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Grief is…one year later

October 30, 20235 min read

Grief is…one year later

As the year anniversary of Ben’s death approached, I was overwhelmed with feelings. I knew there was no magic to the day. There is no truth to the story that grief is somehow over after having survived all the “firsts”. I’ve done grief enough times to know that’s not the case. My birthday falls exactly a month before the anniversary date, and it was almost unbearable, so I knew the anniversary day and my daughter’s birthday four days later were going to need some attention. Maybe that was the key. We needed to set the week up so we could pay attention. 

 

We both work demanding jobs on a TV show so that was the first step. We both took the week off. In the 10 years I’ve worked full time in tv I’d never taken time off during the shooting schedule so that was a big deal for me. It was a hard ask, even though I knew we had the full support of our bosses as we navigated this journey. Of course, they both said yes. We decided we needed to go away. With covid restrictions still in place and the consequences for us of a positive test high, we knew we could only go somewhere close by. So many people had offered us places to stay in the past year, I reached out to one. Yes! Of course you can stay was the answer. Done. But that’s not how it ended up. That place fell through so we pondered. A second offer wasn’t suitable for what we needed. A request to use a place wasn’t answered. We booked a perfect place through VRBO to be told the website calendar was wrong and the dates weren’t available. I resorted to posting on Facebook looking for suggestions. A number were made but none were available. Then I got a message from a long time friend offering their place at Whistler. That gave me pause. I knew I’d have to talk with Kathleen before accepting. We’d been at Whistler at our timeshare (where we had gone often with Ben) the weekend he died. I wasn’t sure I was ready to go back there. We had a talk about it and decided that because the space was in a totally separate part of the area, away from all our routines there, we should go. Kathleen was the wise one when she pointed out that the week was going to be hard and going back to Whistler was going to be hard so we might as well do both. And besides, then she didn’t have to worry that the first time I went back there would be by myself, or with someone who didn’t get the many layered relationship with the place. We said yes. 

 

Packing was hard. The last time we packed to go to Whistler, Ben was in his room on the other side of the wall from mine. I remember hearing him laughing at a video he was watching. I remember poking our heads in the day before we were leaving to see if he was going to come and him deciding not to. We had such a good conversation that day, the three of us together. We planned what we were going to do for Kathleen’s birthday a few days after we got back. There were no red flags that he was struggling at all. 

 

The drive up was hard. We’d done that drive so many times with Ben. We had our regular stops along the way. Places along the way we’d visited separate from trips to Whistler. And the scenery is just so beautiful it hurt. Another thing we’d never share with him again. 

 

We went for a week. And spent each day just being. Reading in bed. Streaming shows. Walking the dog. And finding one way each day to remember and honour Ben. We drank a cocktail he’d created. We drank the hot chocolate he loved. We built Lego. On our last day we went to the village to go to two of his favourite stores. We were able to pay attention. 

 

We haven’t quite cracked the code for Kathleen’s birthday. We’d planned take out from one of our favourite places and got a nudge from my Mom when she called to wish Kathleen happy birthday to get cake. When Kathleen had said that she didn’t want to do anything, I’d taken that at face value. But Mom was right…there needed to be cake. Just enough acknowledgement that in this week we were navigating there was a special day. I hope that in the coming years we’ll find more celebration for her birthday, but for this year, acknowledgement was enough. 

 

For me, the main thing we did was make space. Space to just be with all the emotions that came up. Space that would not have been possible while working long hours and interacting with other people. There is still a huge hole in my life shaped like Ben and I think there always will be. There are still so many things that used to be easy that aren’t doable. The brain fog is real. I joked to Kathleen that the best thing about the one-year mark was that I now have an entire year of tv watching I can do again because I really don’t remember any of it. 

 

We’ve made a promise to each other that this week, for however many years we need to, we’ll be together. I can go to her, wherever she is. We can take a trip together to a place he loved. Somehow, we’ll do it together. 

 

And now we continue to move onward with our loss. I think the idea that we move through it is wrong. Moving through something implies there is an end. As there is no end to our love for Ben, there is no end to the grief. I know it will change over time. The weight will be lighter. The emotions not so all consuming. The hole not so big. We will carry on with.

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