“Want to split an orange, Baby?” he’d call out to me from bent over the open fridge. Mike and I always used to share them.
The other day without thinking I cut this orange up into 8 pieces and started eating, by the third slice it was getting harder to swallow as I realized what I was looking at, on the chopping board were Mike’s orange slices. His portion.
“Everything’s always better when you share”. He always said. Of course he was right.
These were Mike’s orange slices. I left them out for a bit because I was too sad to deal with them. I thought maybe I’d eat them later. I didn’t.
I hate wasting food, but I couldn’t eat these orange slices. They were his.
In these moments I get floored. I am devastated Mike isn’t here. I miss him terribly. I am sad he’s not here to eat his orange slices. Sometimes I am angry that he’s not here with me. I feel guilty for feeling angry. I fear I will never feel joy again. I feel disgust I am thinking about my own joy when Mike is dead. I feel shame that I’m feeling disgust and on and on it goes. Feelings on feelings on feelings – all in one moment. All because I needed a snack and hadn’t eaten any fruit that day.
my three griefs: him, us, & me
I wanted to share my thoughts on what grief is, but I’ve been having trouble expressing it. It’s hard to put any of this into words because it never feels enough. And as soon as I think I’ve got one part of grief figured out it morphs into something else entirely. It’s a complete bitch.
Grief is a thousand of these orange slice moments every day… and the pain falls into three categories, sometimes all at once.
First, I grieve for Mike. All the things he doesn’t get to do.
All the everyday joy he is missing out on: a perfect technicolour west coast sunset; getting to the top of the big hill on his bike; the final season of his favourite show he’ll never watch; that mountain (forbidden or not) never to be hiked; that first motorcycle ride of the season he’ll never take.
The agony of the everyday that he’s missing. I know he wanted to be here for all of it.
And then the big things…
He never got to meet my family who already loved him from afar.
He’ll never get to meet his best friends son who has touchingly been given his name for his middle name – Mike would have been so honoured.
He devastatingly won’t get to see his nephews grow up and be part of their life.
He’s missing all of this and more as time goes on.
Instead, he’s Forever 35.
Second, I grieve our future together that will never be.
We were planning a canoe trip here in BC. We were so excited. He was so proud to show me all that Canada has to offer and wanted to find a moose for me. I loved seeing him chop wood and cook over a campfire. Now my storage locker is full of our camping stuff – used once.
We were going to travel when it was a thing again. We planned to have our real honeymoon in Hawaii. I was going to take him to Australia to meet everyone. They all would have loved him – especially my nieces! Tour him to my favourite beaches and brunch spots. And show him ridiculous Aussie animals like a wombat and a platypus.
We were planning to move to California together. He was going to ride his motorcycle through the awesome landscapes – it’s always motorcycle season in California. I’d maybe get brave enough to ride on the back.
We were going to be by each other’s sides, have each other’s back, take care of each other.
“Me and you, you and me.” Always.
All that is gone.
Third, I grieve myself. I am not the person I used to be. I am forever changed and don’t fit in anywhere. I feel like a different species. Like I have purple skin and everyone can tell and I hate it. Or they can’t tell and I desperately need them to so they understand why those small talk questions are so hard for me to answer and I’m being weird and vague. On those days I wish I had a sticker like you get when you vote. Instead, it says “be nice to me, I’m a sad person”.
I used to be someone else. Now that person is gone and I don’t know what’s left. For who are you when your life is defined by loss? By lack of something. For no longer having something that was the absolute best. Defined by a negative space in your life. An explosion where once was a lifetime of possibility. A gaping hole. A nothingness.
Whatever I do now won’t be as fun without him. Whatever I do now is something Mike doesn’t get to do. Also, whatever I do next is because Mike died. My life has been set on this path because of Mike. I exist in the wrong timeline. I can’t ever go back and correct it. No matter how much my brain goes over and over the details that could have, should have, would have been different: it can’t be changed. Sadly, this is not the MCU.
I would give it all up for one more minute with him.
One more chance to split an orange and squeeze his hand.
The orange slices ended up in the compost. Canadians are mad for compost – you should see the sorting and recycling systems they’ve got going on here. I feel awful if I’m out and can’t find a compost bin for a compostable item and carry every incorrectly disposed of banana peel on my conscience forever.
So yeah, I composted Mike’s orange slices because I was too sad to eat them.
For now, I just won’t buy oranges. Vitamin C deficiency, come at me.
Mike couldn’t eat his orange slices, we won’t ever get to share an orange in the future, and I don’t know if I even like oranges anymore.
I grieve for Michael, for our shared life that will never be, and for myself. Three separate but intertwined griefs. All complicated. All torturous. All painful.
All a result of love and love lost.
Such a thought provoking post Maz. The concept of ‘me without you’ is such a complex & interesting ride. So many negatives but also positives intertwined with guilt over both. Grief associations are also such an interesting one. Dad always had a bowl of yoghurt with honey after lunch. Not at breakfast, not after dinner, just after lunch. He was particular that way. Consequently I think of dad every time I eat yoghurt which is most days. Generally it’s a positive association but sometimes it’s a sobbing in the cereal bowl situation. Dad loved Elton John & while he was sick I loved listening to Elton because it reminded me of him before we lost him to MND. Now he’s physically gone I can’t bear to listen to it. It’s weird. Thanks for sharing & for providing me a space to share. I want to honour & respect that you feel like you don’t fit in anywhere & that feeling is real & true. But I also want to let you know that to me you 100% fit in with me & all of us that love you. Big hugs & thanks again so much for this space xxx
Thanks for sharing the wonderful memories of your dad, Jessie.
I agree, it can be weird and unpredictable. Things that brought me comfort at one point like going to our favourite bakery, today makes me feel sick, and who knows how I’ll feel about it tomorrow.
Music can be so triggering. Music was so integral to Mike’s personality – he would DJ every moment of our lives – so I pretty much avoided all music for the first 6 months because it was too painful. Now I listen sometimes, but quite carefully, either it’s a song that was so ‘him’ I seek it out and imagine him grooving, or purposefully something that has no connection to him (focus piano playlist for background noise), or devastatingly new music that he never gets to hear. Always something. I never listen in the car due to unpredictability.
So I totally understand not being able to bear listening to Elton John!
Thanks also for saying I fit in with you – I appreciate that.
This so beautifully written Mazzy. I promise to recognise your imaginary sticker – you are sad, and that is totally ok with me. It is so generous of you to write about your grief (and you too JD). Love you x
thanks for reading Sally xxx
You were always such an engaging writer Miranda, and here you articulate so many of the complexities of grief in a way that others can understand. Thank you for sharing. I love remembering Dad and when moments trigger memories for me it’s usually followed by a feeling of joy, but Robby doesn’t like to revel in memories of his mum often because he finds himself pulled into a grief he struggles to escape from. Then, just the other day, I watched the movie Tolkein, and afterwards found Dad’s copy of The Hobbit he gave me and sobbed on the floor for 15 minutes scaring the cats! It’s the unpredictability of grief that gets me – as someone who loves to be in control it bothers me that there’s something so mammoth that can just upend my life in an instant. And then I still have to work and do stuff, which seems entirely too much for the world to ask sometimes. Sending big hugs and love xoxoxoxoxo
Thanks for reading and sharing your experiences, L. Objects like your Dad’s copy of the Hobbit can have such a power. So ‘them’.
“something so mammoth that can just upend my life in an instant” totally – great way to put it. The unpredictability is tough. I am usually on guard/expecting it, but it still catches me in rare offguard moments when I’m out in the world trying to keep my shit together – sneaky bugger. I usually wear Mike’s sunnies and one of his hats so I can pull it down in case of unexpected crying.
Thank you xxx