Grief and the Ides of May
I am not writing as much as I should or I want. And it’s not even so much a question of time, because I can find the time to write. I am an insomniac by nature. I could be writing instead of watching brain-eating reality shows on BRAVO. It’s a matter of having so many different things going on with work and kids and health and my husband and our family and life that I just haven’t been able to settle my brain enough to come up with a subject. Or figure out what I am comfortable with the world (or those dozen people who read this) knowing about me.
Then yesterday I was in tears most of the day. Hiding my tears from my husband and my sons because I didn’t even know where to start or when it would end. Every year it comes like clockwork. Right on time. Right in its rightful place on the calendar.
May 1. The start of what I have come to call the Ides of May. What used to be a month full of joy and birthdays, has just become a month I would rather sleep through. My late husband’s birthday is May 4. My birthday is May 9. My husband’s birthday is May 15.
The last time I spoke to my late husband is May 18. I received the call he died by suicide on May 20. I spent the remainder of May planning services and moving out of the home we shared and trying to make sense of something that made very little sense at all. The next year I spent most of May with my therapist, just trying to make it through the month semi-intact. The second year, my 30th birthday, I spent a solid two weeks in bed, watching all of our favorite movies on loop and answering my apartment door only for food deliveries.
When I met my husband, three years into my grief, he had nine months to try to make me fall in love with May again. He tried to focus on the positive of the month — our birthdays. Since he also lost his brother in May, he knew there was pain. But birthdays are about life, not death, he said. He remembers dates, but he isn’t as date-sensitive as I am. I get physically ill sometimes when I think about these days when everything was ripped out from under me.
After my husband and I married, I really did try to not let the month be taken over by my ongoing grief. We first found out we were pregnant in April 2010. Then on May 4, my late husband’s birthday, we had an ultrasound appointment. And the second our doctor looked at the screen, I knew our baby was gone. Something was wrong and his face told the story. I remember losing it right then and there. So I then spent my birthday (which always falls on or near Mother’s Day) that year recovering from a D&C and arguing with my husband that May was doomed and would never bring joy. I think my exact words were “Fuck May. It’s a shitty fucking month.”
When I found myself pregnant again, this time with twins, the due date was May 11. Right in the middle of our birthdays. As I got closer to delivery, and a decision was made to induce, May 4 was the proposed date. My late husband’s birthday. And I adamantly said “No, no, please no that’s not going to work” and even my husband didn’t clue in right away. It just seemed odd that my sons might share a birthday with my late husband. And then I felt guilty. And then I was crying. Again. So we decided on May 5 because what boys wouldn’t at some point enjoy their birthday being on Cinco de Mayo?
Life had other plans, and our boys came into the world on April 30. Just shy of May 1. They would not be tainted by my negative feelings about the month. And I hoped that their arrival would change my feelings about May. And, it did. For a while. Then, when the boys were 2, we lost my father-in-law, suddenly and without warning, on May 7. The morning after we had returned from a weekend away celebrating the boys’ birthday in Monterey. We called him that night we returned. Told him all about our weekend. Made plans to see him that week. And the next morning when I was out on a run my husband called me in a panic to tell me his dad was gone. And suddenly my feelings about May being the shittiest month of the year were front and center again. And there they have stayed.
This year, we had a great week celebrating our boys’ 5th birthdays. April 30th came and went. Before I knew it, May 1 arrived and the anxiety and the tears out of nowhere arrived with it. I am to the point where I don’t even know if it’s even the days themselves that send me off kilter. I think, maybe, it has more to do with the ghosts that appear. In my memories. In my journals. In my dreams. The other night I dreamt so vividly of my late husband. I could smell him. I could feel him. I could hear him. I woke up and for a split second I thought it was real. Until I realized it wasn’t. And I fought tears all day. It’s been almost 14 years since he left this Earth and yet I often feel it was just yesterday. All the things I want to say. All the things I wish I had said. All the things I so desperately want him to know — to really know — they dance around me every day of this cursed month. And the Monday morning quarterbacks have their opinions. It’s not fair to my family that this still is something I carry. It’s not fair to my husband. Our kids. And keep in mind it’s not like we have round tables discussing the years I spent with my late husband. We don’t.
And you know what else? It might not be fair. But it’s my life. I can’t change how I feel. And I’ve already spent a lot of my life putting what I feel aside because of how other people feel. I’ve talked about it before. For some reason, when it’s a partner/spouse, especially when you have sufficiently “moved on,” some people expect you to take down the pictures. Remove the name from your vocabulary. Cease the stories. Erase that chapter. But I can’t do that. I won’t. And I am not going to pretend that this month doesn’t rock my freaking world every single year since 2002.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I have vowed to try to share something each day that resonates with me. This is today. Looking at a calendar with red marks on certain days wondering when it’s ever going to get easier. Wondering if there will ever be a day when I will be at peace that I will never be able to have the last conversation I want to have with my late husband while he was still here on Earth. Wondering if I will ever be able to fully forgive myself for what I feel are my failings. Wondering if I am alone in my thoughts. Wondering. And waiting for this bloody month to end — before it’s barely even started.
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