Grieving is individualized, but I find it helpful as a grieving person to know when certain milestones occurred for others experiencing loss, so today I’m sharing what my grief is like at about six months out. December 19 will be exactly six months since my amazing husband Tom died. Half a year.
I wrote in November about being hit hard with grief. That wave seems to have crested and I’m feeling less of that raw, all-consuming grief. This week I have felt sad but my grief feels less like the open wound it felt like a week or so ago. I have survived Tom’s favorite holiday, Halloween, and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, without him. Hanukah was relatively easy, as it’s a holiday we both enjoyed but honestly, for both of us, it’s always been mostly about the latkes.
The next big holiday on the horizon is Christmas. Christmas was special for Tom and me because of its proximity to the end of the year and all the attendant celebration connected to that. We both loved to celebrate, so we had several traditions related to celebrating in December: buying a case of prosecco at the beginning of December, hosting a party around the end of my semester, Tom going nuts lighting up the outside of the house, me decorating the inside of the house, and buying gifts for our loved ones. We often traveled on or around Christmas: one year we camped in Death Valley, another year we were in Las Vegas, and several times we rented a house on the coast of Oregon with Tom’s brother and his wife. One year when we flew on Christmas day, Tom bought a bunch of Starbucks gift cards to give to folks who were working at the airport to thank them for working the holiday.
This year, I am spending the week leading up to Christmas in Oregon, Tom’s favorite place in the world. His brother, sister-in-law, and I will spread some of his ashes in the Pacific Ocean and some at Freelandia, a wild little piece of land in Oregon that Tom’s brother owns. (Freelandia was the site of an epic Tom-on-stilts and his-brother-on-a-pogo-stick battle that both claim to have won.) I very deliberately made plans to fly on Christmas day so I can give out Starbucks gift cards to airport employees just like Tom did. It’s a small homage to him and his generosity that will help me feel connected to him. I’ll otherwise be alone that day, which is how I want it. I have always enjoyed solitude.
- I have given away some of his clothes, moved some out to the garage, and left some where they are. I have moved some of his more iconic clothing (like his Big Lebowski T-shirt, his favorite sweatshirt, and a dress shirt he looked particularly dashing in) into a basket that I’ll give to a seamstress friend to make into a quilt. A week or so after he died, I put some clothing items that smelled like him into a dresser drawer and even though they no longer smell like him, I’m not ready to give up the “smells like Tom” drawer.
- I moved down to our bedroom six weeks after he died but left the bedroom on the main floor in place, untouched, until right after Thanksgiving. For four months, the makeshift bedroom remained and it hurt to see it everyday, but it hurt more to think about dismantling it. Right after Thanksgiving, it hurt more to see it and some friends helped me take the bed apart and haul it out to the garage. Now I have an open space that will go back to being a living room-type area at some point.
- In early November, I went to a restaurant Tom and I went to together. I have carefully avoided doing this for a number of reasons. Tom loved good food and enjoyed everything about a good restaurant experience—perusing the menu, talking to the server, selecting a wine, observing fellow diners, tasting each other’s meals, noticing the décor. Doing all of that without him, and being committed to being in the space for an hour or more, has felt like too much. In early November, on a whim, I had brunch at a place we went to together—a restaurant that was particularly inviting when Tom was using a wheelchair and I wanted to give them some business. It was incredibly hard and I cried nearly the whole time. I was able to at least sit outside on the patio because of unseasonably warm weather, which made me feel a little less conspicuous in my crying, but it was a gut-wrenching experience that I am not ready to repeat yet.
- The garage is still nearly completely untamed, but I did consolidate a few things and get rid of a few items. A few weeks ago, I moved the knife sharpening equipment that had been in the living room since he died out to the garage.
- The remnants of his last glass of grapefruit juice are still in the fridge. Up until earlier this week, the glass was front and center, so I saw it every time I opened the fridge. A few days ago, I decided to move it to the back of the fridge, I did this because I will have a housesitter here soon and I don’t want them to accidentally get rid of the glass, but I wonder if not seeing it every time I open the fridge is also a transitional step toward eventually getting rid of it.
I like the graphic on the Speaking Grief website that shows a grief timeline, contrasting the expectation that grief will end with the reality that it goes on infinitely. I am still seeing my grief counselor weekly and still attending a monthly support group and I don’t imagine I’ll stop anytime soon.