It took a journey, different places, time away, for me to realise this. I went on holiday to places and people from my past, many of them pre-dating Andrew. It was an emotional pilgrimage and a wonderful holiday, both — but it was not that which changed me.
I returned, walked up my front steps and opened the door. It was a pleasure to be back. I enjoyed being home again, and my reunion with the cats. It was some little time before I noticed what was missing — the pang of grief at Andrew's absence from our home. Then I noticed what it was that was present — pleasure in my home, the one I have spent the last 15 months creating. It's no longer exactly the same one I shared with him. New furniture, new pictures on the walls, various items re-arranged ... one room has been completely and others partly transformed.
It has been a year. More than a year. During this time, by bit, I have remade my home and my life. They are mine now, not shared. I have gradually adjusted to living alone, to considering only myself. This took all of these past months. Even just before I went on holiday, I was noticing small ways in which I still had the habit of thinking what Andrew would like. (As soon as I noticed, I started reminding myself that he isn't here any more and I can do whatever I like. He certainly wouldn't grudge me — but even if he would, that's no longer relevant.)
The very fact of going on holiday is an example of how I've changed. It was last-minute and spur-of-the-moment. I realise I have become quite spur-of-the-moment now, newly spontaneous. I often go to movies alone (which I don't mind) because the local cinema is so close that I can look at the program, think, 'I'd like to see that,' and then realise, 'I could go right now.' This was not possible when Andrew was ill and I was his carer.
In case that sounds lonely, going off to movies by myself, let me add that I have an active social life. Back from holidays just a week, I've been out for coffee twice with different friends, had others visit me at home, made an arrangement to go swimming with yet another.... These things also were not so easy to manage in Andrew's last few years of life. I am in many ways freer now.
Yes, there has been much grief and pain. I can still be triggered into tears quite readily. Yet I have adapted. Grief is no longer my main focus. Home doesn't feel so empty any more. Instead, it is nurturing. It has become my home; I fill it all by myself.
But wait! Perhaps, after all, the holiday did have something to do with this — one event of the holiday, anyway. I had a lomi lomi (Hawaiian) massage from my friend Michelle, whom I stayed with while I was away. It was a blissful massage and also an amazing energy healing in which I released a lot of tears and toxins. It can’t be coincidental that I’ve come home to this big shift within myself. It is true that I have been adapting and adjusting over time, yet before I went away I was still finding it hard not to stay stuck in the grief. I believe the healing I received from Michelle allowed me to complete the process.