My entire blog has been about my real time self-discovery of walking this path of a widow, lost in grief, agonizing over the loss of my guy, struggling to find my purpose, reaching for a light I can only sense but had yet to see.
If you read me regularly, I think you might have realized before I did that something had shifted. I have been reluctant to embrace it, especially when writing for my fellow widows. As a group, I have come to understand that we love deeply, we know the cost of this life and that the currency to pass on to a higher purpose is love. We all feel it, it is integrated into our being and fused with our souls. When you lose your spouse, whether you are ready or not you transcend the everyday monotony and see the higher reason for everything. I do think that is part of what the grief we experience is, not just losing our spouse but realizing how many people are shuffling about their everyday lives unaware of the love that flows around them. I find that I genuinely feel love for most people. Certainly not romantic love, but a deeper sense of community and a desire to see my fellow humans witness life on the level I am learning about; less time for drama I am greedy to spend time with those that inspire me to be better. All 12,000 plus of us who are part of the Hope for Widows followers already know this. And I feel like it’s kind of sacred in a way, this love we all learn to emit.
So this shift, this shift I don’t want to accept. It’s hard to stand in front of you knowing so many are still behind me on the path. I don’t want to cause anyone any pain. But it is important to share it with you. Before you read these next words know that I honor your path. I have so much empathy for your pain if you have just started, or if it has been longer for you than for me. I do not accept the responsibility to discuss the shift with you lightly and my hope is that all of you that want to get here do.
I have roughly referred to my connection with my husband but haven’t discussed it outright. Since the moment he passed away I have been able to feel him around us. Whether he is gently guiding me or sending me sweet signs that he is still with us, he is there. I really feel that this exits between us because our relationship was built from real love. Everything he did, he did out of love for the three of us. Mistakes and triumphs, all those choices were really about how much he loved his wife and two kids. He wanted to give us the best he could provide. I feel like that is why our connection remains so strong.
During this past month, while there has been a mental shift there has also been a physical one. I have started to go through as many boxes as I can emotionally handle in a day. Throwing away so many things we have accumulated over a life together. So many things we both carried with us through the years only to realize now that most of those things aren’t important at all. The things that pull at my heartstrings are much simpler than books or small trinkets. His handwriting on a box, the faint smell of him on the clothes still on his hangers. These things represent a lingering energy I want to hold on to; I need to hold on to for comfort. The kids will wear a shirt of his and it will end up in the wash. I still put it back up on his side of the closet, hanging on the extra-large hangers purchased for his 3XL clothes. There are still times I go into that closet and bury my head in the mass of sleeves and shirt tails to smell him and feel like he is giving me a hug.
Over the past 16 months and 17 days I have had many opportunities where I could stay buried in despair. They were all seemingly insignificant moments. Wherein I felt myself make a conscience choice to focus on the positive and push forward through the fog. These have been small steps. But each small step along the way has steered me down the path; a place where I have chosen to find the love in the loss instead of getting lost in the pain.
I really don’t think there is a right or wrong way. I think that there is no predestined way for a widow. I know for me I chose to try to find the positive and walk through the pain, instead of staying locked in the pain, for our kids. Last June, while driving home from somewhere our son was trying to talk to me about something, I can’t even remember what. But he was trying to engage with me in the same manner he had with his dad and I was doing my best to react the way my husband would. But in the middle of the conversation he stopped and started to get teary. He said, “Mom, you haven’t smiled since dad died. I just want you to smile again. Why can’t I make you smile?” Of course I couldn’t explain to him why I was practically catatonic; only a few short weeks of his dad’s stark absence from our lives. My heart was shattered and any moment, even fleeting, of happiness left me so guilt ridden I sunk lower in despair. But our sweet 13-year-old boy needed to know there could be happiness in the world without his dad. Steve would absolutely want me to create a world for our kids where they could rise to their utmost potential and live a life which honored him by making sure they felt comfortable finding happiness in their world. And as their mother I had to lead by example and find the light. And so I began this journey to find the light.
So here I am. These months and choices I have made since his death have lead me here. To this place I didn’t actually want to be. This shifted place where I can feel his guiding force urging me to be brave, to take some chances, and to grow more than I thought I could in this time. To embrace this shift and step boldly out of that tunnel I spoke about and to own my future. I have reluctantly found myself amenable to going to a movie by myself, dining by myself, starting to plan our future while living in this comfortable present which has so many reminders of his daily habits.
So what exactly does this shift mean for me? Who knows! That is what is amazing. The possibilities are for me to find. But I can tell you I never thought I would be able to feel strength without his physical presence, to feel confidence without his opinion, and find joy in everyday life without his love. But here I am, here we are. His little family turning their engines back on and getting ready to show the world what we are made of.
So what has enabled me to follow this shift? Is it love? What does it stem from? I believe its gratitude. Gratitude for the life we lived, the love we shared, the man he was, the legacy he left me to care for. Even through all the pain, I have had gratitude for everything he gave me. Every moment of pain, not one ounce of it has not been washed in gratitude that he chose me to be his wife. How lucky I was to get to share a life with him, children, to get to care for the legacy he left behind. And aside for more time with him, there is nothing I would change about our life together and the grief process I have endured to get to this place. A place where I feel nothing but grateful for his love and life. Even though it means enduring a lifetime without him.
For me, when I can focus on being grateful for everything we were together, to each other, that is where I find my strength to live a life I think he would be proud of. He was hilarious. He was witty. He would keep saying “That’s my girl, you got this. Show them what a badass I married.” The other side of that coin, one in which I might find myself crippled in fear and pain, unaware that our children were looking to me to find peace, to feel permission to find happiness in the everyday again. Well if I didn’t make that work for them, I am not sure I could forgive myself for getting so lost that I lost them. I want them to be grateful he lived, not in despair that he is gone.
The song I leave you with today is special to me. When I first heard it, it seemed as though the song writer must have been following our love story and wrote about us. You see, being married to Steve was always an adventure. I never knew what was ahead but I trusted him with my whole heart. I knew he would take care of us, he was a good man. I knew he was amazing. There is nothing in the world I am more proud of than that I was brave enough to believe in love and live a life worth living instead of a life calculated and controlled by parents who never cared for anything but imagined superiority over those around them.
“Tightrope” Michelle Williams – The Greatest Showman