There is a quote that says, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

I wish someone would have told me six years ago that I would be “okay”. I wish there was another widow who could have told that even though I couldn’t see the road ahead, I’d eventually get out of the dark place to which my grief had taken me.

Yesterday, as I sat in church – the very place I was when I got the news that my husband had died –  the pastor eloquently spoke of Christ and the Resurrection. As part of the sermon, he talked shared a “spoiler alert”, how even though we have hard times, lose people, etc., that we’d eventually get to a place of healing and get to the other side of pain.

I want to now give you a spoiler alert.

Your husband died but that’s not how your story has to end. I would never diminish the pain of losing a spouse. I live with that pain every single day. I do want you to know, however, that there is life on the other side of the pain, the hurt, the disappointment, the anger…the death. We get to choose how we ultimately respond to this crappy set of circumstances. We choose if we will become better or bitter. We decide if we live big and boldly or if we become defined by our partner’s death. Will you cease to live, laugh and love again? Will you become reclusive, simply waiting for your “turn”?

Death often buries our hope. It makes “cannot” a part of our daily vocabulary. I cannot raise my children alone. I cannot make all these day-to-day decisions without him/her. I cannot do the things I had on my bucket list? I cannot get through school without his/her support. I cannot survive without my spouse.

Please know, as my pastor said, that life is always stronger than death. I recently shared this and it resonated with many so I’ll share it here too:

Widowhood is like a jigsaw puzzle.

Except, we only have the pieces – the beautiful picture that is supposed to be our guide is gone.

Sure, we have the border pieces, but we have no idea what our life will look like once the reality of our spouse’s death settles in.

So, we dump the pieces of our shattered lives onto a table.

We examine the pieces – pieces of who we were, who we are and ultimately who we want to be.

Some pieces don’t even seem like they are from our puzzle set. They seem like leftovers from another place and time.

Yet, with each passing day, we sort, twist and rotate each piece trying to make sense of it. Attempting to figure out how the piece fits into the bigger picture…a picture of what? We don’t know.

Some days, we get to connect several pieces together. Other days, we can’t find a single corresponding color.

But we keep going.

There are beautiful, color pieces some days – days when there is hope and happiness.

Sometimes the puzzle pieces are dull and dark and we wonder if the picture is even worth creating. Are we creating a thing of beauty or a reflection of our pain?

But we continue.

Day by day we work on the puzzle, unsure, insecure and afraid. We don’t know what we’re doing, just doing the best we can with the pieces that we were given.

After a good long while, we see the beauty of the puzzle coming together. It’s not whole yet but we can see a glimmer of the bigger picture.

We’ll find there are pieces in random sections, waiting to be put together.

We worry we won’t be able to connect these miscellaneous clusters together.

But we must move forward, even if it’s baby steps.

Then one day, our eyes fill with tears as reach for the final piece of the puzzle.

We’ve created a masterpiece out of the pieces that seemed so random.

But, the final piece is nowhere to be found.

Is the puzzle any less beautiful because a single – though important piece – is missing?

Celebrate all that you’ve accomplished – whether you’re just now pouring out the puzzle pieces onto the table or you’re beginning to see your life come together post-loss.

You can still create a life of beauty, love, laughter, and happiness with a puzzle piece missing.

You may not see it now – or even tomorrow – but the spoiler alert is that in the end, you’re going to make it out of the rawest stage of grief. You’re going to be okay. “Okay” may not look like it would have had your spouse still been alive. This new “okay” will be different for sure. But, always remember that as long as there is life, we can choose how we live it – depite our circumstance.

About 

Kerry Phillips’ world was forever changed in March 2012 when just one week after her first wedding anniversary she got the call that no one wants to hear: your husband has died. Determined to not allow grief to drag her under, Kerry chose to become an advocate for the widowed community, sharing her own journey and those of other young widows. She also realized there weren't support groups for widows and widowers wanting to venture back into the world of dating and started Young, Widowed & Dating. It provides a forum for those seeking a new love story to share their dating adventures and insights into life after loss. Her weekly blog covers topics ranging from relationships with in-laws to dating while raising children and everything in between.

She's a contributor to the book, "Widowed But Not Wounded: The Hustle & Flow of 13 Resilient Black Widowed Women", and has authored, "Writing & Widowing: Journaling the Journey", a series of journal prompts for the widowed community. Her new book, "The One Thing: 100 Widows Share Lessons on Love, Loss, and Life", is a resource for new widows told from the vantage point of those who have lived it.

When she’s not blogging, Kerry is busy raising a feisty preschooler and power-walking her way through local 5K races.