Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day, a day in which lovers rejoice and widows mourn more than usual, I return to Molly, and to an excerpt from my soon to be published book, Love and Loss in Life and in Treatment. In an earlier blog I explained that Molly was the first widow I saw after my husband’s death and that despite the many differences between us – age, education, economic circumstances - she and I mourned similarly. We were both consumed by pain, but determined to go on with our lives while taking our deceased spouses with us in our minds.

An adapted version of the vignette follows:

Valentine’s Day approaches, as does the second anniversary of her husband Mitch’s death. Molly’s pain returns as acutely as ever.

“Saturday [the day Mitch died suddenly of a heart attack] was really hard,” she says. “I was going through his death hour by hour, wondering about all the ‘if onlys.’ I know Mitch didn’t take care of himself, but I shouldn’t have left him. I bought him a Valentine’s card and took out all his cards and poems and read them.”

My throat tightens. My stomach clenches. My eyes well with tears. For months, even years, just passing the card section in supermarkets, in drugstores, wherever, left me in a bucket of tears. “Birthday for Husband.” I have no husband. “Birthday for Wife.” I am no longer anyone’s wife. “ “Anniversary.” There will be no more anniversaries. “Valentine’s Day.”  There is no one to be my Valentine.

“Is it comforting for you to read the cards or are you torturing yourself?” I ask, knowing that I couldn’t bear to read the cards from my husband that I have so diligently saved.

“I’m not torturing myself. It’s more comforting,” Molly responds, reminding me that despite the similarities in our grieving process, there are stark differences between us.

I’m also reminded of the importance of humility, that a therapist can never assume she knows what a patient thinks or feels, even when she’s had feelings or experiences that are similar.

So today, on Valentine’s Day, over five years after my husband’s death, unlike Molly, I still have no one to be my Valentine. And I still can’t bear the thought of reading my husband’s cards. But I do cry less often; the weight of his loss has diminished. And I can still hear him say to me, in his soft, melodious voice, “My love.”

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