April. It’s a month that is symbolic of emergence and growth. It’s the month that takes us out of the dark, dreary months of winter and provides us with a prelude of the light and warmth that is ahead of us in the summer months. A year ago, I would have thought this to be totally false, considering that the month of April was a month full of darkness and uncertainty for me since my husband suddenly passed away on April 29, 2016 (exactly one week after his 45th birthday). But what I find ironic one year later is the fact that it really is a month of emergence and growth. I look back at the past 12 months and I look at how much I have done this in my own life. I emerged out of the doldrums and used my own experience to inspire others and to help myself grow in ways that improved my own life. For that I am grateful and it always makes me smile to think back and reflect on how so much good came out of something so tragic.
Instead of sitting here and writing about the day my world came crashing down, I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned over this past year as well as observations I’ve had since my husband’s passing. I think it’s important to share these with you as it could help those who are grieving know and understand that everything they are feeling is normal, or it could help those who want to help the grieving:
Grief is Different for Everyone, Yet so Much the Same.
A few months after my husband died I was at dinner with a very close friend of mine. I started to talk about my late husband and I started to become sad. As I looked over, I saw a look on her face like she was annoyed that I was talking about him again. I wasn’t shocked or angry at this reaction but rather I felt remorseful at that moment. It finally hit me that the loss of my husband just didn’t hit me, but my friend lost a special person (my husband) in her life too. I never took the time to ask her how she was doing (especially since she had been by my side every single day since his passing). It made me realize that everybody grieves when we lose someone close; whether they be a husband, sibling, child or friend – there is a loss in the heart that everybody feels and that loss needs to be supported and respected be everyone involved.
I am being featured in a major magazine in June (I’ll post a link to the article once it’s live) and I was on the phone with one of the editors of the magazine (she was fact-checking the article they wrote about me and the passing of my husband). She was reading the article to me and suddenly she started to cry. I asked her what was wrong and she said that she felt so sad for me, and that reading the article brought her back to memories of her late grandmother. As I comforted her over the phone it made me realize that all of the sadness, emptiness and longing that grief brings is a commonality no matter who we lose. The heartache of losing a loved one is a universal feeling.
I Will Never be the Same
A few days ago, I picked up my phone and noticed several missed calls. As I listened to voicemail I was informed that my son was in an accident at school and he was transported by ambulance to the local emergency. That sense of shock, worry and panic set in, just like it did on April 29th of 2016 when I was told my husband had an accident. I raced to the emergency and found my son awake and smiling on a gurney (he had been riding a friends’ bike and hit a speed bump and went flying over the handle bars onto his face which resulted in three broken teeth, a lip that was busted open and a deep cut on his chin). When he said, “Hey mom, it looks worse than it really is” I broke down sobbing and all I could think about was the day my husband died and how I had prepared myself to feel that way when I received those voicemails about my son.
The other day I was having a conversation with someone close to me and he mentioned that he’s excited to ride his motorcycle this spring since we’ve had such a rainy winter. I looked at him with dismay thinking to myself, “How can you sit here and talk about something so dangerous after what has happened to me this past year?” I need to realize that just because the unthinkable happened to me and my husband doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to happen again. For someone who let go of so much worry after such a tragic incident in her life, I found myself wondering why people just didn’t understand the hurt that went along with it. I can’t blame other people for wanting to take chances and live their life. I can only control how I live mine but there will always be that knowledge knowing what it feels like to lose someone so suddenly. It’s like a nagging emotion that will never go away because the hurt that came along with the loss is something that is insurmountable.
I am also accepting the fact that I will have good days and bad days, but that it’s okay to feel like I’ve taken a few steps back because of how I feel. Dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one is such an emotional punch to the spirit. I have approached this past year with the determination that I would never let grief take over my feelings, but the cracks in my heart are not repairable nor should they be. I am learning to accept that and deal with it as I continue this ride on the emotional roller coaster for the rest of my life.
I Want to be Understood.
One of the hardest things about losing your significant other is that hollow feeling that takes over when you realize that you are all alone. I have been so grateful for the love and support from my family and friends over the past year but at the end of the day I am turning off the lights to a quiet house that is sometimes only occupied by me (teenagers don’t want to hang out at home and watch a movie with their mom). I don’t mind being alone, but what I do mind is feeling lonely. It was because of this that I would over-commit, start to plan things in honor of my late husband and then suddenly retract. I even went so far as to tell my friends I was going to host a celebratory dinner on the 1-year anniversary of his passing. Then an overwhelming feeling of anger and sadness kicks in and I retract and decide against these grandiose plans I had to celebrate his life. I start to feel guilty and apologize to everyone for planning something that I didn’t follow through with. I know I shouldn’t feel bad, and I have found myself saying repeatedly; “I hope you understand.” It’s the one thing I think anybody who is grieving wishes; that those around them just understand that feelings and emotions of the grieving can change on a dime. All we want to hear is, “I understand and I’m here for you.” Those seven words mean more than anyone could possibly imagine and they are words that are comforting in more ways than anybody would ever know if they haven’t experienced loss.
I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t want it, nor did I realize that a tall order of unpredictable emotions that would accompany this loss. I just hope that the people who are close to me know that I appreciate and cherish everything they have done for me this past year. I have said this once and I’ll say it again: I hope they know that if (God forbid) they were ever in this situation I would do the same for them.
I wanted to post this before the 1-year anniversary of his passing because I’m going to try and use that day as a time of reflection in other positive ways. I’m not sure what I plan to do on that day to honor him, or if I’m going to do anything at all. What I do know is that I honor him every single day; whether it be in my promise to live the way he’d want me to live, or conversations that I have with others about the bright light that he shined upon others. One thing I do know for certain: I don’t need a 1-year marker to know that he made an impact in my life and in others for many more years to come.