It’s been awhile since I last posted (almost 4 months to be exact).  So much has happened during the past several months I don’t even know where to begin.  I’ll start with where I left off.

I had a great summer because I decided I was going to focus on being present for my boys.   There were a lot of distractions from them when my husband passed away and I felt like they deserved my undivided attention.   In addition to all of the great summer days we shared together at home, I decided to take them on a 7-day Caribbean cruise at the end of June and we had a wonderful time.  I had thought about asking a friend to come along with me but I decided to tackle the open seas by myself and was confident that my newfound independence and I would be just fine cruising solo.  I also knew there was a chance my boys would get on the ship and we’d rarely see each other since cruise ships do a great job in keeping teens busy.  We managed to make it a point to be together every night for dinner and during shore excursions.  I was looking forward to quiet days to catch up on books I’ve wanted to read, spa treatments and afternoon naps.  Here is a picture of my boys and I on our cruise:

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Just like grief hits you at unexpected times, there are times when an overpowering sense of loneliness hits you as well.  This happened the minute we checked in for our cruise.  As I looked around, I saw nothing but families, newlyweds, family reunions and significant others beaming with joy as they embarked on the ship.  I felt like we were being placed under a microscope because people were wondering where MY husband or significant other was.  I chalked it up to emotional insecurity, but my assumptions came true on the first day when I was asked repeatedly where my husband was.  It got to the point where I would make jokes with people and tell them I threw him overboard.  Little did they know I would go back to my cabin and shed a few tears because grief is like living two lives.  One life is where you pretend that everything is just fine and the other life is where you become paralyzed with overwhelming sadness when you’re behind closed doors.  The two lives of grief were definitely alive and well on my cruise.

After 7 days of being asked where my husband was, I just became numb as the question was asked repeatedly by curious people .  But a different kind of reality started to form.  As I had conversations with people I would get the same response over and over:  “You are so brave.”  I had always associated bravery with a soldier who was fighting a war, or a firefighter who saved a child from a burning building.  I never thought that tackling my grief head on would ever be categorized as “brave.”  I gave the definition of this word a bit more thought after I came home from my vacation.  I even went so far as to look up its definition.  But what I found was something so much more profound than a definition, but rather a newfound attitude that I was embracing.  There is an inspirational blogger by the name of Melissa Tomino who said it perfectly:

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I loved this perspective and have referenced it from time to time.  I felt like there was hope again in living a normal life, and I was excited for the future.

I remember the first morning we were back from vacation I started my morning routine with my cup of coffee and my laptop, perusing through social media and skimming through headline news.  I had seen a particular news story that caught my attention:  “Patton Oswalt Engaged to be Married.”  This headline struck my interest because Paton Oswalt (who is a well-known actor) had lost his wife a few weeks after I had lost my husband.  I vividly remember a friend of mine sending me this article about how he described grief and how relieved I felt that someone could finally put my feelings of grief into words.   At first I was taken aback by the news that he was engaged (15 months after his wife’s death) but that feeling of surprise was overpowered by my elation for him that he found happiness again.

I also remember becoming enraged by the negative comments he was receiving on social media about his engagement.  I wanted to reach through the screen of my computer and punch each and every person who had an opinion about loving so soon after losing their loved one.  I wanted to reply to each and every opinionated person out there to let them know how disgusted I was that they even thought they had the right to comment on how someone should love again after loss; that was until I saw Blogger Erica Roman’s blog post about her opinions on the backlash (click here to read her amazing, heartfelt post).

As I was reading her blog post, there it was.  Another reference to bravery:

….”To imply that it is weakness that drives someone who has lost their spouse to choose to love again is asinine.

Unlike most, those who have been widowed are hyper aware that everyone they see will someday die.

We know intimately that the price of love is pain. 

So if you see a widow or widower overcome that knowledge and choose to open their heart to that pain once again, instead of judging, you should be celebrating their bravery and fortitude.

That much courage deserves a freaking parade.”  -Erica Roman

Ironically her blog post was published the same day that I went out on my first date with the one guy I’m pretty certain is going to be in my life for a very long time.  Being able to expand my heart after the grief I’ve felt has only affirmed my bravery.

I’m ready to start planning that parade and you are welcome to join in on the party.  And if you want to rain on my parade, I hope you never have to feel the kind of grief that makes you gasp for every breath you take.  But if you are one of the unfortunate ones who may have to endure that kind of pain, I hope that one day you’ll find YOUR own definition of bravery and that it helps you attract the light through your darkness.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a float to ride!