Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Holes in the Heart

Okay, it's close to Valentine's Day - tomorrow and this seems like a good time to talk about hearts. Not the paper kind or the ones filled with chocolate, the one that beats inside of every living thing.

I had a conversation with a woman in her 70's yesterday who has lost two husbands. One to assassination and one to cancer. It is coming up on the anniversary of her last husband's death and she was doing a lot of talking about him and the first husband. She said both had left a hole in her heart that would never heal or fill.

My life experience isn't anywhere near hers. I've lost grandparents. I even lost my mother at an early age of 54 to cancer. And though I miss her and think about her everyday - I can't say there is a hole in my heart. Then I think about losing my husband or one of the kids. Would that leave a hole in my heart? An emptiness that only he or they could fill? I don't know. I've always been kind of shallow when it comes to emotions. It took a lot to make me cry until I hit pre-menopause! It takes a lot for me to write emotions.

But this hole in the heart business, had me asking my chapter what their thoughts were on it. I sometimes feel like I'm writing the wrong genre because I don't FEEL. I don't crave hugs and affection. Never have. When my husband and I were first married there were times he'd hug me and I'd push out of his arms. I didn't want touched. According to my mom I was like that as a child too. Some days it was all I could do to stand still while my kids hugged me around the legs. But I did. I know others need that embrace. There are times that embrace makes me crawl out of my skin and want to bolt.

I guess what I'm wondering, is the hole in the heart something most people feel at the loss of a loved one? I would love to hear your responses as it pertains to a story I am writing and would really like to get the character's feelings right.


Elisabeth Naughton said...

That's a tough question, Paty. And one I don't know that I can answer.

I've never lost a spouse or even a parent. I've never had anyone close to me die, but I did lose my dad in a way about 12 yrs ago. Some things happened in our family and he walked away. I've seen him once since then. We used to be very close, and his leaving was like a death to me. Yes, I have a hole in my heart and I don't think it'll ever be filled. Certainly not by a step-father (although my mother never remarried) or by my spouse or even my kids. It's there, and I can only imagine it's a fraction of what someone feels when they lose a spouse.

I think some of the girls on the loop were right. I think you can love again after the death of a spouse, but that special place they filled in your heart will always be empty.

Danita Cahill said...

I lost my grandma over 7 years ago. I grieved for two years. I still miss her terribly. She loved me unconditionally, and we only get so many of those in a lifetime. I lost my mom and my biological father both this summer. My DD talked about a dream she had about my mom last night and I started crying. Emotions for her were right on the surface anyway because last night I put the quilt she made me -- the last one she made before she died -- on a quilt stand last night. I touched the tiny handstitched squares where her fingers had been and got all choked up. But I am the opposite of you -- very passionate and emotional. It is my greatest strentgh and my biggest downfall.

The hole in my heart left when my mom and Grandma passed will never be filled. I'm not a walking bag of grief or anything, but I was very close with them both and I will always miss them terribly.

My oldest friend once said something that took me by surprise. "It would be hard to lose my husband. But I can't imagine losing my best friend." She meant me. I was at a loss for words. She and I still stay in touch, but she's moved an hour away and I don't see her often. She has new friends now too. But that was a very powerful statement. And I guess sort of a sad reality about her marriage.

Or not.

Women friends fill a different niche than our husbands, although now I would consider my husband my best friend.