It is an old story. A man leaves. Sets off for pastures new, wife and children left wondering, an echoing space in the home, too many unanswered questions.
Seven summers ago a marriage ended. After the event you can see the signs, but in the middle of it? You’re thrown into the need to deal with practicality. With how on earth to pay the bills, how to fill the screen wash on your car, or check tyre pressures, how to manage the confusion and pain of sons who worship their father.
You roll up your sleeves. Your mother did this, when your father went away overseas, the Queen’s shilling calling. Your grandmother did this when the air raid sirens wailed over Kent and her husband was missing in transit on his return from the Far East. Your great grandmother did this when her husband had to go out to fight fires in Ramsgate or rode cavalry in the Great War. It is in your blood. No fuss. No tears. Tie your hair back. Do what needs doing. Your foremothers showed you how. It is your story. No drama. Get on with it.
You are good at this. You organise as easily as breathing. The raw pain is soothed by sorting, by managing. Over time the story moves on, you begin to let go of the man, the marriage. You begin to write your own story. You engage with therapies. Take responsibility for your own life. Remember who you are. The wheel turns. You find a new love, someone who knows you in a way that seems impossible. You begin to build a home together, blend a family. There is much to be thankful for and life becomes richer and fuller than before.
But she is waiting. A quiet shadow, a bruised a damaged woman, mud streaked and tattered. Her eyes are haunting and her cheeks tear-streaked. Your grief.
Because in the confusion and the making do you did not give her room. And in releasing the man and the marriage you forgot to weep for what you lost. Twenty years of life. Dreams, hopes, wishes. The work of years to help another find their path, build their career, the promises, broken and remade. All because you love and believe. All because your faith teaches you this is the way it has to be. No fuss. No tears. Get on with it. He loves you, he loves you not. He is going, he is staying. Losing yourself, sacrificing yourself. Allowing another to steal your life, sitting by and watching yourself give it all away.
And today she arrives. Eyes red. Barely able to see as you negotiate the road home, struggling to breathe, for air. She reminds me that it isn’t the loss of the person or the relationship. It is the theft of a life. My life. Two decades. And not even this. Not to blame and rage and curse another. But to know that I allowed it.
This beginning. This opening. Raw. Jagged. Leaving me unable to think or move, cutting through me. Just a start. The work comes now.
Time has come to face what is lost. The days, weeks and years. The moments. The missing husbands down four generations. I will take a spade. I will dig in the earth. Fighting the stones for space, for release. I will take paper and ink and write down what is lost. I will add herbs and stones for blessing, for letting go. I will whisper to the breeze of the things done, remembered, wished, hoped. I will burn it to ash and bury it deep in the earth cauldron. And the earth mother and the air sister will take my dreams and weave a spell of healing and release. In the dark silence of the soil something will end. And begin. In the losing I will find the beginning. And be born again.