On July 12th, 2011, during another ordinary day in my previous life, I could have never in a zillion years predicted or seen coming that only hours later, my husband would leave for work and never return again. I could NOT have foreseen that he would be sitting at the computer desk in our bedroom one minute, and the next morning,I would be jarred awake by a ringing phone, and then rushing in a cab to the E.R. to find out that he was dead.
And for those first few months and even year or two after that horrific day, I could not have predicted that I would be able to take my intense and excruciating pain, and create from it a play, a stand-up comedy act presented to other widowed people, a blog, and now a book. I would have never ever known , had you asked me just 8 months ago even, that I would be using this pain and grief to become a grief coach and walk others through their hurt – staying beside them and crawling them through the processing of deep emotions and eventual healing. Had you asked me back then, I would have told you that I would feel this horrific and dark pain forever until the end of time, and that there would never ever be a day where I could see or feel or experience joy again. I truly believed that my life was over. I truly felt that the pain of losing Don and our life and everything inside it – would kill me. I thought that I would surely die from the pain, because how can anyone live in that kind of pain forever?
I didn’t die. I kept feeling the pain and I kept sitting inside the pain, and each time that happened, I was a little bit less terrified of it, because I knew that I had felt it before, and that I didn’t die from it. I knew that I would feel absolutely awful for however long that particular grief-trigger would last, but that I would not, in fact, die from my pain.
I focused on the right now. I focused on making it through the next 5 minutes. The next hour. The next day. Getting through a full class or two at work. Making it a full three or four classes of teaching without finding excuses to run to the restroom and burst into tears. Thinking too far ahead terrified me. It was too overwhelming. “Stay in the now. Breathe. In and out. Get up tomorrow and try again.” These are things I would repeat to myself. Many nights, I would get in my car, drive out to a random field, and just scream my head off. Or cry like an animal. I would sit in my car and just yell at the top of my lungs. I would beat the shit out of the walls, or throw things across the room in my apartment. I would scream to my husband late at night, alone, out loud: “Where the f**k are you?!! I need you! Why is this happening? How can you be here and then just be GONE??? How? You have to come back! I can’t do this!” None of it brought him back, and none of my questions were ever answered. They never will be. But I needed to exhaust myself asking them, over and over and over, until I didn’t much feel like it anymore.
It will never be okay with me that he died. It will never be okay with me that I don’t get to have that life anymore. But I’m here. I breathe air. I will live every second with fire and determination and passion, because my husband does not have that choice. I will live because he doesn’t get to. I will fight for my Joy. I will battle the pain and sit inside of the sad, so that I can feel the unbelievable happy that comes after. There is light. There is Joy. There is life. Had you asked me that a year or two ago, I would have said otherwise. I was in tremendous pain all the time, but something deep inside of me whispered: “Keep going. Keep getting up. Keep trying.” And I did. And you should too.
You can’t always see or feel what is coming – you can’t always know what is only an hour or a week or a month or two away. Stick around. Stay tuned. It’s life. Messy, chaotic, insane, devastating, beautiful, tragic, precious Life. I know so many people right now who are currently sitting inside of the most horrible darkness. I wish I could carry you out. I wish I could fast-forward you through the pain. But it doesn’t work that way. So instead, I tell you this:
When you’re sitting inside of the darkness – stop. Listen. Like a song that you can just barely hear, it is there. Hope. The tiniest glimmer of hope. When you feel ready to see it, to hear it, to feel it – it is there. Hope. There is hope around the corner.