After Nate died, I was told so many times that the first year would be the worst because of all the “firsts” I would have to go through without him. In the back of my mind, I knew this would probably be true, but I was so absorbed in trying to comprehend that my husband had just died that I didn’t even think about the year of big days ahead of me without him.
Eleven months in, those holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, monthaversaries…. Oh, how they hurt. Those moments, remembering how incredible they were once spent with my little family of three…Well, it takes me to dark places I never saw coming.
Our six-year wedding anniversary came exactly one month after Nate died…I barely made it out of bed.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, my 31st birthday all came soon after, and I found myself back in my doctor’s office begging to be placed back on antidepressants in fear of how desperately I just wanted to be reunited with Nate…
Why me? Why us? Why Nate? Why am I celebrating Christmas at a cometary and not in the comfort of our home as my husband and I watch our son tear through his presents?
Almost a year into this madness, I know now more than ever that there will never be any good answer to those why’s…There is simply, “what now?” I have to figure out a way to live without my husband beyond just surviving without him. One of the most important things I have learned in this journey of widowhood and grief, is that you have to have things to look forward to…To help escape the dark that consumes your life after a loss that wrecks your world.
As a widow, our lives revolve around death and loss. It is exhausting and gut wrenching living a life you never asked for or wanted, and I hurt every single day I wake up and lay my hand on the cold, empty side of the bed that once held the man who made my life so beautiful. So after the first few months, I finally started trying to plan things that would ideally give me something to look forward to to help make waking up each day not so hard.
I once again began accepting invitations out with my girlfriends, I tried planning one small, exciting “mommy and Ian” adventure a week to get us out of the house, my best friend and I bought tickets to see two big concerts over the summer, I started back to school, we stayed a week with my aunt and uncle out of town, we went camping, and I even planned a vacation all by myself for Ian and I which is coming up this weekend. All of these things have helped to give us things to look forward to, but it also brought forward a bit of sadness because I quickly realized that these things I am experiencing are still firsts because I am still having to experience them for a first time without Nate.
For example, I remember my first night out with my girlfriends in November two months after Nate had passed away. It was so refreshing getting dressed up, putting makeup on, and having a few drinks with my friends at a bar…I was so excited to feel human again, but I just remember sitting at the bar as my girlfriends talked, looking around and just feeling sad. Nate wouldn’t be there when I got home. It was the first time I was out as a “single” woman…and it hurt.
Each thing I do with Ian has also been a first without Nate, and yes the moments have brought happiness and given us something to look forward to, but each one is always laced with a bit of sadness too. The first time Ian went on a rollercoaster at the fair, his daddy wasn’t there to sit next to him. The first time he went to preschool, played t-ball or soccer, swam without swimmies, went down a tunnel slide by himself, Nate couldn’t be there to cheer him on in person. I am confident beyond words that Nate watches over and is cheering on his son on a daily basis, but it just hurts to not be able to see Nate’s face and watch his reaction as Ian continues to grow up and experience things for the first time….Experiences like vacation this next week to Florida.
The last time I vacationed in Florida was in 2009 with Nate. We were just boyfriend and girlfriend at that time, but even then, I knew I wanted to marry him. I felt so blessed to bring him to West Palm Beach because it was a place I had been visiting since I was a baby since my grandparents lived there. I remember then getting excited about bringing our future family to the beach together for the first time…A blissful ignorance, having no idea that life would inevitably take that opportunity from us. From Nate…
Tomorrow I will be taking our son to Florida by myself to spend some time with one of Nate’s best friends and his wife. It will be the first time Ian flies on a plane. I have flown twice this year without Nate which gave me a boost of confidence in being able to travel without him, but this will be the first family vacation with my little family of just two. Nate will not be sitting next to us as the plane takes off, and he won’t be there to hold Ian’s hand as he steps foot into the ocean for the first time…he won’t be there to make sandcastles with Ian at the beach…How unfair is that? For both Ian and Nate.
He. Should. Be. Here.
But he isn’t. And so the “what now” has had to take priority.
So tomorrow, I am going to start this trip with our son. This past year has been full of firsts, and full of attempts at trying to take myself out of my comfort zone and prove that I can do things that I never had to do when Nate was here…and tomorrow will be yet another one. I don’t want to take a trip without him, but I wasn’t given a choice…So damnit, I am going to prove that I can single mom the SHIT out of this vacation. I am going to smile and tell Ian how proud his daddy would be as he travels on a plane for the first time. I am going to reiterate to my son that even though we can’t see him, his daddy will be watching him as he sees the ocean for the first time. I am going to try with all of my might to enjoy this vacation as much as possible despite knowing I will desperately miss my husband and ache for his presence…
This life is crazy. I don’t understand it. I don’t know why my son and I were dealt these cards…I truly don’t know why anyone is dealt a hand like this. But tomorrow will be here in a few hours, and I am going to get on that plane with my boy knowing his daddy will be right next to us. I can only hope he continues to give me strength to smile and laugh more then I cry and make this trip as special as possible for our son.
Ian and mommy vacation, 2018? Here we come. And Nate? Please give us loads of daddy’s skies to watch before bed each night.