I went back to my home three times to pack.
Right after I moved out I returned to fill my largest suitcase with necessities, a suitcase tucked far into the suffocating crawl space of our story-and-a-half. It has mice nibble marks on it now — I realize I didn’t use this suitcase during my marriage. I grabbed clothing and some essentials for Beef and this lovely exfoliating scrub because maybe pampering would heal the wounds. I never got hot water hooked up in the transitional house.
I came back again to retrieve Chop and Tuna and grab a few more things. I completed this task alone in our house. It was cold and dark — I will remember it feeling it more like a tomb. He arrived right as I was leaving. I know will always remember watching him say goodbye to the pets.
The last time was the last time. He helped me load the day bed into the U-Haul and left. The unseasonably warm February weather found us both sinking into the mud. Inescapable. I hugged him and sobbed and told him I would always love him. He told me I shouldn’t.
Each time was disorganized, numb. This was just another task to complete robotically, without thinking too much of the complex emotional threads I was severing with every book, souvenir, article of clothing packed into a box. Even as I write this to you I think I came back three times but it may have been more … or fewer. I don’t recall much from those months anymore, because I focused completely on moving forward. My packing mantra became: you can always buy new, choose only things that are irreplaceable, you are doing this alone.
I still think about the things I left behind.
Tuesday, December 12, 2:25 p.m. PT
Him: Hey I’m in the post office and I need your address right now.
Me: I wish you weren’t doing this.
Him: Just some things I found.
Monday, December 18, 7:30 a.m. PT
The box arrived first thing this morning. It looks crushed and the tape is only barely holding it together.
The receipt he sent me said it weighs 13.5 pounds, but it feels heavier.
I don’t recognize the return address but I promise I’m not obsessing over that.
Now I know why I overslept so egregiously this morning, to give me literally no time to unwrap this box of darkness. Yesterday I received the most lovely package from my parents — with all of my Christmas gifts individually wrapped inside. The dichotomy of this sinks its teeth into me.
As I write this I still have not opened this box. I have no idea what is inside, and he won’t tell me.
Last week, one of my friends challenged me to consider the worst things that it could hold:
- The necklace he gave me for our first Valentine’s Day that I wore every day for almost eight years.
- The book I sent him for his birthday last April.
- A letter.
But now as I sit here with this box I realize the worst thing inside is the reality of grief. I had already tidily mourned all of these items. I deliberately left them behind. I said goodbye.
This box is serving as a reminder that grief is a process, and hits you in relentless, unpredictable waves. And divorce grief is uniquely painful because that person is still here. Still able to reach out. Still sending unsolicited artifacts from your old life deemed essential by someone you’re trying to understand is no longer essential.
I will open the box. I know myself. I can’t live with the mystery, even though it will pull me under.
But eventually this wound heals. You have been knocked backwards, but you’re a little further ahead than when it happened last time.
It all becomes a lesson. Just some things I found.