I wrote about feeling restless in year three and I am happy to say that this restlessness has disappeared for the most part now that I am in year five+ of this widowhood thing. Grief changes thankfully. I am no longer consumed by emptiness and sadness is not my baseline anymore. For me, life is good again and it can be this way for you too.
In March of 2019, I wrote this about my grief: I have included updates to my original blog so you can see the progression of my grief and hopefully this gives you some much needed hope.
After the initial shock of Mike’s death wore thin, I began to feel restless and I have remained this way ever since. Early on, I naively sought to “fix” my brokenness. Now, after almost two and a half years, I know that there is no fixing this. I simply must build around the grief that exists inside me. And, as you know, there is nothing simple about this. It takes dedication and commitment in order to rebuild a full life after your previous life implodes.
I am grateful that with time and consistent hard work, the hollowness is becoming less prominent because the life I am recreating around it is becoming fuller. And, it is my hope that my life continues to become more fulfilling as I work to create my new identity. Yet, with this said, essentially, my grief has not changed a lot over the last year. The most notable difference is that I am more tired now. I am tired of feeling sad and lonely. The fatigue of grief has set in.
Thankfully, my grief is less raw now; but, the emptiness inside me remains present. There is no getting around it. There is no “cure” for it. Someone I was in love with died and this isn’t going to magically be okay – ever. Grief changes and evolves, but this doesn’t mean that I will ever not miss him. I will always wish he was still here sharing my life with me.
I miss Mike.
And, I will continue to miss him as the months turn into years;
and, then as the years turn into decades.
This is life as a widowed person.
There is a profound sense of missing that is always present.
(Update 2022: the missing changes. It will never disappear, but it doesn’t consume me the way I thought it would continue to. I am able to remain present now. I am able to think thoughts about the future – both immediate and long term. I have accepted that Mike died and I am able to live for me now. I no longer live in my head reliving the past and this is a relief for me.)
I have now accepted that I will miss him for my entire life. I miss him all day long no matter where I am or what I am doing. I know for certain that no amount of busy work alleviates my grief. At the end of the day, it is there. It is part of me. I can’t hide from it. And, the good thing is I don’t want to. (Update 2022: The missingness is no longer continuously with me. I miss him, but I have allowed myself to fully reengage in life. I am living again. My life got louder and not surprisingly my grief is quieter now.)
Early on I realized that I could not out run my grief. I saw others try to quiet their grief with various things and I intimately understand their desire to seek relief from grief. I get it, I want grief to cut me some slack too. I’m tired of it. But, me being tired has no affect on grief. Grief does not grant breaks for time earned. Grief is relentless and demands your attention whether you are exhausted or not. (Update 2022: One of the best things I did was give grief the attention it demands. I was a goods student. I leaned into the sadness as I moved forward.)
I learned early on that in order to “successfully” grieve, you can not push it down. You can not ignore it. Eventually, you must look grief in the eye. So, in an effort to grieve well, I have been very generous with the time and attention I have given my grief. To be clear, I am not advocating wallowing in grief; but, rather walking toward it. I believe in leaning into it. This is what works best for me.
I am better for listening to my grief and acknowledging the aching in my Soul. In the process of doing this difficult work I have learned a lot about myself. When Mike died I was forced to stand in the wreckage of my old life. And, here among the rubble, my foundation was exposed. I could not hide from myself. And, in the years that have followed, I have taken advantage of this lucidity and I have carefully and purposefully searched the landscape of my Soul.
Finally, after many hours of sitting in the sadness and brokenness I am in a good place. I know my grief well and, more importantly, I’ve come to know myself. I know what I need to do to successfully reenter life because I took the time to carefully consider the direction of my alternate life. I have painstakingly thought about who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. I have a true sense of myself; and, now, all that is left is to action what I’ve come to know.
This work of self discovery has consumed me for over two years. And, I am better for settling into my grief and allowing it to painfully absorb into me. I did not distract myself with people or things that would dull my pain. Well, in the spirit of full disclosure, there have been many nights over the last couple years that I have drowned my loneliness and sadness in wine. And, in truth, I don’t feel bad about this. Grief is f@cking hard. Wine doesn’t fix it or make it less difficult; but if a glass of Malbec is the worse thing I have indulged in since Mike died I can live with this.
The most difficult thing for me now is staying the course. I have long outgrown my life here in the town where Mike and I fell in love; but, I must remain where I am for my children. For the next two years, I must live here, in the shadows of my former life, because it offers my children the stability they deserve. The challenge for me is whether I can be a good mom when I feel so restless and hungry for change. In this scenario, the margin for error is small. I will not be happy with myself unless I manage to be a “good” mother. I have to be able to do more than survive living here. Surviving isn’t good enough for my kids or for me. I want to thrive and live well. It is not acceptable to just go through the motions because I feel duty bound to provide my boys with the stability life in suburbia affords.
My kids need to see me genuinely happy again. And, at the end of the day, all my boys have ever wanted is for me to be happy. A happy mom is a good mom. Therefore, happiness can’t wait until I can make radical changes. I need to find a way to find joy where I am. And, in truth, I know full well that joy isn’t found somewhere far away from here. I do not need to leave my hometown to find joy because authentic joy is found within. True happiness can’t be manufactured outside of ourselves. So, if I know all this sh*t, why does it seem so hard to be happy here?
It is likely difficult to be happy because I am overthinking everything. The reality of the situation is fairly simple. My soul is restless and inside of me there is a deep sadness because Mike died. That the plain truth. And, further, I realize that there is nothing I can do to “fix” my restlessness or sadness. However, I think that if I change the way I view my current situation it will help…
As I type this, I have come to realize that it requires an enormous amount of strength to stay the course and maintain a holding pattern when everything inside me wants to sell everything and travel far, far away. For a long, long time I have undervalued my own strength.
Staying still is not easy. That is why so many people run toward things and people who are not good for them. Being still requires patience. Being still allows you to hear the truth in the silence. I have continually walked toward my grief rather than run from it.
I have steeped myself in the missingness.
I have soaked in the loneliness.
I have absorbed the sadness into myself.
I have bathed in my own tears.
And, all of this was hard. Beyond hard.
But, it was necessary.
All this time, I thought I was standing on the edge of something big and I thought that I had to summon the courage to take a leap of faith. I was wrong. Yes, I am on the edge of something big, but what is required of me is that I maintain this holding pattern – for just a little longer. The relief I feel as I write this is beyond description. I finally understand my hesitation. I have not lept forward yet, not because I lack courage. In fact, it is the opposite. I am filled with courage and strength. Being still when I want to flee requires more discipline than following my impulse to run. I get it. I finally get it. I know my own power. And, this is the happiest I have felt in a very, very long time.
Update 2022: I held still and maintained a holding pattern for a long, long time. It was needed. But, it was also necessary to break out of this stagnant state eventually – when it was time. When the time comes, I recommend that you do the same. Reclaim your life, it is yours for the taking.