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“Suddenly I was thrown back to four years ago, like I haven't taken a single step forward.”

By Claire Zhang

At the age of twenty-seven, I became a widow. My late husband, who was only twenty-six, decided to take his own life. On a hot steamy day in Minnesota, he made coffee, fed the cats, kissed me good-bye, and left for work. He did not come back.

It has been four years since that day. It was the hardest yet most surprising four years of my life. I felt a kind of rage I didn't know I was capable of after learning the hardship my late husband went through as a child; I felt despair thinking I will be alone forever; I rushed into relationships hoping they would help relieve my deeply confusing emotions; I felt the torture of the three P’s (personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence) discussed in Option B.

But I also surprised myself. Today I’m proud of how I confronted all of it head-on and found forgiveness for others and strength for myself.

I am now in a happy relationship. He is a wonderful man. On our third date I told him about my story. He said, “It must've been so hard. I honestly cannot say that I understand what you've been through, but whatever you need I'm here for you." His simple words made me feel accepted. It has been two years; never once have I felt judged or uncomfortable bringing up my late husband with him or his family. We are planning to buy a house together. So I'm moving, which means packing.

There is a closet in my condo full of things I have not touched in four years. Like the guest book from the funeral, my eulogy speech, our wedding photos and videos, and all his old clothes, which somehow still smell like him … Touching them again brought me to my knees. I paused; a powerless feeling took over. Suddenly I was thrown back to four years ago, like I haven't taken a single step forward. 

I felt so alone.

I was sobbing uncontrollably when my boyfriend called. He offered to come over to be with me. I realized that there was nothing he could do to make me feel better. Maybe even in pairs, in a way we are still ultimately alone. At the end we are left to deal with our own emotions. I felt the need to shut down. I asked him not to come. I chose to be with my grief alone.

In a committed relationship, what should/can we expect from a partner? How much can we ask them to relate to small feelings—from day-to-day hassles to big feelings such as grief? Where is the line between asking too much and being too isolated? I hope I will find the answer one day. For tonight, I'm sinking into my grief. 

Grief & Loss Bouncing forward Post-traumatic growth
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