest is eluding me. I hope life has meaning — I’d hate for my mate’s death to be the end of what he was — but I no longer have any great desire to find out what that meaning is. If there is meaning, it’s there whether I search for it or not.
I sound as if I’m feeling sorry for myself, don’t I? But I’m not, or at least, not very. One day, this shrunken me will feel normal, and I might even forget that once I was more than I am. But until then . . . I’m just me, and right now that doesn’t feel like it’s enough.