Five years post Annie’s death, I still can’t accept what I know I must. The loneliness just hangs around me like a fog. Although the darkness has subsided,  I feel like I’ve been wandering in overcast skies now, for what seems like an eternity.  And perhaps it is, or will be.

When you’re living alone in what was supposed to be the glory days, full of fun, laughter, and retirement with the one you love, how could everything go so wrong.  In a soft voice — I don’t know.

As I look ahead, what do I have to look forward to. Yes, I have two daughters that have blessed me with some beautiful grandchildren, but what does that mean. It may provide some comfort in the middle of a storm, but it doesn’t fix anything. The void I feel is real, and can’t be replaced by the love of family. It’s a totally different love.

People say, “Bob, love is out there, you just have to find it.”  “No it’s not! Well maybe.” But there can never be another Annie.

When I lost my dog as a child and I cried, I was simply handed a new dog that was somehow supposed to make things all better. Sometimes a simple, but at the time logical solution to a problem, just doesn’t fix anything.  Certainly not a broken heart.

And I’m finding that out in a big way. Losing in love, during a long term committed relationship sets in motion a complex series of events that will bring even, the strongest person to their knees. Consider this. My planned future with Annie was swept away prematurely, and after suffering from a long and difficult grieving period, I’m now dealing with the loneliness which is slowly absorbing the time I have left here on earth. And I don’t believe for a second, I’m lacking in the wisdom needed to figure my circumstances out, as I think I already have.  Perhaps, there is no way out.

I know I could find some happiness in the moment from dating, and perhaps I will. But I’d never use dating as an illusion for happiness. Meaningful happiness takes time and a lot of effort to become special.

My marriage to Annie was for 39 years. Doesn’t it follow, that in most cases in today’s world, a couple that stayed together that long, had figured love out. Love is very complicated and can take years to nurture and mature. All the ups and downs, the struggles, and simply daily life can be challenging at times. But no matter what we went through, we loved each other through it, and because of that we were due to reap the rewards of a forever marriage.  And believe me, when you reach that point and you are still in love…What a wonderful world. Being together, loving and sharing in life until the end. That’s priceless.

However, sometimes fate intervenes, and “Life Happens.”  That was our case. It was, and is still totally beyond my comprehension. We’re talking about life here, and the effects the loss has had on the survivor of a couple, that appeared to have paid their dues to society and were preparing to reap the benefits during the final chapter of their lives’. But instead of retiring together, I’m left writing stories and trying to figure out why, some things aren’t meant to be.

A friend of mine that I respect, said to me recently;  Bob you need to understand and come to terms with what happened.  And I say, “if it were that easy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”  You see, he’s not in my position, even though he’s been married to his wife as long as Annie and I were married. I wonder what he’d say if it were he, that suffered the loss instead of me. The truth, is part of the problem. If loneliness was a disease, and if one thousand or fifty thousand folks got the same disease, it will act differently in each one of them, although the treatment may be the same. But what works for some will not work for all.  There is no magical potion or pill that will make the loneliness go away. And yes, it will vary in degree of difficulty from one person to another. The more you love, the more you lose, in love.

Of course, after a loss most folks don’t spend every waking hour of their life in loneliness. And nor do I.  But it’s always there, hiding, often times in plain sight.  When I see a mature couple holding hands, or having a gentle kiss, it makes me take a deep breath, and the loneliness starts creeping back in.

So, if I were to get into a relationship, am I looking for love, or trying to quench a thirst — loneliness. That’s dangerous territory for me, and as I don’t want to hurt anyone or get hurt, it’s difficult to be that guy.

Here’s the thing.  When a person is grieving, contained within the “grief ball,” there’s many emotions.  One prominent emotion would be loneliness. Over time, as the “grief ball” starts breaking down, emotions start gradually drifting away. In my case, there was one that stuck around after the grief.  Loneliness. In my opinion, due to the chaos of the black whole caused by grief and its ability to suck me and everything around me down it, when grief dissipated, loneliness was still there. Why! Because like grief, it can also be a separate but core product of your loss, and serves as a reminder that it “ain’t” over until it’s over.  When loneliness is intermingled with grief, the grief can be very intense. But as I found, there’s a difference between the two emotions and fortunately my grief has dissipated.

In conclusion, no matter how difficult your journey turns out to be, never give up on love. I haven’t, and I don’t have a clue when things will change for me, but I know they will over time. And when they do, I shall capture the moment.

I love people and appreciate all the advice I get.  But some of you know what I know, sometimes through no fault of our own, life can get very complicated over a loss. Consequently, we glean a new perspective of what life is all about, which makes our journey a bit more difficult and at times logic does not apply.

Always remember, our journey post loss should always be about life and living our lives to the fullest. We’ve seen the alternative, and I for one am not ready for that.

Shawshank Redemption:  “Get busy living or get busy dying.”  It’s your choice, choose wisely.

Annie’s beautiful online memorial

Hear the whole story in Bob’s book, Because of Annie. All proceeds are donated to cancer charities.

About Bob Harrison

Bob Harrison was raised in the heart of the Redwoods in the far northwest comer of northern California. The little town of Crescent City, California was located near some of the world’s tallest trees, with the west shoreline being the Pacific Ocean. Bob spent most of his time fishing the two local rivers where some of the finest Steelhead and Salmon fishing is located. He was also well known up and down the north coast as an avid motorcycle racer, winning several hundred trophies, and one Oregon State title. Bob graduated from Del Norte High School with the class of 1966, then spent a one year stint at the College of the Redwoods, before having a strong sense of patriotism and joining the United States Air Force. After three years of service, Bob met Annie, the love of his life, and they got married in England in 1972. Bob’s love of country pushed him on to what turned out to be a very successful career, retiring in 1991. Bob’s last military assignment was Wichita, Kansas, a place he and Annie decided to call home. Together they developed and ran two very successful antique businesses until the stranger knocked on their door and changed their lives forever; “Because of Annie.”