Five years ago, roughly at the time I’m sitting here writing this, Brandon and I said our I do’s and officially became husband and wife. We didn’t have a big wedding since neither of us wanted to make any fuss about it. After all, at that point in our relationship, we already felt like we’ve been married for a while…going to the courthouse and signing some papers was just making it official. We didn’t want anything fancy or out of the ordinary, we didn’t want a big audience. When all was said and done, however, it was nice to have people there and we were happy that they came. His brother brought a fancy camera with him and took all sorts of pictures, pictures that wouldn’t exist if Brandon and I got our original wish of it just being the two of us, pictures I didn’t know at the time would be some of the last ever taken of him.
I don’t look through our wedding photo album often. The last time I opened it was this day last year. I don’t know if that’s normal or not but looking at it makes me so very sad still. Looking through it today, I couldn’t help but notice the smiles, the hugs, the laughter in our eyes. We were happy, weren’t we? Five years ago, the answer to that question would have been an easy and quick yes. Today, I’m just not so sure. I didn’t see anything that day or any other day of our life together that would lead me to think that one day Brandon would get drunk, wrap his hand around the gun, and pull the trigger. But that’s what happened…five weeks after this joyful day that is forever captured in the photo album. His death came so far out of left field that over the years I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll never know why. Yet the frustration and agony of not understanding why still flares up, like an old break in a bone, and aches.
The memory that hurts me the most from our wedding day is one that came later, after the courthouse, after the cake and champagne, after we went back home. We came into the kitchen and before I could walk away to change out of my dress and heels, Brandon gathered me close into a long hug. He pulled away slightly and looked at me. For the third time since I’ve known him, I saw tears in his eyes. “I love you, Val.” He said. This quiet moment in the kitchen, shared by just the two of us, is one of my favorite and painful memories.
I hope the day comes when I can look back on our wedding day and not feel sad or hurt, but happy and grateful to have had such a wonderful man to call my husband, even for five short weeks. I wonder if that’s even possible, since it feels like I’ll never have closure, not really. How does one find closure after a suicide, when there were no obvious signs or warnings? I’ll never know or understand why, because the only person who could explain it to me is dead. And without knowing why Brandon pulled that trigger, will I ever be able to accept what happened and stop wondering? I just don’t think so.
Five years is a long time. Five years is a brief time. I’ve come a long way in my grief in these years and can honestly say that I am and will be okay. I’ve gone to years of therapy, I have moved away from the place I called home with Brandon, I married a wonderful and supportive man who brings joy to my heart. I don’t feel depressed or cry often. I keep busy and go about life like a normal person. I’m not crippled by Brandon’s death…I worked hard not to be. By all appearances, as society likes to call it, I’ve moved on.
Something I wish society would understand about death, is that there is no moving on, only moving through and forward. Just because I don’t wear a black veil and cry every day, doesn’t mean I don’t miss my dead husband. Just because I have remarried, doesn’t mean I don’t miss my dead husband. Just because I don’t talk about his death all the time, doesn’t mean I don’t miss my dead husband. Just because I laugh, smile, and make jokes, doesn’t mean I don’t miss my dead husband. I miss my dead husband, every day. I think about my dead husband, every day. And despite the outward appearance of “moved on”, some days, like the anniversary of our wedding, I still sit down, let the sadness, hurt, and memories wash over me, and cry.
Widows and widowers can be happy and sad at the same time. Finding happy after the death of a spouse doesn’t take away or lessen the love that’s still there, doesn’t diminish how much you still miss them. Our hearts are so vast and full of space, there’s enough room in them for both the life we lost and the new life we found.
I wish everyone would get that and stop judging the widowed community so harshly based on things they themselves have little understanding of.