I’ve been having some emotional ups and downs lately. There are so many things rolling around in my head. For one, I just spent another romantic Hallmark holiday alone, which forced me to once again face the fact that I truly am a single woman. So that brings me back to the decision about whether or not it’s time to remove my wedding ring. And then there’s my second trip to Florida without Rick. As I make plans, it’s hard thinking about going alone again this year. In general, I’m questioning what exactly I want to do alone, just me, myself, and I. It’s a new year, and as spring approaches with new beginnings, I’m not sure the old plans, the plans Rick and I shared, still work for me.
What do I want to do? How can these decisions be so difficult?
Then, I read a blog by a young widow that hit home. Kelly Cann is a fellow Hope for Widows blogger. Her life and her grief experience are nothing like mine. First, she was 27 when her husband passed away, and I’m a 60-something widow nearing retirement who can barely remember my twenties. Kelly’s husband also died suddenly and unexpectedly. Rick died ten months after his cancer diagnosis. His death was only unexpected because it occurred when he was in remission, but other than that, it was following a long ordeal, not sudden and earth-shattering, like Kelly’s experience.
So what could this young widow have written that touched me so deeply?
Kelly discussed her reflections as she sat at her husband’s grave. His grave was just across from that of her friend who died at 14. She says this:
…But as I read the loving tributes left on my friend’s grave and my husband’s, I’d remind myself over and over that my life really wasn’t finished. I was sitting graveside, breathing the air above the earth, feeling the sun’s rays on my face and running my fingers through the blades of the warm summer grass.
I was meant to do something with my life. There was a role I still had to play in the world. I was meant to have dreams – and to dream big. Period.
Life dealt me the biggest card it had to play, so I’m dealing my biggest card back. I’m dreaming. Dreaming Big.
Don’t believe that the best of your life is behind you. Take all the time you need, but allow your heart and mind to make space for dreaming. You deserve to dream and then to make that dream a reality. DREAM BIG. PERIOD.
Wow! Those powerful words hit me. Reading them awakened something inside me. That’s it! That’s my problem! I’ve stopped dreaming.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened. Was it when Rick got sick and the dreams we shared began to dissolve? Was it after his death, when all my hopes and dreams for the future we had planned turned to dust? I know that in the year and a half since his death, I’ve worked to recreate my life, little by little, but I haven’t really begun to dream again. It reminds me of Maslow’s hierarchy: as a widow, I’ve been working to survive emotionally and to reshape my life, but while concentrating on the day-to-day, I haven’t had the energy or inspiration to consider creating new dreams, let alone lofty goals.
Or what if it’s simply my age? I feel like my life is winding down now: thinking about retirement, concentrating on where I want to quietly live out the rest of my life. Have I forgotten that I still have time for big dreams, for a little excitement?
But reading Kelly’s blog post inspired me. So what if I’m 62 years old? So what if I’m no longer that young single mother I was before I met Rick, a woman with my whole life ahead of me? I used to have dreams for my future. I had big dreams! And reading Kelly’s blog made me remember that I’m a person who needs big dreams. My husband died, and the dreams we shared will be no more, but I’m still here, and I need to dig deep and create some dreams and plans again. And, because I’m no spring chicken, I’d better get to it before the clock runs out!
Maybe that yearly trip we took, the one we enjoyed together, isn’t the right vacation plan for me now, but maybe it is. Maybe the house I live in isn’t the right location or size for me now, but I’m fortunate to have other options. But perhaps I can go further than just readjusting to my new circumstances, my life without Rick. Maybe I can dig deep and discover some new plans that fit who I am today.
Perhaps I can dream big.
Maybe I should see if I can recall those dreams I had when I was a 20-something or even a 40-something, but that remain unfulfilled. Maybe I can conjure up some new ideas that I didn’t have the time or resources to even imagine when I was a young, financially strapped single mother. Maybe I can hope again, have a reason to live my life to the fullest, despite the fact that – as Kelly so succinctly put it – “life dealt me the biggest card it had to play.”
Thank you, my fellow widow, for awakening my sleeping mind, for planting a seed of desire in my foggy, funky brain. You’ve reminded me of something that I’d forgotten that I need to exist. I need to dream, just as I need air to breathe, and after coping with grief for so long, I think I’ve forgotten how. It’s time to pull myself up, dust myself off, and start brainstorming new plans, new goals, and new dreams. And most of all, I need to remember to… DREAM BIG. PERIOD.
I asked Kelly, I ask you too – what exactly do you dream about? What are the big dreams? What exactly do you want to do? I have no qualms about dreaming, it’s just that nothing seems even remotely fun or worth dreaming about after my husband’s death. I’m 35, and I do not think age has anything to do with it.
I have to say, it’s been 18 months for me, and this is the first I’ve even thought about dreaming or hoping for anything. Just coping with the constant grief and trying to continue on with my life took all my concentration. And I felt very little joy in anything even up to the first year and beyond. It was almost like being underwater and fighting to stay alive. Learning to create new habits and fill my time without Rick was consumed all my energy. Even socializing was work. When I went to see a funny movie, I smiled, but no guffaws. When I felt any joy at all, I was stunned. I almost felt drugged and definitely had no ambition, or hope of ever enjoying my life again.
Something has started to slowly change now and I remember that I used to be a happy person – or at least I think I was. It feels like so long ago. And for so long it seemed like without Rick here on earth, I could never be happy again. But, little by little, I am feeling like myself again. I also know how incredibly sad Rick would be if I didn’t live again, since he loved life and would want me to live it to the fullest.
I guess I’m not sure of what the dreams will be now. My therapist advised me to create a vision board and I’m trying to brainstorm ideas. I used to want to be an accredited genealogist. I’ve always wanted to be a published author (a REAL one – the books I have out now were self-published), I used to want to travel. I used to want to go to writing and genealogy conferences. That’s all I’ve come up with so far, but I want to think of things that are exciting and will make me look forward to the next day or week or month. I won some writing awards in college and maybe I’ll start entering more contests. I’ve kind of had a dream of having an article or essay published in a magazine. As you can see most of mine are genealogy or writing related, but I’ve also always wanted to learn to play an instrument, maybe the piano, or really master learning another language. I may come up with something travel-related, although going alone isn’t as inspiring as the trips I enjoyed with my husband.
I just need SOMETHING. I feel like my whole life and future revolved around my husband and my love for him, and life became empty. He’s not coming back, and I want to honor his memory by living, really living, as he would want me to. Hope this helps. Please let me know if you find something to inspire you. I’m wishing you all my best!!