I married the love of my life in 2015 and believed my life to be complete finally. I had a fantastic career, found a man who loved me wholly, and we were just a perfect fit. Eleven months later, I was saying goodbye to him in the hospitals’ ICU while his body slowly shut down after a cardiac arrest. He was the healthiest person in my life – running, cycling and always on the go. It all didn’t make sense to me.

In search of some connection to other women who might have some understanding of the pain I was experiencing, I took to Facebook to find some groups. I jumped around from one closed group to another when I discovered the blog posts on Hope for Widow’s Foundation. This new space is where I found support and safety within a community of widows.

Year One: Devastation

I can honestly say that I don’t remember much of the first year of widowhood. There are specific flashes of things that I will never forget from the smell of the hospital to holding Tony’s hand as he took his last breath, to coming home to an empty house, the panic attacks and the numbness and brokenness of my soul. I know that I did a lot of things that first year, but I can’t remember much of it. I often find myself making that time as the void in my life. I know that I talked to people and somehow was a functioning adult, but I don’t fucking know how I did it.

People would often tell me how strong I was – I didn’t have much choice in the matter. It was either live or die, and I chose to live. Looking back, I don’t know why I decided to live. There was something inside of me that whispered to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Year Two: Reality Sets In – And it Sucks!

I had heard through the Facebook groups, that the second year is worse than the first. I didn’t believe them – and I was proven wrong. The second-year sucked ass!

The reality of the loss sets in. People no longer ask how you are or drop in to check-in. Everyone around me went on with their lives and somehow wanted me to do the same, but I wasn’t close to being ready. I was angry that time was passing so quickly and that someone I had been left behind. I had to start battling with the reality that I was married without a husband. I didn’t feel single and yet I was living the single life. Straddling two reality’s at the same time, exhausted and angered me. I wanted my life back, the life where things made sense and I was safe. However, that life didn’t exist anymore, and that reality was awful.

Year Three: The Spark of Life Shows Up Somehow

I made it through year two and found myself into year three. In year two, I learned to lean into the pain and hurt because it wouldn’t destroy me. Walking into year three, I felt more prepared for the challenge and was surprised to find that it was a bit easier. Possibly because I was prepared for it – or due to the support from the widow community that I didn’t feel alone or crazy.

Year three has brought a surprise that I couldn’t have anticipated – a spark for joy and life again. I found myself planning for the future and feeling excited about it. I started to imagine my life five years down the road, and it didn’t bring on panic. I began to wrestle with the idea of dating again and imagining what it would be like to kiss another man. Somewhere in my soul, I’m getting ready for another shift that will bring me closer to building my life again. I’ve been building my life, but it has been within the identity of “widow,” and I’ve done a good job at that. However, this new shift is taking me towards a life that isn’t centred around my widow identity because I’m more than a widow.

I’m a woman who has loved more profound than I thought possible. I’m a woman who has survived devastating loss. I’m a woman with hopes and dreams for the future again. Grief is a reflection of my capacity to love. I want to be a woman filled with the ability to love, which means that my journey with grief is lifelong. I’m curious to find out what year four will bring for me. I can only hope that it’s more resilience, courage, bravery and love.