To Whomever Wants to Listen,
My husband died nine months ago this past week. Typically I write to him, but today I am writing for me and for other young widows. In the last nine months I have had many periods of clarity and moments of uncertainty. I have written that there is no greater truth than grief is a roller coaster and I genuinely believe that. And yet, every time I am living intense grief it is as though I am genuinely perplexed that this would happen to me again. It is true that these moments are further apart. For that reason I think I am taken by even greater surprise when I just cannot seem to pull myself together.
When my husband first died, I was living with his brother and my sister in-law. After the funeral I bounced around to his parents house, my parents, my siblings, and back to his brothers for another week while I returned to work. After a week of working I went back home to the house that I shared with my husband. I have wonderful people in my life who stayed with me until I was ready to be alone. I knew when I was ready because I was sick of "hosting." Not a single person made me feel as though I needed to host them, in fact they were all there to please me and not the other way around. But after some time it becomes exhausting sharing your home with other people. Shortly after becoming a widow everything seems exhausting. So I thanked them and sent them on their way. I was ready to be alone in the house where I once lived with my husband, or so I thought.
Since becoming a widow I have learned that I have no idea what I am ready for or what I want out of my life. The only thing I am sure of is that I miss my husband. The uncertainty is the infuriating part of this journey. When my friends stopped staying with me and I thought I was ready to figure out my life, I went crazy planning out the next six months. I signed up for every athletic event that I could, much of which was for charities raising money for cancer or my husbands scholarship fund, and I traveled all over the US to visit family and friends. During the week I would stay at work late to avoid going home or I would train for the athletic events with my friends, spending as little time home alone as possible. It was about two months ago that I learned that I was avoiding life rather than trying to figure life out. I was doing what I needed to do for myself to get through the first year without my husband. But for the last two months I have been exhausted and counting down the day until I would be done traveling out of state for a prolonged period of time. That day is today and I could not be more relieved.
There is a sense of peace in knowing that I am not going anywhere for a while. I am satisfied that I can stay in my own home and start figuring out my life as it is now without my husband. The last nine months are not a true reflection of my new life as a widow. They were sad and fun and filled with many good and challenging times, but it was not a realistic long term plan. I am really looking forward to finally being alone in my house to figure out my life. I am aware that the phrase "looking forward to" is odd to use. But the fact is, no matter how much I miss my husband, he is not coming back to life on earth and things will never be as they once were. I am no longer the same person. I started changing the day he was diagnosed with cancer and even more so since the day that the doctor looked me in the eyes and confirmed my worst fears without even saying anything at all. I am ready to find out who the new me is and where this journey will take me. I think?
Two months ago when I realized the end of my planned chaos was in sight, I began to feel hopeful again about my life. I started believing that I could have a bright future and all the while still remember and honor my husband and what we shared together. I was looking forward to the opportunity to be lonely in my house, to miss my husband, and to grow from these experiences. I believed that I have to experience my feelings and stop avoiding them if I am to move forward from them. I was excited for this opportunity because it seemed to me that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. I was fearless and ready to work on my own personal growth as a single, widowed, adult. That is, I was ready, until two weeks ago.
All of a sudden two weeks ago it hit me that the end of the chaos was quickly approaching. I was so excited and yet this incredible fear also took over. Suddenly I could not sleep at night, just like when my husband first died. Lack of sleep resulted in exhaustion and I started forgetting to take my anxiety medication. I was having trouble concentrating at work and relying on others to keep me sane. This caused me intense grief. I had been so proud of myself for "doing so well," and yet I was starting to crumble right before my own eyes. A good friend assured me that this was "normal." He asked me why I put too much pressure on myself to "do a good job," and he reminded me that I could successfully move forward all the while still missing my husband. But I was still scared and disappointed in myself. I wondered if I would ever really be ready to move forward. Six days ago, when I saw the headstone for my husband was put up at the cemetery, I felt hopeless. All of my hard work to "move forward" seemed for nothing. In a moment of panic I truly wondered if I would ever be happy again.
For the last six days, I have been taking my anxiety medication religiously. My friends, including one who is a psychologist, told me I should consider taking it for a full year following my husbands death. I expect I will need it for longer, but I have no shame in that. I feel so much better than I did six days ago. I feel happy again and I feel ready to take on this challenge we call life. I anticipate that I will have times of grief, some days more than others, and I know that this does not mean I am "crazy," or "regressing." At a support group I go to the leader told us we have grief because we had love. Maybe grief is not such a bad thing. Maybe I am lucky to grieve because this means that I was lucky to love and to be loved. Maybe this is a tumultuous process that I will continue to go through. But maybe in the end I will truly believe that it was better to have loved than to not have loved at all. I think that I will. Tomorrow is a new day and I am ready for it. I am feeling so much better than I was a week ago and I am proud of myself for making it through these rough times. I know they will happen again, but I hope that as I move forward I learn that this too shall pass. I believe that the new me will find peace in knowing that one day. Until then I will simply do the best that I can at being me, whomever that is.