A year ago I had no idea.
No idea what my life would look like in two weeks.
No idea how my DNA would change and that my heart would permanently shatter into oblivion.
I had no idea that I would dive into a mental fog for almost a year. Floundering, surrounded by people I love and who I knew loved me back, while totally encased in an isolated world of lonely hopelessness.
A year ago I thought I knew hard stuff.
But I truly had no idea.
June 2nd, 2020: Aaron died. My best friend since seventeen years old was just suddenly dead. He was my permanent classmate and coworker, a person who knew what was going on in my mind just by flashing a glance my way, and someone who helped me grow into the adult Kari I am today because we grew together. He challenged me, supported me, and rallied for me when I needed it most. As I did him.
After he died, I was traumatized simply by the sight and experience surrounding suicide and the unexpected. This trauma took months to process and I’m nowhere near close to fully processing it now. But I did reach a point of sleeping at night without intrusive memories or nightmares I couldn’t shake: and that’s progress.
As the nightmares began to lessen, it created space for me to start processing how I manage my life ahead: career, parenting a kid with medical complexities and disabilities, my future, a life without Aaron I never planned for, etc. That still isn’t fully processed either: but it’s settling the tiniest bit more, in the tiniest possible way, for now.
And – just recently – I’m truly beginning to process the unbearable sadness. Living a life without Aaron. A life I never wanted. So today I’m just…Really sad.
I miss carpooling with Aaron to work: grabbing coffees and harmonizing to Rent: The Musical the entire ride there. I miss trying to play it cool as we walked into work: pretending like we were professional adults who didn’t spend the last twenty minutes trying to hit the high notes in La Vie Boheme.
I miss being annoyed by how quickly and loudly he ate chips. Then I miss being annoyed by how when I commented on him eating chips, he’d eat them slower: which somehow made it WAY worse.
I wish he could see Sloan today. I wish he could give her a bath, change her trach (she giggles now), and watch as she almost walks and crawls. There’s so much I wish he could do and be a part of with Sloan right now.
I wish I could give him a hug and grab his arm. Grabbing his arm in the most aggressive way was my very favorite thing to do. He had really good squishy arms.
Every waking minute of every day since Aaron’s death is consumed with thoughts like these and a giant void of loneliness and grief that follows me everywhere I go. If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not.
When I’m smiling and carrying on a conversation to keep my life afloat: Aaron is in the back of my head. When I’m at a Sloan appointment: all I think about is how Aaron should be there with me. When I’m out on a lake on a paddle-board: I’m thinking of Aaron. Just this week I was buying Sloan and I matching swimsuits for our Aaron’s deathiversary lake trip and I lost my shit halfway through the purchase because I wanted to buy Aaron a matching butterfly swimsuit, too. He would be offended if I didn’t. Yet another reason I miss him.
So whether it’s the void without him, parenting Sloan, or the logistics that go along with death itself: my only break from grief is when I’m asleep. …And even sleep isn’t always an escape.
I share this today because I see it. I feel it. The one-year mark is coming, and – while well-intentioned – I’ve been getting many questions around how I’m feeling or doing. Some questions feel like they come more out of a place of fear or terror around what to say and do more than anything. I want to call out that fear when I can see it, because that’s how I have been feeling and living every day since Aaron died.
This is not simply a story. This is not a sad IG person who boss bitched her way back to life.
This is my real life. My real love. My real pain. It’s all real.
So as we approach June 2nd – the one-year mark of the worst day of my life – it’s fair to say I’m not okay. But I also haven’t been okay since he died.
When someone is a step removed – even the tiniest step – they have memories, moments, and pictures. And as time goes on, the void lessens for them: they go back to their families as-they-were and reminisce about their lost loved ones when it’s slightly more convenient.
In the loss of Aaron, I don’t have that privilege. I was Aaron’s spouse. His bestie. For thirteen years. It’s all-consuming for me: he was my family and partner to turn to. So my world was catastrophically upended June 2, 2020. And it has stayed that way since.
So am I okay? No. But that’s a constant now.
Is this not-okay-ness worsening as we approach June 2nd: his death date? Nope. Not really.
This is where it gets…Weird. I’m actually, unsuspectingly, finding myself relieved in some terrifyingly genuine way. Relieved I’ve survived this year.
When Aaron died, I was confident I’d die next. I was absolutely, without a doubt, confident I would die within weeks of his death.
So, during Aaron’s deathiversary week, of course I’ll be sad. Of course it will consume me. Just like it does 24/7.
I’m also going to sit on a lake and enjoy the sunshine. The coffee. The fish jumping.
I’m going to love on Sloan and let her enjoy the water and her floatie.
We will wear our matching swimsuits, being as extra and ridiculous as possible: just like Aaron would like it.
I’m going to enjoy simply existing as I do today: sadness, wholeness, and all.
I’m going to enjoy (or not enjoy) these moments in a genuine way. However I’m feeling it I will just let myself feel it. But I’m not in a major mode of anticipation or fear. I just…Am. Because I live this 24/7.
Not only do I deserve to feel relief for my simple survival, but I know Aaron would be sitting right alongside me commending me for that same survival too. He’d be f-bombing it, cheering me on, and apologizing profusely while slowly eating chips in the most horrifyingly annoying way.
I’ll hold space for sadness and love in missing Aaron, space for joy at the lake with Sloan, space for good snacks and drinks, and space for nature church.
…So that’s how I’m feeling. I’m still sad. Also relieved. I somehow kept breathing. I somehow made it. …And I still haven’t died yet.