Life Plan and the Happily Ever After
Our lives unfold in stages. We wait for the beginning of the next exciting and challenging step. I looked forward to riding the bus to start school, then I could not wait to graduate from high school, finish my education, get a job, buy a house, a car, fall in love, and get married… After that, I anticipated the happily ever after with a special someone. Not everyone falls in love or gets married. If you do meet your soulmate, and fall in love, I would consider you a lucky person. After I fell in love, I couldn’t wait to get married and for the happily ever after… until death do us part.
I met a special person in 1992. John and I immediately had an attraction. He made me laugh and he was always happy. We were blissfully wed on October 5, 1996. After getting married, we waited to buy a house, waited to buy a new car, waited to start a family. Life seems to have a lot of waiting… In between waiting and making memories, we started to plan for our future, our child’s future, our family’s future. We were planning to retire someday and grow old together.
After Loss: Not the Happily Ever After
My imagined ‘happily ever after’ is not going to take place with John by my side. Tragedy struck quite suddenly, and my life completely changed forever when my soulmate died on March 29, 2017. Becoming a widow at age 45 was not part of the life plan. John suffered a massive hemorrhagic brain stem stroke on a Saturday morning that started like any other Saturday. He became comatose. I made the impossible choice of removing the ventilator.
I was in shock and devastated, and asked myself, what now? What are the next steps? How do I survive this ‘stage’ of life? Is there a plan to follow when your spouse dies? It turns out, there is no plan for loss. Grief is the only way to get through it.
Grief has no plan. There is no such thing as waiting for grief to end. I naively thought that if I followed some type of plan, the pain, (oh the pain) would go away. My fog of grief made me think there was a type of checklist to go through. Go to therapy, check. Write in a journal, check. Let myself grieve, check. I thought checking these items off a list would take me to a next ‘stage.’ There is no checklist for the pain of loss. It seems the pain lessens, but it does not go away. While grief includes sorrow and pain, it also has allowed me to see a light in myself that I never knew I had before John’s death. Oddly, at times I see myself as John must have seen me and that is comforting and makes me feel like he is still with me.
Most people have not planned how you will live your life without your spouse, even if you know your loved one will not likely survive an illness or disease. After John died, all I could think to do was just survive. Everything was hard, even breathing. That first year was a blur. I do remember thinking that I needed to change a few things in my life to start allowing new memories to form. Even though I desperately wanted things to go back to the way they were, and still do many times, I was not going to wait or plan. I was going to live in the now. Certainly, that was harder to do than I thought it would be and still is difficult. Initially, everything I did, I would wonder how John would see it or what he would think.
Making New Memories
A few months after John died, my daughter mentioned learning to scuba dive. It is good to go outside of your comfort zone. Right!? She had wanted to dive since she was about 8 years old. John suffered from sinus issues and would not have been able to dive with her. Although I was a bit nervous to venture into something unknown and potentially dangerous, I wanted to make new memories with my daughter. We took classes and became scuba certified. I discovered that being underwater is peaceful because there are no noises or distractions. Therefore, you only hear yourself breathing and forget what is happening on land. What happens next is unknown, but I will remind myself every day to live in the moment, don’t plan into the future too far, and remember how important it is to make new memories.
Dearest Sister, you offer such hope and light to many, in all you do! Thank you for sharing, and please continue to share. I love you and Katie so very much. We also miss John, who was such a peaceful presence in our family. Your perseverance and courage through all the pain are remarkable. Much love and prayers, Stef
Thank you, Jay! Your kind words mean so much.
The love you and John shared was beautiful, and you are beautiful. As your friend, it has been so hard to desperately want to take away your pain, yet knowing this is your journey to navigate. This essay is a poignant window into that process. Thank you for sharing it with us. I am so inspired by your perseverance, resilience, determination, and grace. I pray for you and your sweet girl, and am so happy that you have each other. She is so fortunate to have you as her mom. Love you & I’m here for you always. 💜
Oh Luanne, your support and encouragement mean so much! Love you!!!
I’ve been feeling this same way, not knowing what’s next and seeking a “checklist”. I’m almost at 11 months since my husband passed and I’m 40. I too had our lives planned into retirement and feel so lost. I know I don’t want to be so sad all the time so I guess I have to learn what that means for me. How will I move forward instead of clinging to the past. Ugh, that seems insensitive, like he was just a chapter in a book. I don’t wanna turn the page!
You are still early in journey even if it does not feel like it. The first year is hard, but you will make it. Turn the page when you are ready. Allow yourself time to grieve at your own pace. The pain is brutal, but it does lessen with time. Hugs to you!
Jen, I was widowed at 40. I wish I had had something like this to read as I struggled to make it through the day. God Bless you.
Thank you, Kay. You have accomplished so much in your life, which gives me hope for myself. Blessings to you as well.
You are so eloquent in your writing.
It is beautiful and heartfelt.
And it also shows your strength and courage.
Keep in writing, I am looking forward to the next “installment “.
Thanks so much, Eva. Your support means so much to me.
Love this! John was Amazing…..and you are Amazing! Love you and pray for you all often. My mom was a widow at 45, also. I lost my daddy when I was 8. ☹️
It will get better.
Love you Sandie. I know you are grieving the loss of your mom. The pain of loss is terrible. I pray for you often. Love you!
This is beautifully written Jennifer!
It takes a strong courageous woman to continue after the loss of a loved one!
You have done a great job raising your daughter!
Your strength will carry you into the future and you have a wonderful life ahead of you.
Best wishes my friend, take care. Jay