Cops, social workers, therapists, just about anyone who deals with death in any capacity, learn to give an automatic, “I’m sorry for your loss,” to the bereaved. At first, this condolence by rote bothered me. It came across as insensitive and . . . well, automatic. Besides, it seemed to reduce the death of my mate to the level of a lost sock. I don’t mind as much now. Even though I have been born into the world of grief, I still don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving. Besides, grief is about loss, and not just the primary loss of a loved one, but also multiple secondary losses.
In my case, when I lost my life mate, I lost my home (my mate was my home even more than the house we lived in, but I lost that too when I had to move away). I lost the future we planned. I lost the hopes we had. I lost my best friend. I lost my partner. I lost my lifestyle. I lost the one person who knew everything about me and liked me anyway. I lost the person I could depend on to be there when I needed him. And most of all, I lost myself.
It’s not so much that I saw myself as an adjunct to him, or that my identity depended on him, but he was the focus of my life for more than three decades. By his very being, he gave my life meaning. Before we met, I always wondered about the meaning of life. I wanted to live a significant life, to make sure my life meant something. After we met, I didn’t worry about such things — at least, not much. It was important that we were together, that we faced the world together. Only after his death did I realize how much “togetherness” mattered to me. And the loss of that togetherness is something to mourn.
Now that I am alone, I have to find meaning in “aloneness,” to find significance in that aloneness. And I don’t know if I can. I feel fractured, as if bits of me are scattered all over the universe, and I haven’t a clue how to put myself together again. Oddly enough, I had no real interest in spending my years with anyone until he entered my life. And now I am back where I started. Sort of.
I feel a bit foolish (and self-pitying) at times for all the tears I shed. I always thought I was more stoic than this, able to take life’s big dramas in stride. Yet the deletion of him from the earth is impossible for me to fathom. It affects every single aspect of my life. I haven’t found the bedrock of my new life — the thing, the idea, the place, whatever that bedrock might be — that gives me a firm footing and allows me to get on with my life. He’s been gone for twenty weeks (is that a lot or a little? I no longer have any sense of time) and everything is still resettling. If I get a grip on one facet of my loss, another secondary loss rises to the surface. And so his absence (and my loss) becomes more profound as time passes.
I’ve been trying to write again, and even in such an exercise that epitomizes aloneness, I feel his absence. I used to read what I wrote to him. He didn’t always have a suggestion or a comment, but sometimes he’d get a little smile on his face when I hit the scene just right. And that smile is just one more loss for which I am sorry.