I’m writing this post on my 20th wedding anniversary with Dave – he died suddenly in his sleep almost 10 years ago. I have a little smile on my face as I remember getting to know him as a friend and how our relationship evolved into love and partnership.
Dave and I started out as roommates. My good friend, his sister, introduced us because we both were in need of a shared living situation and she thought we would get along and be a good fit so we moved into an apartment together. Easy peasy, right? Well that first night in our place together I kinda freaked out in my room. Thoughts were swirling around in my head like “What have I done? I don’t even know this guy! I should lock my door!”.
But he was a good guy (actually, a great guy!) and we settled into a nice roommate vibe. I was dating someone else, so was Dave. As we got to know each other we developed a deep friendship, we had fun together, we got to know each other in a really sweet, deep organic kind of way. He was the kind of guy that put the toilet seat down, cleaned up the kitchen and vacuumed. If I had a list going of “potential husband traits” at the time, he would have hit all the marks. A couple years went by and we became romantic. Sure it was a little clunky and awkward at first but we really knew each other’s hearts well at this point and we wanted to be together.
Dave proposed to me on a beach in Thailand and we got married in 2000. We were in love and were a really good team together. We did fun things like traveling, dancing, listening to music & camping – and we did hard things like moving through fertility issues and building our family through adoption. Dave and I and our two sons became a family in 2005.
Once we became parents to our two rambunctious 5 and 7 year old sons it was on! So much activity with baseball, basketball, soccer and football games – camping and fishing, spring break trips to Disneyland and all places families head to. We felt like we were making up for lost time that we didn’t have with our kids the years they weren’t in our lives. Life was busy but we did settle into our little family rhythm until Dave didn’t wake up on a snowing Saturday morning in 2011.
I remember so little from that morning – the timeline of events, the people that arrived at our home that day and the days after, well it’s all a bit blurry. I do remember vividly my youngest son breaking out in hives and the awful phone call I had to make to my oldest son who was 200 miles away on a school field trip, telling him that his Dad had died – it gutted me to see my kids in pain.
Life for those first 6 months after Dave died, well it’s hard to explain but it felt like it was going in fast motion and slow motion all at the same time. I got the kids up and off to school, worked full time, prepared meals (that I didn’t eat but will save that for another post), helped with homework, put the boys to bed and did it all over again as each day ran into the next. I felt like a zombie and I felt like I wasn’t part of this world. I didn’t cry much and sometimes forced myself to cry by listening to the saddest music I could because it scared me that I didn’t feel anything.
As the shock of Dave’s death started to wear off and I was waking up to the reality that he was not physically here with me and the boys, the feelings I shut down and stuffed were surfacing. It was such a scary place for me to be in – to feel vulnerable, out of control, and most of all alone.
Courage to Move Forward
Asking for help was not my standard operating procedure. I always thought of myself as someone who could handle whatever came my way – either I could handle it or Dave and I would do hard things together. But I was my own “team” now and for the first time in my life I actively reached out and asked for help. I engaged with a grief therapist, read books on grief and widowhood, connected with other widows, listened to so much music and I gave myself permission to take really, really good care of myself. I was fortifying myself to build up the courage to start rebuilding my life without Dave and to raise our kids as a solo-parent.
And you all know, this doesn’t happen overnight – moving forward after the death of your partner is an act of courage and takes lots of baby steps but there will be movement and growth if you allow it. And one very important thing I want you to know is that
You Are Courageous Beyond Belief
Let that sink in – repeat it to yourself over and over and over until you believe it – because it’s the truth.
Until next time – take good care of yourself,