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Sacred Absence

A Pilgrimage of Love, Loss & Grieving Well

“Perhaps for now it can be enough to simply marvel at the mystery of how a heart so broken can go on beating…” 

  -Jan Richardson, Blessing for the Brokenhearted


Today I woke up feeling pretty raw, so this New Year’s Eve Day post may be pretty raw, as well. I’m guessing it’s still about the same things I’ve already written about. But this is where I stand on my path of loss and mourning. Trust me, I wish I could give a glowing report of how God healed my broken heart and gave me a new vision for my life. But after reading grief books, talking with widows, conversing on a widow’s Facebook page, and waking up every morning having prayed for healing vision, it doesn’t seem to work like that. It appears to be a slogging through, until at last, you are able to see colors again, find joy for more than a brief moment, and actually believe you have the energy to forge a new life as a single person.

All of this I absolutely hate.

Now the holiday trifecta is almost over, and as predicted, I'm sensing this one to be the toughest one to get through. My plan was to stay home and tough it out because going anywhere didn’t seem a better option. I will be sad wherever I am, whatever I am doing. And where would I go? No one my age has parties anymore…it’s just safer and easier to stay home with the one we love, plan for the coming year, deconstruct the last year, drink champagne, kiss at midnight, then go to bed.

When Craig and I were middle-agers, we threw a few New Year’s Eve parties…one at an old

farmhouse we rented after we got married, and at least two in our current home in the country. The first one was in 2000, the year of Y2K. We invited folks to come in their best “Formal Pajama” attire. Craig and I wore matching lounge pants; he donned a tie, and I wore a tiara to add to our formality. And yes, there were bins of survival supplies waiting in the basement in case the world came crashing down around us during the transition from the 20th to the 21st century. Sixteen years later… the world still goes on.

We threw another NYE party and combined it with a fundraiser for Good Works, a ministry to homeless people in Southern Ohio. We gave out baskets of homemade Ciabatta bread, Craig’s homemade grilling spice (the label read, Ingredients: “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”), and a bottle of his homemade wine (I think). In return, we asked for a donation to the ministry of whatever people could afford. It was a lot of fun for us preparing the gifts and the gift baskets. And our friends gave generously to a good cause. We loved approaching these events creatively at times and getting people together to do something meaningful. Hospitality was a gift we both possessed and enjoyed. We were a team and over the years we perfected our working rhythms and roles when we entertained. I loved that about us.

But this night will look nothing like the eve of a new year from our past, nor will the morning, when we would have “coffee, tea and crumpets” while writing in our new journals. I am empty of any ability to dream or plan for 2017. What would I? Grief has set my priorities and my course. I see only days of trying to just “get through.” People keep telling me I am doing well and am so brave…but they don’t see me weak from sobbing and wanting to just die. Or how weak I often think I am for not being able to rise above these emotions and be grateful for the life we had together and move on. They don’t know my dark thoughts; images of myself over the next 20 years feeling the weight of growing old, and maybe even sick, all alone. While I used to enjoy being alone…I am not a loner. I work and live best in partnership. It is hard, given my age, my few social ties, and having already experienced my truest love, to see myself entering into another partnership with a man. But in all honesty, I think about it more than I thought I would. I just miss being loved by someone who gets me, who I get, and with whom I built a whole life. To have all that taken away within 20 minutes one morning in August is something I can barely live with sometimes.

But I do live with it. I bravely get up in the morning and feed the dog. I do a load of laundry. I return a few texts and emails. By early afternoon, I am spent. I remind myself to NOT judge my limitations. And I suppose if turning up the flame on the family room fireplace, instead of letting the room fill up with gas and lighting a match, is brave, then I guess I am.

FUTURE NOTE: Holidays are hard, no doubt. But they get better. Glad I kept the flame on.


© Cindy K Steffen  2023

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