I woke up feeling good today

Tomorrow is the five-month anniversary of your death.

Five months.

I couldn’t have imagined living five months without your touch, without seeing your smiling face, hearing your throaty laugh.

Five months without your witty repartee – and lame jokes.

Five months without your love.

However, for some unfathomable reason, I feel good, like I may have a future.

This is the oddest sensation, and one I haven’t felt for much longer than five months. After the diagnosis, in the final 10 months of your life, I endured nearly constant stress, anxiety, fear that you’d be gone soon – an absolute devastating mind-numbing fear of surviving the rest of my life without you to wake up to.

How could I live without you? How?

Well, I did. I had no choice.

I woke up, and I got out of bed – every day.

I woke up, I dressed, I worked, I ate, I forced myself to live another day, every day.

It really kind of bothered me when people said I was strong. Why would they say that? I didn’t feel strong. I felt like a complete and total baby, trying to live when I didn’t have a clue how I would survive the unsurvivable loss of you.

So, I politely accepted the compliments. But never believed them to be true.

Then last night, it hit me. I really AM strong.

It really took all the guts I had to get out of bed every single morning since the day you left me. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to live, let alone get out of bed, shower, and go about these horrible dreadful days. To know that hour upon hour I would feel such pain. To know that every single fucking day I would feel so awful that I didn’t want to even imagine how the next day would feel.

It almost became worse as the fog lifted a bit. Like the anesthesia was being slowly removed and the sharpness of the pain would hit even more. The numbness wore off, and thankfully, the pain was no longer constant, but it was that much more painful each time it returned. It returned with a vengeance.

Each time I had a respite from the pain, I knew it would be short-lived… the few hours at work when it hit me that I didn’t think of you constantly, waiting for your text, or thinking for a minute that you’d be outside waiting to pick me up for lunch. The nights when I could actually distract myself from longing for you to be here with me, when I sat home, alone, without you to talk to, yet content for a few minutes, or even hours, just playing on my laptop, or watching some inane TV show.

Those tiny gloriously pain-free moments frightened me because I thought, maybe now, maybe now I will be able to enjoy my life again, just a little. They frightened me because I knew from experience that within minutes, something would trigger a memory and I’d be a puddle on the floor, once again.

So, maybe today is different, but maybe it’s just my vain hope that I will be able to live again without you, to actually feel joy again despite having to navigate the rest of my life without my partner, my love, my Rick. At least, today, this minute, I feel some semblance of hope.

It’s an odd sensation. It’s all I have right now, so let me enjoy it while I can.


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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