The start of this year looks very different compared to every year prior. I don’t have my typical resolution to eat healthier or to lose a few pounds. Instead, I enter this year with quite a bit of emotional baggage. 2019 was the worst year of my life. My grandmother died, then my 33-year-old husband, followed by my grandfather. I found out I was pregnant the day after returning home with my husband’s ashes. Then my year ended with news that my senior dog, Lucy, may have cancer. How is this possible?
Photo: I came across a copy of this when I was cleaning out my closet. I stared at this photo in disbelief and thought, “I lost everyone in this photo in 2019.” (Photo Credit: Brit Jaye)
I spent New Year’s Eve with a fellow widow who I am thankful to call a friend. It was the best thing I could have done…we talked about our husbands (we refuse to call them our late husbands), had In-N-Out, and were fast asleep by midnight. While it was nothing like the New Year’s Eve celebrations with a group of friends at a cool spot, my life is also nothing like what it was one year ago. My needs and priorities are different, which has led me to discover the true meaning of friendship.
This year’s “resolution” is intangible and its seed was planted on December 28th when I was told Lucy might have cancer. While the start of a year is a great time to set an intention, objectively speaking, January 1st is just another day. So rather than waiting until a magic day to commit to a resolution, I decided a few days early to be more present. A friend recently shared a quote by Charles Swindoll with me: “life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.” I was letting my stress about Lucy’s possible cancer affect my time with her now, rather than focusing on what is in my locus of control. I am proud of myself for choosing to not find out definitively if her mass is malignant; instead, I am choosing to spend more quality time with her and to make the most out of her remaining days. And one of the major lessons I have learned after substantial loss is that every day is a gift.
Photo: Pregnancy progress photo, 29 weeks.
When I think of 2020, three intense emotions surface: 1) sadness because Dustin won’t live to experience this year, 2) hope stemming from the arrival of our baby girl, and 3) anxiety about three things: solo parenting, possibly losing Lucy, and the second year of grief which is notorious for being more difficult than the first. I hope being more present will help mitigate my major concerns that 2020 brings. The art of grief, as I recently read, is learning how to look backwards AND move forward simultaneously. I will continue to be positively impacted by Dustin and deeply saddened by his loss. At the same time, I’ll move forward by honoring him and his legacy, speaking of him often and not fighting the tears that will come, and constantly and creatively integrating him into our daughter’s life. This is grief.