What to Do With Your Anniversary When Your Husband is Dead

Today is my wedding anniversary.
October 27, 2006.
It is late at night now, and I have gone through the entire day,
of my anniversary,
alone.
Without my husband.

This would have been our 10-year anniversary.
An entire decade together.
All the things that might have happened,
in those 10 years.

The house we might have searched for together,
and bought.
Or the condo,
because my husband always vowed that while he would move his entire life from Florida to New Jersey for me,
he drew the line at having to shovel snow.
So, he wanted a condo, so that someone else would do the snow-shoveling.
The family we might have had,
the kids we may have birthed,
or adopted,
the sons or daughters that would have played with my brother’s kids,
and would have made me a mom,
and made my husband the best dad any kid could ever have.

The job changes,
the moving to new locations,
the decisions of a marriage.
The rough times, the struggles,
the continued financial hardships that we were so used to already.
The beautiful, ordinary days where nothing special happened.
The possibility of new things on the horizon,
the excitement and wonder and comforts and fears
in slowly aging together,
marinating our love together,
exploring and re-discovering each other,
again and again and again.

All of that and more,
so much more.
The “would have been’s” that a decade of marriage brings.
Ten years.
The ten years that never were.
The ten years that I will never know.

We used to talk of renewing our vows every ten years.
This is something that my husband wanted to do,
something that he looked forward to.
“Our life will change a lot in a 10 year span,”
he would say.
“It would be really cool to re-write our vows every ten years,
and to see how much they change, what we would say.”
So today,
on my 10-year wedding anniversary,
I should be renewing my wedding vows,
in some beautiful and serene location,
with my wonderful husband,
and then perhaps sharing an elegant dinner together,
and going home to one another,
to express our undying love.
Lying in each other’s arms,
Safe.
Happy.
Loved.

But no.
That is not what I did today.
I went to work, because as a widowed person holding down the fort alone,
I cannot afford to take the day off on my 10-year wedding anniversary.
Even though it’s so very hard to get through the day,
to pull myself together,
to be out in public with other humans.
Humans who still have their partners and families,
co-workers and people on Facebook,
who get to take trips and vacations together,
or have a vow renewal,
or whatever other lovely thing they might want,
as they celebrate their love.

Humans who post about doing these things,
or post their sentiments on their own anniversary
or birthday,
or whatever other day,
on their Facebook pages,
sharing their happy moments,
as they should.
But it hurts.
Holy hell, does it hurt.
To read those posts from inside the car,
staring at the water,
where pieces of my husband are floating,
or disappearing,
into the calming tides,
in the form of ashes.

I went to work,
and sobbed in the car the whole ride there,
and taught classes and faked my way through it,
and then got back in the car and cried some more,
and then drove to Sea Cliff, Long Island,
across the street from the venue where we married,
ten years ago today.

To the bay and the water,
where I sprinkled and let go some of his ashes,
his cremains,
5 years ago,
on this day,
our wedding anniversary.

I went there,
today,
with the intention of walking around in the sand,
talking to the seagulls,
trying to feel some gust of wind or some shift in the sky or
something,
ANYTHING,
that might, maybe, sort of, could it be,
a sign from my husband.
Something that would tell me he was there,
with me,
always.
Something,
just something,
that felt like a tiny fragment,
of being with him.

But instead,
I had to stay in the car,
and not get out at all,
and not walk around in the fall breezes that we married in,
the gorgeous colors of the leaves,
that were the backdrop on our special day.

boo on florida beach

No.
The one thing I wanted to do,
the sad and pathetic thing,
the only thing I could do,
to go sit on the bench and be one with my husband,
in the only way I know how,
I could not do.
Even that, I could not do.

It was pouring rain.
Absolute downpour.
So I just sat there,
and I talked on the phone to my dear widower friend,
and we talked about the death of our spouses,
and about the unfairness of it all,
and about the “Why?” –
that never-ending question,
that we both desperately want an answer to,
but there is no answer,
or if there is,
apparently we are not allowed to know it.
Which just creates another “Why?”
to another question,
that has no answer.

If you haven’t been through this,
if you haven’t sat inside a car,
unable to get out and sit closer to the ashes,
that are now what your husband is,
but isn’t,
then you just don’t understand.
You don’t understand
That ACHE,
that longing,
that thing where you can’t swallow,
or can’t quite breathe right,
because the grief sticks in your throat,
and because the way you used to breathe,
when the person you love was alive,
no longer exists.

If you haven’t sat in a cemetery,
at a grave site,
with some wine for you and your love,
or some flowers,
pulling up a lawn chair,
or sitting up against the headstone,
or on top of it,
in the grass,
just to get a little closer,
to where they are,
or aren’t,
or sat by some water somewhere,
where you tossed some ashes once,
because maybe,
possibly,
those ashes are still floating,
somehow,
nearby,
and maybe his essence is still there …

If you have never done those things,
then you don’t understand,
don’t comprehend,
the intense and forever sadness,
the not knowing of what to do on this day,
this day that represents forever,
and love,
and a life together,
and vows,
and future years and plans together,
and every other damn thing,
that you will never, ever get to have.

If you haven’t been through this,
and your future
and your present
and your past,
have never been yanked from you,
for no good reason,
or for reasons you will never comprehend,
you might have said to me today,
with wonderful and every good intention,
“Happy Anniversary!”
But, no.
That phrase makes me cringe,
and want to cry without stopping.
What is happy about it?
What is happy, please tell me,
about it being my anniversary,
and my husband being dead?

You might have said to me today,
“He is still your husband!
He will always be your husband!
Celebrate that today!”
But, no.
Love never dies,
and so our love lives within me,
forever.
Yes.
But he is not my husband.
As much as it hurts with a stabbing pain to type that,
as much as I hate it with every fiber in my being,
it is the truth.
He is not my husband,
and I am not his wife.
Not anymore.
I was his wife,
and it was my honor,
every precious and too-short moment.
And now,
I am his widow.
And it is my honor,
and my responsibility,
as his widow,
to keep him alive,
to keep his soul alive,
in all the ways that I live.
To live my life fully and with purpose,
because he doesn’t get to have that choice.

Last year, on this saddest day ...

Last year, on this saddest day …

But he is not my husband.
Husband’s are alive.
They breathe in and out.
They rewrite their vows on their 10th wedding anniversary,
they take their wife out for romantic dinners,
on this day,
and then they come home together,
and fall into each other’s embrace.
My husband exists only in my memories,
my stories,
and that certain shift in the wind,
that I question and doubt,
and wonder if it was ever really him.

You might have said to me today,
“Celebrate the memories! All the love you shared on that day!
Think about what a beautiful day it was!
Go and do something nice for yourself!
He would want that for you today!”
But, no.
The memories are beautiful,
but they always end the same way –
him being dead.
Me not getting to have that life we promised each other,
not getting to live those vows we said,
not getting to grow old together,
or create little humans together,
or adopt little humans together,
or keep learning about each other,
in sickness and in health,
until forever.
(thats the phrase we used to replace
“til death do us part.”)

So,
when I think about the memories,
I cant yet smile.
Maybe 5 or 7 years from now,
maybe never.
I don’t know.
But today,
right now,
I can’t think about my wedding day,
without sobbing.
I can’t watch our video,
without breaking down.
I can’t see him moving and laughing and talking,
and ALIVE,
without immediately thinking,
that the second I turn that off,
he will still be,
forever dead.

And I don’t want to treat myself to anything,
on this day.
I don’t want to pamper myself,
or take a vacation, even if I could afford such a thing.
No.
What I want,
the only thing I want,
is to spend this day,
this day that is solely about US,
and our union,
and the beautiful world where we chose each other,
I want to spend this day,
with my husband.
And I can’t.
Not in the way I want to.
And right now,
today,
I haven’t found a way to be okay with that.
I haven’t found a way to handle that.
I want to love my husband,
on my anniversary.
I want to hold him and kiss him,
and tell him how much I love him,
and that I would choose him 100,000 times,
again and again,
forever.
I want to laugh with him,
and watch our wedding video together,
and go to our venue and drink peppermint hot chocolate with candy canes,
and lie in bed together and read our new vows to each other,
or recite our original ones.
I want to be in that world,
where I chose him,
and he chose me,
and everything was going to be okay always,
because of that fact.

But, no.
When your husband is dead,
on your anniversary,
you have all these feelings of love,
that you want to express to him,
and things you want to do with him,
and say to him,
and you have nowhere,
NOWHERE,
to put any of it.
So it just aimlessly wanders,
and stays,
meandering around inside your soul.
And you don’t know if he knows,
or if he will ever know,
that he was
Everything.
That he will always be
everything.
The only thing you know,
is that your husband is no longer your husband,
and he only exists in that shift of the wind.
So you hold onto that,
you hold onto anything,
ANYTHING,
that brings you,
just a little bit closer to him,
and just a bit further away,
from the Hell of life,
without him.

Today is my 10-year Wedding Anniversary,
and my husband is dead.

kissing

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15 thoughts on “What to Do With Your Anniversary When Your Husband is Dead

  1. Thank you Kelly. Such brave words. So true. I appreciate how you put into words “he is not my husband” and all that completed that thought. Tears I shed today are the grief we share. Healing thoughts to you.

    • THat part was very difficult for me to type/write. But I was trying to make the point that he is and will ALWAYS be my husband
      in my soul, in my heart, etc etc. But he isnt alive, and Im very brutally aware of that fact every second of my life. My husband is dead,
      which makes me his widow, which forever connects me to him, but is also very different than being his wife. And I SO miss being his wife.

  2. (((( Hugs))))) It’s so true all the pain, the memories. I would not wish this kind of hellish pain on anyone but with my whole heart I don’t think a person is able to fathom what being a widow is like. I know I had days where he might be late getting home and I would be worried sick and then this overwhelming sense of relief rushes over you when you hear his car pull into the driveway. Now, I dread returning home to a new house, I had to sell my dream home as I could not have afforded to continue to live in it. I didn’t want to sell it and if I had the money I would have kept it even if I still decided to move, not sure but keeping it was important to me. None the less even though he was never in this home I still have those thoughts of dread. I still have nightmares where I wake up sobbing because a dream was to real and when he was here he would getlely shake me and say it’s ok baby it was just a dream. I wish someone would do that now and I would wake up to his beautiful , loving face. Dear God, I miss that man with all my heart. Sending all my fellow widowers/ widows big ole hugs because you are the only ones who get it.

  3. im so sorry kelley my heart breaks for u. i didnt get a wedding or an anniversary with my beloved. instead i got a wedding day planned and never celebrated. i got what would have been a wedding day instead turn into a burial day . so i feel your pain. this year on my wedding / burial day i stayedi bed. didnt get up, didnt eat. i know how u feel. i cant say any words to make you feel better. all i can say is i understand and love u . hugs from canada. xxoo

    • Oh Sandy, I cannot even imagine not getting my wedding day,not getting to be married to my beloved husband. That is a special kind of pain
      and loss, and I am so, so sorry that you never got those things at all, and that you had to bury your husband instead. And yes, Im calling him your husband, because that is what he was on that day, even if it legally doesnt say so. We know so. we do whatever we need to do on “that day” to just get through it, and staying in bed all day sounds perfectly okay to me xoxo I wish I could hug you. This breaks my heart. Keep reading, and keep knowing you are not alone in your emotions and thoughts…

  4. Kelly,
    My heart breaks for you…and me. Cause I can relate. I cry all the time in my car, wipe my face up and pretend to be ok. I do the same every day, night, at work, with friends. And it’s completely exhausting. I look at friends who to me, have everything. They are not young widows whose hearts have been ripped apart. I am that person who also sits at her husbands grave on a lawn chair and falls apart. It sucks and I’m so sorry for both of us. Sending you prayers and a hug my friend. Xxxxxxxxxx

  5. How do I ever say thank you to you Kelly, I only read your blogs, I look forward to everyone of them.they are never too long, only too short. I feel every word. I feel so connected to you. I know, I know, I know every thing you feel. I feel exactly the same! I lost my husband suddenly 3 years ago. The daily depth of this loss still overwhelms me. To speak his name brings me to tears and to my knees still. And I am left with the question……. now what G-d? I think I am past the why. Cause I know I will never know that answer. It is just now what. Thank you again for all your great blogs
    Nancy

  6. Hi Kelley…as you may or may not remember, I’m not a widow, but I follow your blog because I can relate to the kind of love that you and your husband shared, because my husband and I share a similar bond. Losing my beloved is my deepest fear, and indeed I originally stumbled onto your blog when I Googled that particular fear. The beautiful love story between you and Don piqued my interest and tugged at my heart. Your writing bursts with feeling and emotion, and I enjoy reading about the rich and wonderful life you shared together, the tender moments, the struggles, the small joys, the familiar comfort mixed with passion that only a beautiful marriage can bring about. I can relate, because my marriage is such…and though the thought fills me with dread, I know that the day will come when one of us will have to go on without the other. Your story and your words have an impact…whenever I get frustrated or irritable with my husband over some trivial matter, I often think about your and Don’s love story, a story that should have never ended so soon and so suddenly. And I realize all over again how lucky I am that mine and Darin’s story continues to unfold, but that it could be over in a flash. Your words remind me to be forever grateful for what I have, and deeply humbled to have it. I am so sorry that the beautiful life you and Don shared was cut short. And though it is undoubtedly little consolation, I often perform random acts of kindness in recognition of Don, and the incredible strength it must take for you to continue on living without him. Thank you for sharing your incredible love story, which is an inspiration to myself and, I’m sure, many others. ❤

  7. Uh, yeah. Everything you said. Here’s what I do on my wedding anniversary: I buy myself roses. Two dozen of them. Every year. I do it on Valentine’s Day too. Because my husband always said I should have roses on our anniversary and on Valentine’s Day. And I think he was right.

    I am a number of years behind you at only three years, and I am older than you. I had 30 years with my husband and I am grateful for that. But I am starting to think that grief never leaves and it never ends. And that hole is never filled. I think I am only starting to grieve now but it is hard because it is so huge and so massive that when it comes I feel like I’m going explode into a million bloody pieces.

    The more time that passes, the more the bad times we had start to fade and I find myself longing and wishing to go back in time…and to appreciate more what I had and to treasure it more.

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