Each time I visit my husband’s grave, in attempts to do something fostering for my spirit, I first visit an eclectic, home décor shop. Their designs feature a mix of old and new with upscale, unique pieces. During each trip a certain treasure calls out to me. On the fourth month of my beloved’s death, I was drawn to a little, wooden sign that was etched with the following, “Live the Life You’ve Imagined.”

I can’t sugar-coat this; in my mind, I metaphorically wanted to knock that sign off the shelf and smash it. Despite my deep rooted sorrow and what every fiber of my being told me to do, I politely smiled and chit chatted with the manager as I bought the sign. My life was in shambles and this sign clearly upset me; yet, also enthralled me.

I did have the life I imagined with my husband. He was my fortress and soul mate. For 24 years we lived as one. How do I begin to keep the past alive, restructure, streamline and dream new dreams when my life has been deflated and obscured?

My husband and I had a New Year’s Day tradition. We would write down and share at least ten affirmations of our love that encompassed why we were thankful and admired each other. In addition, up to ten things that we wanted to build on, fortify and improve as a couple. We would pray together and then seek ways to implement our plans.

Last week as I was again sorting through possessions of our life together, I ran across the journals. Even though “us” is now “me,” reading through them empowered me to shift my focus. I desire to flourish and thrive. I feel my husband nudging me and our girls forward. I profoundly believe that our husbands would covet that for us; just as we would wish for them if our situations were reversed.

As I tearfully read our last entries from 2012, I decided to use the same format to give myself some desperately needed structure and hope. I began affirming myself. Praising God and others comes naturally as I see the good so vividly. On the other hand, commending “me” takes work. Consequently, uplifting ourselves is the first step in imagining and creating our new normal. Taking pride in how far we have come and realizing our self-worth in how far we can go is vital.

Next, I had to decipher how to re-imagine my life. I feel like I am continually talking myself out of living. Russell Baker so strongly cautioned in his quote, “Life is always walking up to us and saying, “Come on in, the living’s fine,” and what do we do? Back off and take its picture.” Joseph Campbell’s famous line truly encapsulates my objective, “Be willing to relinquish the life you’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for you.”

As I muddle my way through the spectrum of grief, below is a prayer that I am daily holding in the crevices of my soul. Whatever your belief system is you may adapt this to your needs.

“It isn’t easy to make a life altering transition, God; I am struggling to move ahead. I am striving to be brave amidst the uncertainty. Please pour over me your majestic holiness as I re-envision my life. Grant me boldness to expect the unexpected, the humility to live in the present, and instill in me the hunger to embrace your future plans.”

If you have any insights or suggestions, please comment as I am always grateful for our connection via Hope for Widows. May blessings surround you as you live and imagine your life in 2015.

Lisa Dempsey Bargewell

My blog topic for next Wednesday: My Husband’s Near-Death Experience