I've seen her go into his room. I've seen the way she drinks up any trace of him while standing among his things. I've seen her go through every piece of clothing, hoping for the smallest whiff of life left in the fibers. She holds them to her nose and breathes in deeply. She's often disappointed, but every once in awhile there is a brief moment of recognition. It quickly turns to nostalgia and she moves on to the next piece. I've seen her glance in the direction of his toys with a look of pleasure mixed with pain.
I try to think of ways to take that pain from her. Sometimes I think that I can "trick" her into thinking about something else. Perhaps if she could come up with a hobby, a goal, a purpose, that might make her feel better. And other times, I wonder if she just immerses herself in the pain, if it will in some way bring a moment of comfort. I find pictures and videos for her, and allow her to dream for a moment that the beautiful laugh she is hearing is right there in front of her, and not some memory that she is terrified of losing.
Sometimes if I look really hard, I feel like I catch of glimpse of the woman she might have been. I think perhaps she used to smile. She has laugh lines around her eyes that suggest that possibility. She has so many friends and family members trying desperately to surround her with their love and support. Surely someone with that kind connection to other people was once someone worth connecting to, right? Even if she were that person at one time, I don't know that it's possible that she'll ever find that again. Something terrible has happened to her. Someone has sucked the air from her lungs and the slowed the beat of her heart. She functions only to barely survive.
I've seen her hold her husband's hand. I've seen her hug others when they approach her. They seem to be both trying to provide comfort and find it at the same time. She follows through with the motions, but looks more empty each time. It isn't that she doesn't care for these people, or that she loves her husband less. The touch of a another human being doesn't hurt, but it also provides little comfort. In fact, it's the "nothingness" she finds in human contact that scares her the most.
So, how do I help her? How do I remind her to participate in the life that goes on around her? How do I fill her lungs with air again? How do I glue something that's shattered? I'm pretty sure than even if I could, I would never find all the pieces. I suppose at the very least, I'll just stop looking in the mirror.