When you are first widowed, the pain is so big and so real, it manifests physically. I remember having very severe chest pain (first time I actually took "die of a broken heart" as more than an overblown cliche), back aches, constant nausea (good for weight loss, bad for being social), and no ability to sleep on my own whatsoever. Everything hurts. Not just emotionally, but your whole body too.
Then time marches on and that pain begins to ebb. It fades, slowly, so very slowly you don't even notice it happening at the time.
Eventually it turns into a big empty space where the hurt used to be.
You walk around with this. A big empty bubble, ready to burst at any moment from the slightest provocation. When it bursts... well, duck and run for cover because the hurt comes back tenfold.
It's been almost two years now.
This time of year is hard for me. It has a lot of memories. Mostly I associate it with this sick feeling of dread. That something bad happened/could happen/might happen/did happen. It makes me reflective. Probably unecessarily so.
This time last year, Valentine's Day made me sick. Not because my boyfriend wasn't great (he was... and is) but because it still remains a fixed point in time that I actually remember spending with Craig. You see, most days drift by in your life without you even noticing. A million little things that slide by, some funny, some sweet, some sad. It's like the little ripples in a wave. You see the bigger wave, but the little ones, no matter how special or beautiful, sort of slide by.
But big days, days like Valentine's Day or anniversaries or Christmas, stand out because of their fixed date.
So those I can remember.
I remember exactly what we did.
I remember what we said.
I remember how it felt.
I've told the story of Craig's lack of Valentine's Day forethought before and the resulting Coach bag I love so much, so I won't bother recounting it here. Last year, the one year anniversary of that date, was thick with heartache for me.
This year, with more time having passed, I feel less.
This is not to say it doesn't make me sad or make me miss him. It doesn't mean I love him less than I ever did. It just means that I feel... less.
I try not to let myself get too carried away on what-ifs anymore. I know that once I allow myself to follow a train of thought, like "I wonder what we would be doing today if he was still here..." there will be no stopping the hamster wheel in my mind that can race for days, round and round, obsessing over the possibilities.
I've learned from experience how this can create someone new to mourn. Because as time goes on, you inevitably imagine the person with the slightest of alterations, so small you barely notice them at the time. Before you know it, that person you are remembering isn't the same as the one you lost. And I'd much rather keep those memories of Craig intact, preserved, exactly as he was.
This Valentine's Day I'll be rocking out alone, studying for exams, probably finishing off the night with a glass of wine. Or bottle. Depending on how things go.
I can't promise dinner won't be McDonald's accompanied by a box of Kleenex.
Or I might just laugh my way through some old emails.
I might take Coach out to look at, I might not.
Either way, I think I'll feel a little calmer, a little softer, a little less sad than last year.
And that's progress.