Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When Couples Grieve, Part 2: Travelling in Different Directions

Our three-week road trip last month turned into two weeks. We never made it to Glacier National Park. We traveled with differently weighted packs of grief taking up more and more space in the car. I was eager to see new vistas and explore the route together, like we had on a wonderful cross-country trip the year before Noah’s decline began. My husband, tied to home as steadying comfort, was anxious and glum being away. Little things sparked panic; normal pleasures felt flat. “Do you want to turn around?” I asked, but he said we should continue. 

Then, in an unfamiliar town, the dog disappeared into the woods at dusk and didn’t come to our calls. He finally turned up half an hour later, but not before turning my poor husband ashen at the thought of another loss. We managed to have a good hike the next day with friends—and the dog firmly on leash--but I knew something was still wrong when my husband refrained from climbing a higher peak from the overlook. The next day, he left the farmer’s market after a few minutes without even tasting the local apricots. This time, we decided to cut the trip short.

On the long drive home, my husband seemed relaxed and relieved to be heading back to the familiar. I was glad for his sake but worried whether we’d ever be able to enjoy traveling together again for more than a few days. Once home, we reveled in the tomatoes and peaches that had ripened in our absence. Then I caught a glimpse of our shrine to Noah and my heart sank. Back to this again, I thought; still here, still dead. The reminders of Noah that fill our home are what I need to leave behind for fresh perspective--and what my husband needs to hold close for security and comfort. I look forward to the newness of travel; my husband is wary of feeling “unmoored.” A support group facilitator tells me this kind of divergence is common for survivor couples.

After stewing in some glumness of my own, I plunged into a work project. I’m trying to see the shortened vacation as a blessing, forcing me to journey inward with creative and spiritual pursuits. Maybe soon, I’ll think about travel plans with friends or shorter trips with my husband. Slowly, he and I are debriefing what happened and seeking other things to look forward to together.

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