Yesterday was especially difficult. I only netted about three hours of sleep overnight, and then I spent the entire day home alone. I had work to do, I had meetings, but I was mostly alone.
When I did leave the house during my lunch break to take Emily’s car in for an oil change and tire rotation, one of the men working on the car made a comment about me seeming unfamiliar with the car. With tears in my eyes, I told him, “This is my partner’s car. She died a few weeks ago, and since she’d only owned this car for a little over a year, I haven’t driven it much.” He quickly found a reason to walk away.
As the afternoon dragged on, darkness settled in around me. The thoughts swirled inside my head and quickly took over. I tried several things to shake off my lack of motivation and desire to give up. I took a nap, I wrote a letter to Emily in my journal, I cleaned up the living room (which has basically become the room I literally live in), I tried turning on the television. Eventually, I looked through old photos and videos of Emily for a couple of hours.
Just as the clock struck 10:00pm, a single thought lingered in my mind: “I don’t want to live without her. I’m done.”
It was around this time that I received a text message from a dear friend that simply read, “Checking on you…” When I responded with, “I’m tired of doing this,” she called right away. As we talked and I cried, she asked me what I would normally do to center myself when I reach this state of mind. Although I eventually came up with some answers, I chuckled at first because all I could think about were the many ways Emily and I cared for each other during times of sadness or crisis.
Thank Marsha For The Skills
Since Emily and I met in a dialectical behavior therapy skills group, we both have a vast knowledge of calming techniques you can use when we experience pain, sadness, or anger. Obviously, everyone has their preference on what skills to use, but Emily knew that one of my go-to options was using the temperature aspect of TIPP. She’d often offer that when she sensed I was in any distress, and I always appreciated her thoughtfulness.
Other times, we’d both rely on a grounding technique like 5-4-3-2-1 or paced breathing to help settle our bodies. But, no matter what, we both had plenty of skills to remind the other person to use, which was both a blessing and sometimes a curse.
When one of us was feeling particularly sarcastic, we’d say something like, “Thanks, Marsha!” in reference to Marsha Linehan (who invented dialectical behavior therapy). It always made us both laugh.
Hugs Were Our Lifeline
Out of the two of us, I am definitely the one to burst into tears at any time. In fact, Emily cried so rarely that I knew things were serious if I saw tears coming down. Yet, no matter what, we both treated every tear as something serious and made time for each other.
I remember many tearful moments during Emily’s final two semesters of grad school. She often procrastinated, then would crumble under the pressure when wrapping up assignments last-minute. She’d cry and call herself a failure.
But, each time this happened, I was there. I’d sit down next to her with a box of Kleenex, and without words or any awkwardness, she’s quickly climb into my arms. I’d rub her back, respond if she talked, and just remain quiet when she cried or grew quiet herself. After, we’d make a game plan to get the work done, and then we’d divide and conquer.
However, I wasn’t the only one ready with hugs on the hard days — she provided them too. Although every hug from Emily felt magical, there were two comforting poses that I especially enjoyed.
I frequently experience anxiety at night as my mind sits and overthinks. Emily could just tell when that was happening, and she’d assume the role of “big spoon” in bed (hilarious thinking of a 4’9″ woman who barely fits into adult small clothes being the big spoon). As she held me, she’d quietly say, “Babe, talk to me… I’m here… You don’t have to do this alone anymore.” As I would share whatever ridiculous thing my mind has come up with that evening, she’d stroke my hair or rub my arm and just hold me.
I also live with chronic migraine, which means I’d usually average 3 migraine days per week. Some mornings, I’d force myself out of bed long enough to go downstairs, take medicine, make Emily’s coffee, and then lay down on the couch with an ice pack. On those days, Emily would often rush to get ready, then she’d come lay down with me on the couch, positioning herself almost like a weighted blanket on top of me, with her head on my chest. We didn’t even have to talk, we’d just lay together, feeling each other’s presence. As she got ready to leave for work, she’d always kiss me and say, “I love you. Take care of yourself today and text me if you feel even a little bit worse.”
I Can’t Stop Crying Now
Everyone keeps telling me that grief comes in waves. Let me tell you, it’s definitely the truth. Right now, the waves are very intense, and often relentless. On any given day, I find myself drowning in my own heartache and tears at least twice. It’s exhausting, and unlike any type of pain I have ever experienced.
However, I think the hardest part of all of this is how lonely I feel. The one person who loved me so completely that she was still willing to hold me as I cried and wiped snot away from my nose is gone. And, despite the countless people who have offered their support and love, I feel like I’m lost at sea, without even a lifevest to help me.
Because of Emily, I weathered many storms in my life and did it so well. I just wish she could be here now to help me survive this one, because I could really use one of her hugs right now.