My life, as I knew it, is over. I lost my husband of 46 years one month ago today on April 20th at 7:19 pm. How can that be I ask myself? What happened in this crazy universe we live in? I won’t accept it. It can’t be true. But it is true and I am now a widow. What does that mean I ask myself. I don’t even know if I’ve ever said that word out loud. I never dreamed this would be my reality, but it is. In order to make some sense of this life I have decided to write this blog about my journey with grief. Now you may ask yourself, is she ok to do this? Isn’t it too early? Shouldn’t she wait until things settle down and she has started healing? Well my journey didn’t just begin, I have been trudging down this road for the last nine years.
My life changed forever on a Wednesday. Until that day, I thought I had it all. I don’t mean physical wealth, but what was much more important to me… A loving family, three beautiful daughters, a wonderful husband, a career I loved as a labor and delivery nurse and countless friends. I had three grandchildren that upon taking their first breath, stole my heart forever. I was a leader on my unit, the “go to” person for questions, advice, and was jokingly considered a “mother figure”. I had a comfortable home, plenty to eat and anything I wanted (“within reason”). I really could not have been more contented…and then my daughter died.
My world was shattered. “Why me?” I asked. I can’t survive this. Throughout my life I had two fears, one was the loss of my mother and the second was the loss of a child. I had seen this happen to others, people I loved dearly and I saw the pain in their eyes. It was a sadness that was always present even when they were laughing. I was convinced I would never survive such a loss. They must have been stronger than myself to be continuing without their child.
The question becomes What to do? Oh there are plenty of options, but none of them what I wanted. I was lost, afraid, lonely , scared, and most of all sad. I missed Lindsey and I didn’t want a life without her. I felt like I was in a maze and couldn’t find the way out. I cried most of the time, first thing in the morning and last thing at night and a lot in between. My family, as I knew it, had died too or so I thought. I read everything I could find on grief and survival, but this journey was too hard for a mom. I wasn’t that strong person I had been before. I was a shell of my former self. Quite frankly, surviving was too difficult, much easier to give up. During this dark time, I never missed a day of work, never didn’t get out of bed, never didn’t do what was expected of me in my former world. I just chose to collapse when I was done.
One day my oldest daughter looked at me and said “mom you never smile anymore” Previous to this moment, I had been told I was never seen without a smile. This hit me hard, what was I doing to all the others that I loved so dearly. I woke up that day and started searching for the exit to the maze. I had a choice to give up or live and Lindsey would want me to live and be happy. This was not my plan, certainly not what I wanted, but here I was and it was up to me to find my way. Along the way I read “The Grief Recovery Method” and discovered ways to help me survive. I might not be the “Me” I was, but maybe a different version of “me” would be ok. There is no magic to this, it is hard work and painful and worth it. We can’t always choose our path in life, but we can choose how we react to it.
That began my love affair with grief. Grief is hard and grief is forever. Well that’s depressing you’re thinking. Not really, it is a fact and once you embrace that fact, you will begin to heal. My husband, Rick, and I began a healing journey together. We attended a support group, The Compassionate Friends, and embarked on the journey we never expected to take. On that road, we met some of the most courageous people with the most inspirational stories of healing after loss. We began to laugh again and enjoy the simple things. We learned to not pressure ourselves to do things we couldn’t do. We learned self compassion. We began to heal and started looking at life in a different way. Five had become four and we had to learn that living and being happy didn’t mean forgetting. We learned to carry our memories like treasures. We protected them as if they were tiny pieces of hand blown glass, handling them with ease as we shared with others. Sharing wasn’t always easy, but that will be another post down the road. See, we still had so much left and so many that loved us. It was not an option to give up or exit. This new life before us was daunting and scary, but we took each other’s hand, fingers interlocking, and started going forward, together.
Now my best friend and the one I held hands with on that dark road full of twists and turns is gone too and I am not sure what that means. I invite you to join me on my journey searching for the light because once again I am trapped in a maze.