A Year of Firsts

Now that I'm well out of the first year without my wife (she died from advanced breast cancer in June 2021), I sometimes wonder how I got through it. Seriously, it felt like I spent a year in a somnambulant fog. Or like being ten feet under water. Faced with a year of firsts, I felt so dead that I hardly noticed them. I slept a lot, and I seldom dressed, but beyond that, my memory is hazy.

Facing the holidays

The holidays were especially difficult, because they'd always been Lynette's favorite time of year. Waking up on Thanksgiving morning, not smelling the aromas from the kitchen depressed me. I didn't feel like celebrating, and after the sudden exodus of our kids (Lynette's three) from my life, I really couldn't see the point. Between her three and my two grown kids, we usually had a full house for the holidays. I still don't know why they canceled me after being a family for over 20 years, but that's another story. I got through it, Thanksgiving dinner and all, and then felt faced with the harder hurdle of Christmas.

Hanging hearts and empty stockings

My two sons and I decorated for Christmas, but it was painful. For years, Lynette and I collected heart ornaments for the tree, buying a new one each year; but with each heart that I hung, my own splintered a little more. Exchanging gifts came easier than I thought it would, but on Christmas morning my stocking was empty. Then came New Year's Eve. I don't even remember that. I think I went to bed.

Little firsts

What I call “little firsts” came with a relentless intensity. The first time eating out alone, going to the first concert without her, and the first time driving by the cancer center; I couldn't do anything or go anywhere without memories slapping me in the face left and right. Further, I live in her hometown and state, which brings up an entirely different spread of emotions.

Going belly up

I can't tell you how to handle the firsts. You just plod through them, I guess; one foot in front of the other. I'm not having many issues now that I'm nearly halfway through the second year, though. I think what helped me the most was my tendency to face my pain and just feel it.

The body is naturally buoyant and will float of its own accord. We begin to sink and drown when we fight the current. I learned years ago that sometimes the best I can do is to go belly up and surrender. I did a lot of floating in the past year, and there's a life-giving power in that.

I'm enjoying my life now. I'm even enjoying being solo. But, as much as I've grown, I'm glad the first year is over. I still haven't cleared my wife's closet. That may be a chore for 2023.

Do you have a "year of firsts" story? What helped you get through it?

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