I got a text from a friend the other day that mentioned our “newlywed bliss”. I audibly laughed and turned to read it to RJ. Bliss isn’t quite how I would describe marriage thus far. If I had to pick one word to sum it all up, it would be grief.
For the loss of a wedding
July 18 was beautiful in its own way and sacred at times – but mostly it was really, really sad. We never wanted to livestream family in. We never wanted a small, intimate moment – we wanted a huge celebration, the best party you could imagine. Not only did our little ceremony in the park feel a bit underwhelming, the week of felt like a nightmare that wouldn’t end. Ricky got the news of two tragic deaths on Monday; I was in the ER on Thursday. In the weeks leading up, people kept asking us what we had planned and for details and we would give them blank looks and say …..well, we’re going to get married? We’ll figure it out soon. Except soon never came. The day of we didn’t know if my dress was going to fit over my mysterious bloated stomach, we hadn’t written our vows, we hadn’t packed for our honeymoon. We barely made it to July 18, in more ways than one. Instead of enjoying our wedding week, savoring it even – we were trying our best to survive it. We weren’t eagerly anticipating incoming flights of loved ones or looking forward to the weekend’s activities, we were putting out fires left and right. For the happiest day of our life – it felt like so much loss.
For the loss of celebrations
I don’t know how to put into words how lonely it feels to get married in a pandemic. A day you thought you’d be surrounded by 200 of your favorite people turns into a day of silence from the majority of them. We got some phone calls that week, but not a lot. We got some texts the day of, but not too many. We had some of the sweetest surprises – our community group pitched in and bought me a bouquet, we had goodies left on our doorstep the morning of – but they were few and far between. Materialistically, the lack of presents was hard to come to terms with – mostly because it was a stark reminder of lack of presence. Covid has caused so many “We cant wait to celebrate with you one day!!!!” messages which is sweet and all, but what about right now? Our marriage started! Can we celebrate now? Can we celebrate this?
…and then the loss of a second wedding
The saving grace for July 18 was we had October. October was going to be round two, the real celebration with friends and family. Every decision made was “well we’ll do this this time, but in October we’ll do _____“, “in October this can happen”, “in October we get that”. In October, we can finally have this and that and this other thing.
Two days after coming home from our honeymoon, our wedding venue cancelled on us. We could have scrambled for a new venue, changed our all plans, tried to force something – but 2020 already held too much heartache for us at this point. The idea of rescheduling again, just to have Big Rona rear her ugly head, was too much.
Slowly the reality that we might just never have a wedding is sinking in. We want one. I can’t tell you how badly we want one. I can’t tell you how painful Pinterest is to scroll through, with ideas for decor or bridesmaids dresses or tips for a seating chart. I can’t tell you how infuriating it is to look at Instagram and see other couples having big giant weddings like we aren’t in a pandemic at the moment. I can’t tell you the beginning of how I feel about this loss, because I don’t even know how to go about it. I can’t even process the thought that I might never get the dance party with my best friends, the walking down the aisle and seeing everyone who loves us, the tacos at sunset we dreamed of. Corona has brought a lot of tragedies worse than this, but I won’t pretend this doesn’t make the list.
For the loss of life
The week of our wedding RJ heard about two tragic deaths, back to back. Selfishly I thought, “Of all weeks for this to happen? Really??” Our wedding (or lack thereof) had already been through so much. We tried our best to navigate planning the logistics of an elopement and weighing family desires all while sitting in shock. Doing our best to mourn during a week everyone told us should be the best of our lives. Trying to figure out what celebration looks like in the middle of deep, deep grief.
Then, two weeks after our wedding, sitting at my desk at work, I got the news that a friend who had been rushed to the hospital the night before didn’t make it. I started at my computer screen for 30 minutes without seeing it. Got up and walked to a meeting I don’t remember attending. The friendliest, most extroverted person I knew – quite literally friends with everyone she met – was no longer with us. No longer laughing. No longer posting her daily Spotify listen or tweeting about Jeopardy. It didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t. I don’t think it ever will. It’s been two weeks of shock. Of anger. Of disappointment and grief. So much grief. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over H being taken from us so soon. It will never be fair.
And for the mysterious physical pain that pervaded every moment
About 2 weeks before our wedding, my abdominal pain started. I thought maybe I ate too much, thought maybe it was some strange one-off thing – but after 5 consistent days of pain and strange bloating I made my first trip to the ER. Everything looked fine, no serious test results. I went home to lay in bed for 3 days straight, wondering how I’d be getting married the next week. Two days before our wedding I was back in the ER. More pain, suspiciously on my right side. No new news, no nothing. I was sent home with new medicine to try and best wishes on my wedding. On July 18 I had friends praying my dress would fit over my insanely bloated stomach (it did!) and that I’d be able to walk upright. I spent our honeymoon walking around holding my stomach like I was 5 months pregnant. It’s been a month of too many calls to insurance, two (virtual) doctor visits, one upper endoscopy and still zero answers. A month of only wearing elasticated clothing, of “Please don’t touch me right now” and “I’m going to bed at 8pm, the pain is too much”, of carrying around a jug of liquid antacid in my purse at all times.
This is what they call newlywed bliss, right??
It’s been a dark, dark month, to say the least. It’s felt heavy and unbearable, like no human should ever have to go through all of this at the same time. There’s an emotional weight to grief, but there is a tangible weight, as well. I feel it in my shoulders, I feel it in my bones. It’s felt like we’re treading water in a sea that somehow keeps expanding. We thought shore was in sight, and it turned out to be a mirage. With every new wave that keeps rolling in, I sink a little bit lower and swallow a little more water. I know life is hard, but it feels unfair to be this hard. Especially in this season. Our wedding was already ruined, couldn’t our first month of marriage catch a break?? Can someone, somewhere turn on a light for us?
And then I was listening to a podcast with Barbara Brown Taylor, and she talked about how people are always scared of the dark and dread the dark – but how some beautiful things can only be done in the dark. We dream in the dark, we see stars in the dark. Kissing is more fun in the dark.
I thought of the darkness we’ve been living in. And I thought of the stars that have peeked through, stars we couldn’t see in the light. I’ve learned laughing in the dark tastes sweeter. Cuddling, kissing, (am I allowed to talk about sex??) is all so much more intimate in the dark. So much more healing, in a way.
Because here’s the thing: just because you’re grieving doesn’t mean you aren’t healing.