They talked about them all the time in the grief classes and books. But that first year they seemed like tacks just making my loss that much worse. The weight and grief didn’t allow me to truly accept that these were also huge losses. They may not be the person, but they were everything that encompassed them. Losses that would one day be grieved as well. And maybe that’s why they say the second year is the hardest. That first year provides a level of numbness and shock that slowly fades. We are busy wrapping our heads around the big loss. Between accepting that and merely surviving, we may not have the capacity to even wrap our heads around the other losses. And while we want to grieve for them and be over them, quite simply you can’t until they are there staring you in the face. The formal grief word is secondary losses.
I remember the first time I could put my finger on one. It was the day William stared out the window at some one else cutting our grass. Fareed always did that. After our long day at work it was his favorite way to de stress. I was so thankful for the guys who mowed our lawn that first couple months, but it doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t him. I no longer had a husband to mow the lawn. William (and now Charles) no longer had a man to look up to outside the sliding glass door. They told me to describe it. It was the fact of knowing a man would not be there to help me fix and tend to the home. It was the fact that the boys would grow up never watching their father do these tasks. The dreams he had of teaching them hard work ethic and how to fix things. It was the fact I had to find someone to tend to our lawn, which started a list of chores in my head that my handy late husband could do that I had no idea how. And every time I had to face the grief that along with losing Fareed, I lost all of these other things to.
One of the things that most irritates me is being misunderstood. And quite possibly may be part of the reason I write, because I want people to understand. And at the core, I think we all want people to understand. I read because I want to understand. So it’s hard when people don’t understand this circle of grief. The lifetime impact of big losses. I’ve lost people I loved dearly in my life before, but it didn’t impact me the way Fareeds did. And I’ve come to realize it’s not the amount of love, or length of relationship that changed that. It’s the dreams we had together, the places in my heart only he can fill, and the secondary losses that in this case will last a lifetime.
I’ve moved forward from the Loss of Fareed, or at least the best any person could. I pressed into my emotions, sought counseling, group therapy, and every avenue to truly be able to live a full life after his loss. So why do I keep writing about it or talking about him? Because for the rest of my life, whether it’s 50 years, or I get remarried- I will always be Fareeds widow. The boys will always be OUR children. And at every step, no matter the acceptance, I will grieve his presence at the biggest moments. I don’t think emotional health asks us to move on without the person, completing forgetting. For me I have felt most healthy when I process those emotions as they come, but I continue to live life fully even in the face of loss. It’s not that grief has a beginning or an ending. But for me I let go the day I chose to carry him with me but not as a part of me. That we have a choice, and we can choose to let grief take over our lives. Or we can let grief catapult us into a new way of living. Where we live more fully. Where we see things through a new lens. Where the petty things hold less weight. And chocolate seems to last longer, and have more flavor as we allow it to melt on our tongues. Where we enjoy moments more fully because we understand they are never guaranteed. Where we hold less of a grip on control because we know at any moment God could change it all. Where we savor moments twice as much, first for us, and second for the person missing them.
I have chosen to not let grief defeat me. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that I didn’t care. There are nights I would love the safety of a man in the home. Hard situations where I would love the wisdom of Fareed. Even times I would just like to pick his brain because I truly appreciated the way he viewed the world. Times where I don’t want to pay a handyman to come fix something at the house. Or I would love him there to play with the boys as I cook dinner. Just someone to help me decide how our child’s first haircut should look. Someone who is part of our family, not just coming along side of us. In the muddiness of toddlerhood with me. Someone to look and say “that’s our son” as they learn to master a new skill. Even just to leave there socks on the floor so I could care about the pettiness of stinky socks. The list is long and hefty.
And Those words may seem like I’m not moving forward, or even in another sense, that I’m just lonely. But it’s the facts. It’s every loss that accompanied Fareeds. The complexity of Grief is hard to explain, add two toddlers to the mix and the equation can be even harder to understand. But with grace we take them one by one. The secondary losses. The weird two year grief.
And I’ve come to realize that many people will never understand our journey. The ones worth keeping are those that try to. Who may never understand our loss but understand my heart. We choose to surround ourselves with those who see the light to, and love deep enough not to squelch ours. The ones who appreciate the Lords transformation amongst the pain.
There are many losses that lie ahead of us. The hope is in the beauty we decide to see regardless. The love we choose to share despite it. The life we choose to live in light of it.
“He uncovers mysteries hidden in darkness, he brings light to the deepest gloom.” Job 12:22
There is always a silver lining. There is always hope.
There is no remedy for love but to love more. – Henry David Thoreau