The 5-Year Itch

This July 13th will be the 5-Year mark. 5 years since my beautiful husband Don, left for work, and never came home. 5 years since I got that terrible bone-chilling phone call that jarred me awake at 6:30 am, and changed my life forever. 5 years that I have been a widow. In addition to this being my fifth year of widowhood, it also brings with it some other heavy milestones.

The 5-year death anniversary day will actually fall on a Wednesday for the first time – which is, of course, the day of the week that he died. And as of April 13th, just a few weeks ago, I have now been a widow for longer than I was married. On April 13th, Don had been dead 4 years and 9 months, and I was married exactly 4 years and 9 months. That reality felt and continues to feel so incredibly sad to me.

Also, this coming October, will be the “would have been 10 years” wedding anniversary. I can already feel that one churning my insides and hurting like hell. So, this whole “5 Years” thing feels like a pretty big deal. It just FEELS big in every single way. It feels emotional on so many levels. It feels like a giant shift in something, or like it should be a giant shift in something. Im feeling a lot of push and pull – old life, new life. That life, this life. This 5-year thing is really doing a number on my brain cells. I feel exhausted just from thinking so deeply about how much being widowed for 5 years has affected my entire being. Here are just a few of the things that I’m feeling as this 5-year mark approaches. Maybe some of you who are here now or who have already been here, can relate. I call it the 5-Year Itch ……

1. RESTLESSNESS. I feel restless. Like every single thing in my life is suddenly up in the air, and I’m completely unsure about everything. I am questioning everything this year. My current job situation, my living situation, even considering leaving NYC for good, which I always said I could never ever do, but everything feels like it’s time for a change, but a change to WHAT, I have no idea. I’m restless and bored and sort of walking away from things that don’t feel like they are feeding my soul or challenging me anymore. I have this need to live a life with more meaning, and I no longer feel ties to anywhere that I am. It is a very odd feeling. I have trouble sitting still lately, but when I get up to move, I don’t seem to know what to do with myself. I find myself just wandering from room to room, day to day, and week to week, searching for something that seems to be forever invisible. What the hell am I looking for???

2. PROFOUND. My relationship with my dead husband feels different. It has for awhile now, but this year especially. This year, I feel like I can actually really feel him around me … his energy, helping me, guiding me, sending me signs and putting people into my path to help me live, and just this strong feeling that we are still a team and always will be. He is still my teammate, but now he’s more like a life coach who just keeps attempting to show me the way. When I miss him, which is all the time of course, even that feels different. Our whole relationship feels more profound.

3. CONNECTED. I feel connected to everything in a way I never have before, like this huge realization over and over that we are all somehow connected in the universe – and yet – a lot of the very early feelings of grief from YEAR ONE are sneaking up on me again, out of nowhere, or when I feel like Ive just “lost” someone or something.

4. CHANGES. I keep having this feeling , like, SOMETHING NEEDS TO HAPPEN, or I need to make something happen. Something different. Something big. I can’t even explain it. Just this weirdly intense urge to kick things up a notch.

5. LETTING GO OF UNHELPFUL PEOPLE. I’m letting people and things fade out of my life, that no longer fit into my life. I no longer care nearly as much what other people think about how I cope or grieve, and I have no problem letting you go if I don’t feel like you’re someone who is helpful in my life. This is REALLY weird for me, because I’ve never been that way before, but this year, I am.

6. ITS NO LONGER OKAY WITH ME THAT I COULD BE ALONE FOREVER. I am more saddened and terrified at the idea of “being alone for the rest of my life” than I ever have been before. For 4 years after Don’s death, I told myself and convinced myself that I no longer needed love in my life anymore, and that my time for that was up. In year 5, the lonely factor has been kicked up big-time. Maybe its because I went 4 years with nothing, in terms of dating and relationships. Maybe its because Im just getting older and thinking about this kind of stuff. Or maybe after 4 years of sitting home alone on Saturday nights with my cats, Im just over it. But for whatever reason, I do NOT want to be alone anymore. Especially when I’m old. I do not want to live the rest of my life ALONE. I want a partner to go through the horrible scary painful stuff with, and to create new moments with. Spending the rest of my days alone is no longer acceptable in my heart, and I know my husband doesnt want me to be all alone with nobody to protect me, keep me safe, and help me through life. I know how to be alone. I did it for years before I met Don, and Ive done it for the past almost 5 years without him. I dont want to do it anymore. It scares me just thinking about it.

7 OPENNESS. I am SO much more open to new things, new types of people, new plans, NO plans, just trying something, seeing how it feels, whatever. I find that I no longer have any expectations about most things, good or bad, and I just sort of take things day by day with no real idea of whats coming next. This is terrifying and not at all natural for me, but also just the way it is.

8. LOSING PIECES. I feel like there are now more things in my life that are NOT connected to Don, than things that ARE connected to Don. This scares me. I hate it. It saddens me. I fear that I will keep losing pieces of him as the years go on. I find that I continue to look for things , people, and ways of staying connected to him always. Anyone who is connected to him in some way, I automatically feel a connection TO. I want to live life now much more than I want to die, but I want Don to come with me, and I always feel like he is slowly fading into the background, just out of reach. I don’t want that to ever happen, but I fear it every day.

These are just some of the strange emotions I have been having during year 5 of this weird new life. Im not sure what any of it means, or if it means anything at all. All I know is that this 5th year feels different and strange and surreal, in every single way imaginable. I will say that I do feel a lot of growth, a lot of healing, and a lot of changes within me, for the better. I am much more able to focus on the love, and have mostly started to let go of the guilt, the anger, and the intense pain that comes from holding on to all of those things. These days, I just miss him with the fierceness of a billion suns, and I know I always will. But I also know now, that he comes alive and stays alive within me and in the universe, each and every time that I say YES to more life.

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5 thoughts on “The 5-Year Itch

  1. I’m into year 2,almost, will be 2 years july 22. I feel restless, but I have since he died. changes ? I know changes need to happen, I have been saying it since last year. I said I’m gonna get a job, put money in the bank, start exercising more, start eating better and none of it has happened. just don’t have the care or the energy this year. I don’t know. I feel a weird sensation too, have since the beginning of the year, like something is going to happen, but I don’t know what. I dunno. just so hard to make changes and be happy when your soul and heart are shattered. I mean I smile and try to be happy. sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. but the cloud of grief is always over my head, waiting to open up and destroy me. waiting for my tears. soon as I get a memory, or see something that reminds me of him. don’t know hope it gets better. the only way I cope is forgetting him. I just don’t think about him. cause when I think of him I cry . sad way of coping. hope it gets easier someday. xx Kelley

  2. It’s really strange that you posted this now. I’ve just reached the 2-year mark — last week, and I too have been having these sensations, that it’s time for things to happen. My husband of 35 years and I had started planning for some changes and, in a strange series of events, some of those changes are actually coming to fruition. I commented to several people over the weekend that it’s like he’s up there working his strange juju magic, helping me to move forward. Remember that it takes crawling, before a baby takes her first tiny steps, and soon she is walking and then running. Although I remember him every day, these changes are (and I’m certain) what he would have wanted for me. New beginings in memory of my loved one. I send you hugs!

  3. OK, I am older than you are (I will turn 61 this year) and I was widowed at 58. I have reconciled to being alone for the rest of my life (in the sense of not having a partner) and I am OK with it, because at my age, to not be OK with it is to go mad. At your age, I think it’s healthy to be open to it.

    I think the restlessness is something that is with us forever. I had it after the first year and after 2 years I moved to another state, to an area where there is more to do and a lot more people in my age group. I have a lovely home that is fully paid for because I moved to a lower cost area, I’m making friends, and I got to keep my job. But I still have this restlessness. If I stay home, I feel I’m not going out enough. If I go out, I feel like I don’t have enough down time. Life still feels like it’s Just Not Right, like it doesn’t quite fit, and I don’t see any way out of it.

    Like you, I also have the sense of “losing” my old life. I was with my husband for 30 years. I used to say that the years before I met him felt like someone else’s life. Now my years with him feel like they were someone else’s life, and every day I have more and more trouble remembering anything about that life other than the last six months of it. It’s like a kind of “grief dementia”, where a giant chunk has been excised from my life. It makes me sad, and it also indicates an inevitable dilemma I think we all face: How do we reconstruct our lives without losing the old one? How do we hang onto the old one without getting “stuck” in a life that’s gone? Like Sandra, I try not to think about him because when I think about how I always wanted to live life instead of photographing it or videorecording it, and now that means that I have precious few memories documented of that life to jog my memory.

    Our journeys are so different and yet so similar, all of us.

  4. Kelley, I’ve been following your blog and your posts for nearly two years. I’m not widowed (knock on wood a million times), but I came across ‘RIP The Life I Knew’ one night when my husband was running late coming home from work in treacherous winter weather. Of course the fear trickled in, and not for the first time, my thoughts went to “What if?” Being the highly sensitive and emotional person that I am, my eyes misted over, a lump rose in my throat, and I Googled ‘Being a widow’. In my mind, I felt as though I had to know, right then in that exact moment, that losing one’s husband wasn’t a death sentence, either physically or mentally. Because I can’t imagine losing my husband…whenever I dare picture life without him, truly without him, all I see beyond is blackness. Literal blackness, nothingness, Dark Matter…Nothing. So in that emotionally charged moment, waiting for him to pull into the driveway, for the familiar lights of his Ford Ranger sweeping our kitchen, I Googled and discovered your blog. I’ve been reading your posts and updates ever since. You have such a warm and friendly writing style, and your wit and humor put a reader at ease. I enjoy writing as well, and I’ve written of some of my own personal trials and experiences. I appreciate writing that springs straight from the heart, which yours does. And clearly, you have a pretty big heart, which is why I always look forward to reading your latest post, be it serious or funny or a bit of both. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your husband. I’m so sorry that you had to (and continue to) experience that pain. Just the mere thought of it broke me down momentarily…I can’t even begin to fathom what it must be like to actually live it every day. To me, and obviously to many others, you are brave, kind, and an inspiration. I’ve done a few “Pay It Forward For Don Shepherd” random acts of kindness, thinking of the precious love you shared with him and your willingness to share that experience with your readers. smile emoticon Also, I’m with ya on the whole religion thing. I’m not sure if there is a God, or a Goddess, or Angels, Heaven, etc. I AM sure of one thing though…LOVE is forever. It really, truly has no end. I know that someday, some horrible, awful, I-can’t-even-bear-to-think-about-it-for-a-second day, I will have to face the rest of my life without my husband, or he will have to face the rest of his life without me. But I do know that our love will NEVER die, and that indeed, it can even go on to help and inspire others, as your and Don’s love has done. I wish with all my heart that you never had to begin your blog in the first place, but please know that your writing has touched many, both widowed and non-widowed, and that you are a positive force in this world which has dealt so much pain to you. Thank you for sharing your story, and for continuing to make this cruel world a little bit brighter. You rock!!

    • Wow. Im so touched at how you found my blog, and even more, that you have continued to read it all this time. Often times us writers wonder if
      anything we are saying is being heard by others, because so many people read in silence and never let us know, which is why I totally appreciate every single comment on here. They are evidence that indeed, people out there are listening and reading. Thank you so much for your kind words, and for paying it forward all the times that you have. Keep reading!

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