When you are busy living and surviving and struggling inside your own life, it is often hard or damn near impossible to be able to recognize your own progress, shifts, and changes. Time goes by and you may feel stuck in place, or like things are moving in slow motion or not at all, when the reality may be quite different. Living life and grieving all at once, every day, for long periods of time – it can often feel like nothing is happening.
It’s sort of like if you have 100 pounds to lose, and you lose an average of 3 pounds per month. 3 pounds per month is a very healthy way to lose weight, and it will probably stay off if you do it that way. But, when you are inside of that and doing all the work, and you look at your own body or reflection in the mirror, you might not notice any difference. You might look at yourself, get frustrated, and say: “What is the point of all this?”
Change happens in pieces, and in very tiny fragments. You know that term “overnight success?” Yeah. Not really. Most of those people have been working their asses off for years. This night just happened to be the night where they clicked on the right thing, in the right moment. The night when all their back-breaking work, finally began to pay off. Becoming who you were meant to be, isnt always glamorous or obvious or quick-paced. But it sure is something to be proud of.
Yesterday was strange. I woke up feeling defeated by grief, trauma, and pain. I felt as if so many of my old demons were coming back to visit, and would they ever really go away? The unhealthy ways in which I used to cope with grief or trauma, such as isolating and gorging on sugar and carbs to the point where I would feel physically sick, were starting to re-emerge after the holidays. It had been 6 whole years since I had enjoyed Christmas or wanted it, that this year it felt almost urgent, my returning love for all things Christmas. I didn’t want to miss out on even one Christmas cookie or traditional dish, dammit! I was going to show myself, and grief, and the world, that I could let Christmas back in again with a vengeance! I was going to eat up life at full volume, and nobody could stop me!
The problem was, I was gorging on life. Hoarding it. Shoving it down with no thought or meaning to the end result. Delighting in the frenzy of it all. I guess I forgot about moderation. Or logic. I started to feel lazy, tired, and cranky. I went overboard, and I could feel myself drowning, and reaching that place where I stop caring. Where I do things out of habit, and then my unhealthy ways become the norm. I started feeling scared of losing control. I needed to stop before it got a hold of me.
So I stopped it. I called up my boyfriend of 7 months, who Im very much in love with, and told him that I wanted to talk with him about some of my demons and insecurities, and how it might affect him, and us. It was not an easy thing to talk about. I felt embarrassed. I recalled stories and times where I didnt feel proud of myself, but hated myself and acted accordingly. This man I love, his reaction was to talk me through it, share some things with me about him and how he could relate to my issues, and then ask me what he can do to help or be supportive.
I talked about it, I didnt isolate, and I’m now in a relationship with a mature, caring person, who strives to be the best version of himself, and inspires me to be the best version of myself, every day. So because I made the decision to reach out and talk to him, I was rewarded. And because I decided to hang in there, and keep giving love another shot, after all the heartache, I was gifted this great man. And because I spent all those hours and weeks and days and months and years, sitting in grief therapy shredding apart and analyzing my life after loss and sitting inside the pain of it, I was now in a place where I could receive and give love in a healthy way. And so my hard work paid off. I got my “overnight success” moment, out of the ashes of death and chaos. This was my time of realized change, after giant chunks of life where it felt like nothing was happening.
After we talked for awhile in his car, he dropped me off at my part-time job, and then onto my weekly widowed group that I recently joined. In there, one of the topics was change – how when change happens TO us, as widowed people, such as having no choice in the fact that your person is now dead – it sucks. You feel resentful of that kind of change, because you never asked for or wanted it. You liked things the way they were. Then we talked about another kind of change. The kind that you work hard at. The kind that is so slow, you may not know its happening, until you are sitting in your boyfriend’s car crying and telling him why the trauma of being raped, or finding out your husband is dead, causes you to find yourself hoarding and hiding food, and isolating in your self-loathing and pity. Telling him how it took you years to not feel guilty for sleeping, or how you are now the same age your husband was when he dropped dead for no reason, and you are terrified.
My guy came into my house with me, and then he said: “I forgot something in the car.” He came back with, quite literally, the biggest bouquet of multi-colored roses, I have ever seen or been given. I tried counting them, but I keep losing my place. There must be 6 or 7 dozen, as some of the budding ones fall hidden underneath the larger ones. He posed the question: “Have I told you today that you are absolutely beautiful, and that you deserve dozens and dozens of flowers?” In that moment, I felt like: “Hell yes! I DO deserve this! Ive certainly been through enough pain and worked my ass off to get here. To get to right now!”
As we stepped into the house, there was a small box waiting on the doorstep. A package for me. By the size of it, I knew exactly what it was. Cake!!! About a month ago, in one of the many widowed groups I hang out in on Facebook, a widow named Trinity, told the story of how she used to make this particular chocolate cake every year, for her husband, on his birthday. He loved the cake. When he died, she decided that instead of NOT making the cake any longer, she would instead make lots and lots of smaller cakes, and send them in the mail all across the country, to a bunch of widows, who are also missing their person. Instead of isolating in her pain, she decided to share her love forward, and keep celebrating his birthday in this strange and beautiful new way. Love Grows Love.
I dont think it was an accident that I received dozens of unexpected roses, delicious unexpected chocolate-fudgey cake, and a deep feeling that something in me was changing – all on the same day.
This is not the life I wanted or asked for or expected, and I will always deeply miss my husband, that life, and all of the things we will never get to do or live together.
But as I continue to grow into it, and work hard to create and build connections and goals that are meaningful to me – I fall into this life more and more, and I might just begin to love it.