As I write this I am home in Point au Roche and getting ready for a move west to Colorado. The stay in this house has broken the record for the longest time living in any one home… almost fifteen years. The longest I lived in one place before this was as a child in the Bay Area – for eight years. This is the first house I and Shaun ever owned, and also the longest he lived in one place. When we moved in here it was the end of about six solid years of house sitting and moving – sometimes three times a year. Naturally, we embraced coming home… and we dubbed this house The Nest. And we nested furiously!
Normally this blog is about art and travels – but through conversations with a dear friend who also lost her husband last year, I have been inspired to write about my current journey. I hope you will glean something positive from what I have to say about grief, loss and moving into new chapters.
In July my partner of 28 years died suddenly. I already was scheduled to do an artist residency in Trinidad, Colorado and at first thought I would be canceling and staying home. Within a week of True’s passing I knew that I would fulfill my commitment and go to Trinidad on my own. It was the best thing I could have done for myself at that difficult time and somewhere in my heart I knew it.
Though I cried daily, and many times a day for the first few weeks out of loneliness, it was very good to escape to new environs and few reminders of my former life. I walked for hours to calm my mind and explore my new surroundings, especially before I made a few friends. When I got home here in December it was very hard at first, the reminders were quite difficult. I realized that I did much better when I was not constantly reminded of my loss, and that it makes sense to put as many mementos away as you can for a while until your heart is more healed. I felt bad about that realization at first, but I know True wouldn’t want me to suffer as a remembrance of him – he would want me to move forward with all my strength and embrace the positive.
Unlike my friend who lost her husband last year I have always moved to new places – eight homes and five states before I was eight years old… so welcoming transition is in my nature. I thrive on change. From my perspective embracing change is the best method for me to heal and live more fully. Were I to stay in New York I would be doing so only because of the support system offered by friends. After working here at The Nest for a month, I am doing pretty well even with reminders of him all around me… But I will embrace this new chapter more fully once I am away from the reminders, and the place we shared for so long. It’s just a matter of making new and dear friends – which I have already done in Trinidad.
Even when I was a kid, and we’d move to somewhere new, I made friends quickly. But during this residency in Trinidad I really had to push myself – and also be honest with the folks I met if I felt a connection. I told a lot of my new friends pretty early into our conversations that I was suffering a great loss, I reached out and they all – to a person – took my hand freely and lovingly… Especially the friends I made through Artocade. I am deeply thankful to those who took me in, but I know that I created that situation for myself. Allowing myself to be open and vulnerable to strangers was the very strongest thing I could have done. I have been amazed by how much people step up and help when given the opportunity.
In conversations with my friend I realized that my road through grief and healing naturally is not best for all. To use her as an example: for those who are not accustomed to change, packing up and moving to a new state is not an easier way forward to healing! It’s simply too much of the unfamiliar, they are a fish out of water. Though it’s a foreign concept to me to some degree – I know many people need to feel more tethered and supported. But I think that we need to know that it is okay to not want reminders, at every turn, of our loss… it’s okay to distance yourself from some of that pain for a while. And it’s fine if you need to tell your friends to stop facilitating reminders of the loss of your loved one as their means of showing you they care. There will be time enough later to share sweet memories and laugh and cry, and there are times when one needs to keep smiling and focusing on the moment at hand.