Editor’s Note: Louise has written several pieces over the years describing her journey through grief. You can find all the earlier ones at this link:
by Louise McOrmond- Plummer ( AKA Mrs Kenneth D. Plummer)
When my beloved husband Ken, died in 2016, the thought of planning a future that wouldn’t include Ken knocked the knees out from under me; a “Kenless” future seemed neither possible nor desirable, until I learned that there is no such thing as a future that will not include Ken in some way, and the only possible way to learn this was to actively go into that future, the below will tell you what that entailed for me.
If you’ve read earlier ramblings of mine on grief, you already know how thoroughly I detest
“move on and let go” models of bereavement for the usually unhelpful platitudes that they are.
The term “moving forward” is one I feel better able to live with, even if that’s quibbling over semantics, whatever, it just fits better for me than “moving on” ever has, suggesting as it did(to me at least) “forgetting Ken, and leaving him behind; notions completely intolerable to me
Yet, at the time of this writing, I have sold our marital home and built us a riverside retirement cottage, and yes I did mean “us,” for I firmly believe that Ken is still with me at some level, and, in the spirit of continuing bonds, far from leaving Ken behind, our relationship, albeit in changed form, is every bit as vital as it ever was.
YES, I have done what seemed impossible to even contemplate doing, and I can honestly say that besides marrying Ken, it’s the best choice of my adult life
What made it somewhat easier and, indeed, even joyous?
It became an enjoyable, and proactive little project to think of ways to have Ken spaces in the new home” thus making it “ours”.
I even named the cottage after us and had a pretty porch sign custom made– when Ken was having cancer treatment, the oncologists referred to us as “Team Plum.”
I still very much see us as “Team Plum”, and so, the cottage is called “Team Plum’s loco sanitatem,” which is Latin for “place of healing” and it’s an apt name, because I truly have healed to a degree since I came here. I’m doing so much better than I have in the nearly six years since Ken died. What does that look like? More smiles, and fewer completely overwhelming grief triggers; I now understand that I can have a connection with Ken not based solely in pain; engaging with things that help me let go of the grief, is in no ways synonymous with letting go of Ken. It also means moving into life without false guilt about “betraying” Ken by having a life
I get pretty cranky with those who criticize the bereaved for having “shrines”, People may make shrines as a means of feeling connected with their deceased loved one. If this makes otherwise devastating losses even the littlest bit easier to live with, people should feel free to have their late child’s things left as they were, or hubby’s clothes hanging in the closet and I’m not sure it’s anybody’s business to criticize the way people handle their grief- where it violates nobody else’s rights, I think it’s completely inappropriate to do so!
One tough aspect of leaving the town in which Ken and I had lived, was going 30km away from his grave, which I like to keep tended as I see this as another way to “look after ” him.
Thus, I had a beautiful granite bench seat made with a plaque commemorating Ken and a small amount of his ashes buried beneath it. It sits beneath a tree in my back yard with his favourite beer, on it, and nope, I don’t care if it looks crazy, I chuckle about the fact that many people of the Philippine cultures would see nothing dotty about this practice- for these people, it is absolutely expected that our deceased are an important and revered part of our daily lives; they offer their departed cigarettes and food The bench gives me something else to tend, and is another place to sit and love my Ken,, and yes, I talk to him there.
I’ve encountered grieving people who seem to equate moving forward with forgetting their loved one (yeah, as if, right?).
Nobody can tell you when or how to move forward, you will find your own path, but please know it has nothing whatsoever to do with moving away from your beloved one.
The poet e.e. cummings certainly seemed to understand this when he wrote:
“i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)”
Take your own time, my friend, it took me five years, and you will be okay, I promise, remember also that your relationship with your loved one continues, regardless of location etc.
If you are facing a move forward in some form, ask yourself, how you might take your loved one into that future. Is there a way in which you can incorporate them in a way to make it fun? Since we can’t go backwards, we might as well inject any pleasure we can into moving forward. For example, I bought a second-hand outdoor bar and festooned it with can-coolers sporting the flag of Ken’s favourite football team, his trucker caps sporting the same, as well as photos of Ken enjoying good times -totally suited to Ken’s personality , I chose beautiful red laminex kitchen bench tops as red was Ken’s favourite colour
These activities certainly planed the sharp corners off the move, they made me able to be okay with my present instead of painfully craving a past that I can never have back’
Love and Light,
Editor’s Note: the full text of the e.e. cummings poem quoted above can be found if you CLICK HERE.
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