When I began my life without Mike 2.5 years ago, I felt like I landed in a foreign country and I could not speak the language. There was a sense that I was standing helplessly in the baggage claims area. I simply didn’t know where to go from there. I did not know how to proceed without my life companion.
I desperately wanted to ask someone for directions. I needed help. But, I didn’t know any widows or widowers. And, besides, I was not sure how anyone could help me. Mike was dead, no one could fix that. So, I just stood frozen in place for a long, long time.
For the better part of that first year, I was completely bewildered. I stood alone and I spent hours numbly surveying the wreckage of our shared life. I had no idea where to begin rebuilding myself. And, in truth, I didn’t even know if it was possible to recreate my identity.
Yet, somehow, as time continued, I slowly got my baggage sorted out. But, I still remained aimless. I still didn’t know my destination. Where was I supposed to go? Where the hell did I want to go?
This was year one.
As I entered year two, I desperately wanted someone to give me directions. I wanted to be rescued. Yet, at the same time I knew that no one could save me from this mess. I didn’t know much, but I knew that I couldn’t follow the crowds. I knew that I would have to figure this out by myself.
As a new widow, I wished for a guide to widowhood, or at least some type of worn map or an App of sorts because when Mike died I was violently hurled into a barren wasteland that resembled nothing of my former life. There were no guide posts, or well light markers to show me the way. There was just darkness. The road was rutted and there were many potholes that I inevitably tripped up on. Nothing could have prepared me for life as a widowed person. So, in truth, any type of manual or guide would have been comforting, but fairly useless. You can’t fast track grief or side step any of the ugliness. Nope. You have to travel through it. And, there are missteps to be made. But, you will survive. We all do – trust me, you will not be the exception to this.
With time and experience, I have learned that while grief has many shared commonalities, it remains individual. I have had to forge my own way in widowhood. And, yes, I have leaned heavily on others who have walked this path before me, but my grief is my own and with time and practice, I have become accustom to navigating it myself.
Initially, I spent a fair bit of time bumping into things as I started down this long road. But, I was moving. I had forward momentum and that is all that really mattered. I got bruised and battered, but I survived year one; and, then, year two without Mike. And, now, as I am working on year three without him, I feel like a somewhat seasoned traveller on this grief journey. This is not to say that it is easier. It isn’t. But, the raw grief of year one has evolved into something softer.
In the early days, my grief was so heavy. I struggled to carry it. The baggage was just too big and bulky. I was forced to drag it with me wherever I went. Thankfully, it’s different now. I suppose experience has taught me how to carry my grief more gracefully – if that is even a thing. Most days, my grief now fits into a carry-on. I guess you could say that, with time, I have become fairly proficient at lugging my grief around with me. Some people might not even notice it’s there anymore because it has become a part of me. But, I know it’s there. It will always be there with me. It’s my baggage. And, this baggage can’t be checked.
I am still lost without Mike. He didn’t leave me a map for this trip because he couldn’t. There is nothing he or anyone else could do or can do to make this easier for me. My Soul needs to process that he is missing from my life; and he will be missing for the rest of my life. This will never change.
Finally, I am beginning to accept this. But, daily, I still struggle to find my footing and sense of direction without him. Intuitively, I know that I have to keep moving even if I am unsure of what I am moving toward. I just have to go forward. And, I have know this since early on.
When Mike died, my life imploded. And, now, I am left here to recreate a purposeful life from the wreckage of what was. These past few years, I have spent a fair bit of time scrounging the debris of our old life. Now, I know for certain that there is nothing left to salvage there. I have been endlessly planning and re-arranging my life in my mind. But, this is just an exercise in futility. I know, all too well, that life does not always go according to plan. Plans can only take you so far. At times like this, a leap of faith is required. Overthinking just serves to keep one from leaping into the unknown.
I’ve made a substantial decision. I am choosing to re-enter life. I want to live again. (I need to live again.)
I have spent countless hours re-assembling my life in my head. My big ideas live inside my head because they are safe there. If I keep these ideas in my head, I don’t have to commit to anything. The risks aren’t real and the failures don’t have consequences if I do not action my ideas. But, here is where I have been wrong. There are big consequences for not actioning my ideas. If I don’t act on my plans nothing changes. And, I need to embrace change and all the unknowns that come with it if I want to truly live again.
But, when grieving we naturally seek comfort and safety in the familiar because so much change happens when your person dies. Any further change becomes completely overwhelming; and, in response, we attempt to avoid adding more change to our newly altered reality. But, grief is complicated. While fearing change, I concurrently felt the need to change everything all at once. Months after Mike died I painted some rooms in the house because I needed the walls to speak to me differently when the silence ricocheted off them. I seriously contemplated walking the El Camino Santiago ( and, I’m have promised myself I will before my life is over). In the early months, I wanted to run far away from Suburbia – even though I had freshly painted walls. I wanted to travel the world (and, 2.5 years later, I still do). I want to buy a plane ticket anywhere – and never come back. I want to go everywhere and nowhere fast. Clearly, death creates a strange relationship with change. We can crave change. It becomes everything we want; and something we avoid, all at the same time.
But, in the end, during the first year, change wasn’t what I needed most. I needed to play it safe in the beginning. But, now, I am growing uncomfortable in this “safe” place. And, this is a good thing. I realize that I have been in limbo, just doing nothing for the last few years. I am avoiding changes and life because I am scared. I am scared to live without him because it feels so uncomfortable.
I’ve learned that death naturally fuels fear because we live in an assumptive world -and death shatters this. I admit that I am still scared after 2.5 years, but it’s different. I am much less scared of change than I was initially. I know that it is time to stop planning and thinking. It’s time for change. I have to thaw myself. I have to warm up to life again. I need to let go of the fear and wholly embrace living. That’s the plan for year three.
Out of baggage claims and buckled up in my seat waiting for take off,