I’ve been punched in the face once in my life. I was 19 (maybe 18? But Mom, if you are reading this, I swear I was 19!! ) and on the dance floor at a bar, and inadvertently wound up between two guys arguing and was accidentally punched in the jaw. Pretty cool eh? But since my husband died unexpectedly in August 2016, I’ve been punched in the face so many times that I’ve lost count. Metaphorically of course. But these metaphoric face punches have been far more painful than that drunken dance floor punch so many years ago. These punches in the face are moments when life reminds you about your lost love. A memory, an item, a thought, a sound…something happens and it triggers something in you that you didn’t predict. You were trucking along thinking you were okay, and then whammo. Face punch. Oh ya. He’s dead. You are alone. Your future as you lovingly planned it is gone. Your children are missing a dad. The love of your life is dead. That’s a widow face punch. And it fucking hurts.
This past Christmas, there were many predictable face punches as the holiday season is generally triggering for many widows. I saw a lot of them coming. But I didn’t see how innocently wrapping presents would punch me in the face. I love the paper products that come along with Christmas. I know I should be wrapping my gifts in newspaper or reusable bags, but I’m a sucker for cute wrapping paper. I innocently thought I was going to have a lovely and cozy afternoon one day in December when I planned to spend the afternoon drinking a latte, while wrapping my presents for my girls, in all the beautiful paper I had picked out. Wrong, silly widow. Wrong! I wrapped the first two, wrote the tags and stuck them on. Then I sat back to smugly admire my beautiful wrapping. There it was, in my own god damn handwriting. “Love Mommy”. Not “Love Mommy and Daddy” like I had written on all the tags for the previous 4 Christmas (because let’s be serious. I did ALL of the shopping and wrapping!!). These stupid tags staring me in the face were almost mocking me. It looked so short and weird. Just “Mommy”. No Daddy. It hurt and it punched me in the face so hard, it knocked me on the ass for the afternoon. Those stupid little tags were reminding me that I was alone, and Kevin had died. And my kids didn’t have a dad to give them Christmas presents.
I got punched in the face recently when making my bed. It was kind of a double whammy. Doing chores is bad enough, but getting punched in the face with grief while cleaning?? C’mon, universe! Where is the justice in the world? I walked to the end of the bed to start straightening and fluffing the duvet when I was struck by what I was looking at. Looking at the unmade bed in front of me, it was so painfully and strikingly obvious that only one grown up lived here. My side was wrinkled, rumpled and the duvet was tossed to the side as I had gotten out of bed. Kevin’s side was untouched. Literally untouched. Duvet smooth, pillows in place. His side was untouched because I was sleeping alone and I was sleeping alone because he was dead. Fuck. Early morning hard widow punch to the face. I sobbed and sobbed as I finished making the bed. I longed for the days when I would make the bed and grumble because it seemed like Kevin was fighting a war in his sleep and our sheets were so tangled. I longed for the days when I had to fight for the covers in the night. I longed for the days when I would get in bed on a cold night and he would be on my side warming it up for me. However, I will be honest and say, I don’t long for the days when I would be awake half the night screaming at him to stop snoring though!
I even got punched in the face just a few weekends ago when I ordered takeout for the girls and I. I just couldn’t deal with being the only parent anymore that day, and I mailed it in. Clicked on my ubereats app, and in a few minutes dinner was taken care of. I ordered Chinese food and ordered what I thought was a reasonable amount. But after I served the girls their dinner as well as myself, it quickly became apparent that I had ordered dinner as if Kevin was still with us. I had ordered dinner for 4, even though we are a family of 3. Punch in the face, covered with chicken ball red sauce. But I did eat chicken balls and fried rice leftovers for days, so there was a little bit of goodness in this grief knockout.
All these moments brought me to my knees. The memories of my former life, the reality of my new life and the finality of my loss washed over me and punched me in the face. I will forever remember the sting of my widow face punches whereas I barely remember the pain of the physical punch from years ago. Grief stays with you. It burns into you, finds a nice home, deep inside of you, and sets up shop for life. You don’t “get over” your loss. You don’t “move on”. You learn to live with your loss. You learn how to recover more quickly, and more easily from the punches in the face. You may even acquire the skill to see them coming and dodge a few of them. I’m not there yet. I’m still getting beat up on the regular. I’m a tough cookie though. Someday I’ll get in the ring and I won’t get knocked out.