A year after Mike died, my children and I moved across the country. One of the first and most lasting comments I have received on our move is that I must have needed a fresh start or to start over.

I want to scream, “There is no fresh start! There is no starting over!”

I have so many feelings arise when people say this to me. While I try to see their hearts behind making the comment, it honestly ticks me off!

Sure there is still life ahead of us. Sure I may one day remarry, who knows. I certainly no longer see myself as used up, my life over, as I did at age 33. That sounds so dramatic now! Except for the fact that I had given everything for a life with a person that one day just didn’t come home. And at age 33 with little kids, it’s hard to see any sort of life possible beyond what the two of you dreamed of. Now I recognize that whether it be for my children, a future spouse, a career, or what may come, I have something to offer now that I didn’t before. I didn’t come to that realization from starting over! I came to it through pain and hard work. But I digress.

The reality is, I’ve got three kids. His three kids. My son looks just like him. I used to pray for a mini version of my husband and God didn’t disappoint. Down to the eye shape and color, He delivered. God is good!  And even if I wanted to, I could never really start over. Every waking day is spent raising these precious beings. Their father is woven throughout them: in their mannerisms, their expressions, preferences, even in the way they put their arms when they sleep at night. I see it as a gift he gave to me that keeps on giving. Starting over would imply that I would want to somehow erase or minimize my husband’s role and place in our lives.

Even this game we are playing tonight, HE bought and is a reminder of him!

He is sprinkled throughout our lives and possessions in countless ways. Why would I ever want to get away from the thought of and tangible ties to him? How ludicrous I’ve thought to myself over the years.

Sure it’s painful.

Absolutely it has felt sometimes like a bandaid being ripped off or a cut reopened when his name is mentioned or I am reminded of the life I once had that can no longer be. But why would I ever not want to think of him and be reminded of his goodness and impact on my life?

He is the one who made me a wife and a mother and I still wear both of those as badges of honor.

He produced and was so intentional with our children in his short time as their earthly father. I have the tremendous privilege to see that the time he took modeling and teaching them ways to treat people, live their faith, be who they were created to be, is already radiating out of each of them. It wasn’t lost. Those seeds were planted and nurtured by him, even if for only a short time.

So I have come to guess it’s well-meaning people’s way of rationalizing why a young woman with three little kids would choose to move away from her home state. Why I would choose to move away from family and friends. I can’t say I blame them! It doesn’t make sense…at least not on paper. I usually just leave the conversation at that because explaining my why always feels to me like I’m trying to convince them, rationalize it, like somehow it was wrong.

So, they’ve shared their opinions and I’ve listened.

No, I didn’t wait until the first year was over.

I laugh to myself when I think about all the rules and guidelines that have been placed on me especially in that first year. Rules and guidelines that often cause more harm and judgement than offer grace and understanding.

Not only did I make a big decision that first year to move, I made it 6 months into my widow journey. I also continued to make big decisions! I knew it was what was best and I followed through with it. Every fiber of my being conceded. I had complete peace surrounding it at the time and still do. Of course I was afraid and uncertain of all the details but that is life – full of uncertainty and scary things!

I understand the well meaning behind their concern and rationalizing… but for us, it was a good decision. It has come with consequences as all decisions do. Yet still, it has continued to present what has been best for us as a family.

What I think moving away HAS afforded us is the space to become a family, again. There was some major reassembling that had to take place.

My husband, their dad, was our person.

He was our calm.

He had a very tangible presence that when he died, left huge gaping holes.

We had to learn again how to be a family without him.

We had to learn that things that once worked for us, no longer did, and to be okay with that. To be okay with change, to be flexible, to let stuff go that was holding us down.

We had to learn that even though we may not look like we once did, we were still a whole family. We had to learn to not compare ourselves to those intact families around us.

I think we are still learning these things and more. Somehow as the mama, I knew we needed space to be able to do that.

Moving away has also given us the space to honor our own grief. It has given us space to honor him and to touch others with his spirit. Now the East Cost, Haiti, Canada, and all the other places we have visited, spent time in, made friends in, know Mike because they know us. We are carriers and bearers of his love for people. Without saying, the acts of service we’ve done since he died have had him laced all throughout.

And what I learn and continue to teach my children is THAT is what this life is about.

That we get the privilege to keep on living.

That we have this safe space to discover and grow into people that have been faced with heartache and tremendous loss and have come out reassembled into beings living life with all we have.

That we get to take all that love and grief and weave it beautifully into our acts of service and love toward one another and toward others.

So no, moving has not given us a fresh start and we haven’t started over. It has simply allowed us to move through this experience. To walk through this journey of grief, a little more unencumbered, so that we can live this life well.