This week’s writing will begin with part of the first blog I ever wrote and it will end with an update and my reflections on the three years that have past since. I wrote, “Who Am I ?” on December 11, 2017. Three years later, these words are still powerful and true…
Life after the death of the person you love demands that you ask yourself BIG questions. Ironically, the questions are often about life and living. I have asked myself over and over again, Who am I now that Mike has died? Maybe part of the answer lies in Who I was before I met him. Who I was before he died. I think a lot about Who I was when I was Mike’s fiancee. And, I ask myself again and again, Who I want to be now that I am his Widow.
Admittedly, these are questions to which I don’t have the answers; but, I’m working on it. These questions challenge me and scare me because of their enormity and because I feel the potential here. I still have choices in my changed life. I have the opportunity to re-create myself, and you do too. I know how overwhelming this is; but I believe that if we allow ourselves to be off kilter we will find ourselves in the process.
In the last year, I have spent a fair bit of time on my knees scrounging for direction and answers. I have spent many a night on the floor crying, begging Mike to come back. I’ve dance under the stars with my dead fiance; desperately wanting his touch, longing for the days when his arms were wrapped around my life. Many times, I have wandered through the day completely absent with thoughts of him endlessly ruminating in my mind. Grief is gutting. I know how hard it is for you to live with the relentless heaviness and ache in your chest. If I am awake I’m likely on the verge of tears at any given moment, I get it. I have noticed, with time, the ache in my heart is softening a little and my tears don’t last as long anymore. But, still, the emptiness is there. And, maybe in some weird way, that’s okay. Maybe we are meant to use this emptiness and rootlessness as our foundation. Maybe we need to feel the emptiness and absorb all this “missingness” into every cell of our body. If we feel it and lean into our grief we will learn something about ourselves. I think there in the empty silence – is where the answers are for all of us. I’ve decided that if I am going to survive Mike’s sudden death I have to build a purposeful life around the emptiness inside me.
So, I haven’t told you Who I am. Well, for starters…
These are my “titles”. But, this doesn’t answer Who I am.
I am so much more than just these things. These labels don’t accurately describe me and they certainly do not define me. In short, I’m a middle-aged mother who’s life didn’t turn out as I expected. I have two boys from a 21 year marriage that didn’t last. My boys are amazing people and being their Mom is one of the greatest joys in my life. They are my two favorite people on planet Earth and I’m thankful to share my life with them. My boys are the good stuff in my life.
Now, for the cruddy stuff.
My path to widowhood began on November 15, 2016.
I went to bed engaged and I woke up a Widow.
(Sometimes I still can’t get my head around this even 4.2 years later.)
Mike went to bed and he never woke up.
It still seems surreal as I type this.
I think it always will.
Mike died on Tuesday. He died two days before we completed the purchase of our new home. His death was unexpected and sudden. I was left with a mess… We were planning our wedding. There were florists, caters, and photographers. We were supposed to get married in the backyard of our new house August 20, 2017.
We thought that getting married on our property would be a way to make our house feel like a home where we could blend our families together. We had it all planned out; and then everything was just over… Our happily ever after never came to be.
Mike and I were right in the middle of our love story…
He wasn’t supposed to die.
But, he did…
Mike always used to say “Honey, we have the rest of our lives together”. Well, in reality, he did spend the rest of his life with me. We gave one another some of the happiest days of our lives. I completed his life and he died a very happy man.
Still, I am left wanting more. When I said I’d be his wife I thought we’d have at least twenty years together as husband and wife. But, there was a major plot twist.
This new life feels uncomfortable to me. Some days I don’t know where to start. I feel shattered into a million pieces and I don’t know where to begin. Where do the broken pieces fit? I have recognized that I can not put myself back together the way I used to be. I am different now. So are you. We can’t create some cheap imitation of our old lives and our old selves.
The reality is that Mike died. I didn’t. And, neither did you. I know some moments it feels like we died too; but, in spite of this, we are doing what we’ve always done – we are Living. Yes, we are living with shattered hearts, but we are living nonetheless. Now, as I enter year two without Mike, my focus is to somehow re-enter life. To create a purposeful life in his absence. With tears in my eyes, I am attempting to re-engage in living. Every single day, I wipe my tears and I persist. Just like you do.
I am trying to find joy in the beautiful, ordinary things in my life. I still don’t have all the answers, but I am certain that Mike’s death should not and can not define the rest of my life. If I’m lucky, his death will teach me a lot about living and I will find out who I am. And, you will too.
In search of Who I Am,
Update: 4.2 years later I am less shattered than before and my “broken pieces” have begun to slowly fuse back together. I feel less sad, but there is still an incredible sense of emptiness inside myself. The aloneness of grief feels familiar to me now; but, obviously, it is not what I prefer even if I have grown accustom to it.
I plain old miss sharing my life with Mike; but, now, in both my head and in my heart, I accept that that part of my life is over. Now, in the not to distant future, I look forward to being someone’s true companion. I am good at love and one day I want to give it and receive it again. But, before I find true love again, I want to be madly in love with who I am. I want to be crazy about the woman I am. I want to become the best version of myself before I share my new life with another human being.
Currently, I am practicing self care and self love because I need to. Mike loved me well and because of his big love I did not have to exercise my self love muscle as much as I do these days. I had the luxury of not flexing my own self love muscles because I had the love of a man who utterly adored me. When he was alive, I had love in spades. I came by it easily. I never had to work for it. I simply responded to the love Mike so generously and freely gave to me. Then, he died and his love was no longer physically showered on me.
Without Mike, I must love on myself for him. I have to do this for Mike and because of Mike. He gave me the skillset to carry this out. He taught me all about love. With practice, I am coming to see myself in the favorable light he viewed me in. I have been steadily working to view myself in the pure light Mike saw me in and really this is a pretty cool gift to give myself. Day by day, I am learning my worth by loving myself the way Mike showed me to.
It is my desire to see my own worth with my eyes closed. It is my intention to hear my own voice and believe in my words the way he did. Moving forward, I have to champion myself fully, completely and madly just like Mike did. 4.2 years later, I aspire to love myself in the same fulsome way he did. Mike modelled a gentle yet fiercely unconditional love for me. I know what this love looks like. What it sounds like. What it feels like. I am up for the task of loving myself in this way. I feel it. I feel this love (his love) in the bones of me. Once upon a time, Mike started this love affair with me; and, well, I have to pick up where he left off. I know his love by heart and starting this moment I am going to allow his love to live wild in me. I have bound all this love inside me for far too long. It has come time to love rotely. My heart knows the script. I need not do a thing, but follow it…