One of the most difficult aspects of separation is dealing with the memories. I remember on my first solo grocery shopping trip, I burst into tears at the sight of the sparkling water my husband used to buy. If I couldn’t even handle the sight of an innocuous green bottle, how was I ever going to handle the places and objects that sparked real memories?
In the early months, my primary strategy was avoidance as much as possible. It wasn’t easy, though, as I lived about 6 miles from our former home and I still worked just around the corner. I secured a P.O. box in the area for that first year and I would take the most circuitous, traffic-laden route to get there so that I didn’t have to drive by my old neighborhood. Even so, I lived with constant reminders since I was so close to the crime scene.
Even while I tried to practice avoidance with the everyday reminders, I sought to consciously layer memories of the big things, I fought to take back psychic possession of certain locations or activities that he and I had done together.I staked my claim on those memories I refused to let him have them. By revisited with others and layering memories, I could once again look at those places with fondness.
It was a surreal time. I dragged city-loving friends on hikes through the mountains. I faced the place in the airport where I last touched my ex with a date, on our way to see the Smithsonian. I went with groups of friends to the restaurant where he and I ate weekly.
At first, this layering was very deliberate, intentional. Over time, I found that it became second nature, even to the point of applying a second layer without thought. Much as one does with a sweater when the wind bites a bit too much.