They don’t tell you at the hospital after you’ve unplugged your partner from the machines keeping her alive, that you’re expected to leave the dark room and go back home, and unlike in the movies and on TV, the halls aren’t empty. No, there are dozens of people there waiting on lesser things. They hand you a little clear bag — which you will be charged ten cents for because you had the nerve to not bring a reusable bag — to carry home your dead partner’s things. Her pants and ring and the earrings she stole from you because you rightly told her that her earrings made her look like a grandma and even her fancy bra that’s been cut in half by those weird little doctor scissors.
They don’t tell you that when you get home, you’ll take up residence on the ugly beige carpet that you often talked about replacing but always found more important uses for the money. You sit down, right next to the big blood spot that came from every orifice of your partner’s head, and you’ll sleep there for four days until your son comes back home and you have to pretend that you have it together, so as to not instill unhealthy things in him. They don’t tell you that you’ll cling to that spot, that stained piece of carpet where the last of your wife remains with some hope. You’ll rock back and forth and turn the TV on and off a dozen times to see what she was doing when she died. Incidentally, you will find she was playing a game about building a kingdom where everyone could live happily ever after.
They don’t tell you what you’re supposed to say the next day at 7 AM when your friend sends a message to your group text. “How is she?” it reads, and you have to tell her how she is. They don’t tell you how to handle the ridiculous looks you’ll get from neighbors, their mouths turned down into exaggerated frowns, as they give you bottles of Pepto Bismol because your partner mentioned once that grief makes you puke and Pepto helps.
They don’t tell you that the ache in your triceps from futilely doing CPR will eventually fade and you’ll feel betrayed by your body. You’ll want the ache to stay forever because its presence feels like the only indication that you tried and that you’re sorry because you failed. You’ll need that ache to stay because while it’s there, everything else hurts a little bit less.
They don’t tell you that after three weeks, you’ll wake to find a very unsettling pain throughout your body and you’ll hope that maybe you’re dying too, only to realize that the pain is the feeling of not having been touched by another human being in 504 hours and you’ll think that math seems impossible because what world can continue to turn when your wife hasn’t been in it for 504 hours?
They don’t tell you that you’ll need to get a roommate a month after your partner’s funeral because every choice you made, you made as two people and now you’re one person and can’t afford your home anymore. That you’ll have to clean out her closet that overflows with clothes she can’t wear, and you can’t get rid of, to make room for someone else’s clothes and shoes and you’ll worry, what if this makes your partner’s scent disappear?
They don’t tell you that your insurance won’t pay the hospital bill because you went to the wrong emergency room. And that when the bill comes in the mail, the details will include “life sustaining measures” that certainly didn’t sustain any life. Hers or yours. They definitely don’t tell you that when you don’t pay it because it’s $80,000 and what 36-year-old has a spare 80 grand, the collections agency will call your ten-year-old son every day.
They don’t tell you that when your partner is far more internet-famous than you, you will forever be known, marked, as “that game person whose partner died” and that’s how people will recognize you on the street. They don’t tell you about the unrelenting grief of thousands of strangers on the internet wanting to join you in your grief because they’ve come to believe that this is their loss too. Or that you’ll be inundated with emails from people wanting to interview you about your dead partner, only recognizing the importance of her contribution to the world after she’s dead, and they’ll ask the same six questions over and over again.
They don’t tell you that when you spend five years of your life within five feet of your partner because you’re also her caregiver, without her, you won’t even know who you are anymore and you’ll have to move 300 miles away to figure it out again. They don’t tell you that running from it doesn’t help, that you still won’t know who you are, but now you’ll feel that way around rolling hills and horses instead of cramped sidewalks and city buses.
They don’t tell you how many times you’ll be told, by well-meaning idiots, “At least she can hear in heaven,” concerning her deafness, and “Well it’s better for you that she died so young” concerning her age. Or that you’ll become adept at imagining pushing these well-meaning idiots into traffic because that’s the kind of person these well-meaning idiots have helped you become.
They don’t tell you that when you finally start to feel sane and like you can start to breathe again and maybe even get your shit together, that you’ll have good days, a new life, you’ll exercise, run your frustration and anger out and your emotions into exhaustion every morning because as it turns out, you can’t run from grief but you can run out grief. And that when you start to feel good about the shape you’re in, the shape your life is in, you’ll feel guilty for having new muscles that your partner never saw and a life she never would have imagined.
No, all they tell you is, “I’m sorry, your partner has died.”