I’m glad I made the trip

Dear Rick,

I’m glad I made the trip.

Having made the journey is like a big sigh of relief – now. It wasn’t that way at first. It was a challenge, a thing I knew I had to do to reach closure, to continue with my new life.

A new life I didn’t ask for or want.

The first evening, when I arrived and rushed to gather my beach chair and things to take to the sunset, I felt your loss more than I had in months. I was knocked to my knees with grief. I collapsed on my bed in the fetal position. I was devastated by the sheer and utter pain that overwhelmed me.

I could not do it. I could not go to our most special place on earth without you.

Those sunsets we viewed together last year when you were in remission were the epitome of our love and life and marriage and the world we built and shared together. But they were bittersweet. Although we both tried valiantly to hope for the best, in my heart, I knew you would be gone this year, and I knew it would be our last trip together.

I experienced what I now know was anticipatory grief, and when the fear and the sadness threatened to overtake the joy, I had to remind myself over and over that I would have plenty of time to grieve later. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the time spent holding your hand on the sandy beach. Enjoy our banter. Enjoy your hugs. Enjoy you.

And I did.

And I was right: you aren’t here this year. And I was right: I have plenty of time to grieve now.

And when I readied myself for the big moment – my first sunset on the gulf without you, the overwhelming fear shocked me to the core. No, I cannot go on without you…no, I cannot go revisit our special special place without you…no, I can’t do it! And I lay on the bed quaking. I thought I must call someone, my son, my niece, my best friend – someone must save me. I can’t do this alone. I can’t breathe.

But in my heart, I knew no one could save me. I knew I had to go on without you. I have no choice. And the sun will continue to set on the gulf without you. And the sun will rise again tomorrow without you. And I will continue my life without you.

And going to that first sunset hurt like hell. But I did it. And I survived, and I will go on with my life – without you.

About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on Amazon.com.

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at www.TheWritingWidow.com.

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