Life gives us ups and downs.
Too many to count. It is just what life does to us.
Life will bring us to our knees. Bring us lower than we think is possible, but if we stand back up, go just a little further, and continue to move forward, we can find love and strength.
On February 19, 2017, after a short battle with cancer, my husband passed away. He was my best friend. I won’t say soul mate, but he certainly did fill up my soul. I think a best friend is more special than a soul mate to have in a spouse/partner. It’s the person who can see you at your best and cheer you on, and also see you at your worst and stay there with you in that muck.
Andy did all that. I could write all about our love story, which at times was not that hallmark version because all relationships have the ebbs and flow of life. Staying in the muck together is what makes a great friendship. Being able to face a mirror held up to you is unique in a partnership. We had that together.
Losing something special is hard to process. It takes your brain time to reconcile what has happened. It takes time to build yourself back up again.
Grieving is painful. Watching someone you love grieve is painful to watch. This is why so many get uncomfortable and back off. Looking back now, I can understand in those darkest moments that it is too much. Will you say the wrong thing? The thing is, you might, but we all have to understand how the griever is operating in their new world. Our world just blew up. It is a feeling of floating through time with no end in sight.
These are just some of the lessons I learned grieving and some ideas on how to help someone who has lost a special person. There is no scale to what constitutes who gets to suffer more. Does a spouse land higher on the societal scale than, say, a pet? Does a child beat out a partner? Who gets to determine that? For the griever, all they know is pain. In those early days, months, years, we are trying to create a new life and a new normal.
I mean, building a new architecture to surround yourself takes time.
A house isn’t just built overnight. I am no engineer, but I know it takes some planning and surveying to ensure the ground can handle the new structure. The land must be excavated and clear-cut to ensure the foundation can handle the weight. That’s what it’s like starting a new life. Everything has been ripped up. The normal we had known is no longer. We are back at the foundation.
For the individuals trying to help, please don’t try to push the griever faster than they can go, especially in those early days. What we need is patience, understanding, and love.
Show up even if you are uncomfortable.
Society needs to be more open to people grieving. There is too much toxic positivity in trying to push us forward. Be gentle in how you offer help. It takes a lot of physical and mental energy for any person to attempt to do things independently. So when we ask for help, and if you offer support, make sure it’s not on your schedule.
There will be times when we go out when we finally pull ourselves out of the sadness for a brief moment. This will be hard, as we probably only want to stay home. Stepping out into life without our person is hard now. So when we do it, we may want to leave early, it could get to be too much for us, or we may end up crying. Give us that space; believe me, it’s more uncomfortable for us than you.
Grievers need a network. Saying I am here for you if you need anything is lovely and all, but we typically don’t know what we need. We are just trying to survive the day.
What’s helpful is stopping by to take a walk; chances are we won’t say no, but if you say, “If you ever want to take a walk, reach out,” we probably won’t. Support groups are great whether online, on social media, or in local organizations. The griever might not want to go. If you find a support group, research it. What you can help with is the research, and you can even go with them. Finding a place with individuals who understand the pain we are experiencing is extremely healing.
Grief brain is real, and we can get forgetful. I wrote an article about overcoming my anxiety by only doing three things a day when you are overwhelmed. You can read it here.
Most times, you will have to keep asking, and, more importantly, showing up.
There’s a quote from the movie “Hope Floats” with Sandra Bullock, “…endings are typically sad, beginnings are scary, but it’s the middle that counts.”
It’s five years since my husband died—five years of muck, five years of successes, five years of sadness—but as I find myself in the middle again, I need to be proud of what I have accomplished. I know this is because of the community I found. I have a good therapist I work with to keep me moving forward at my own pace. Friends who continue to reach out; unfortunately, I have lost some friends, which was hard to understand, but I have made peace with that. The uncomfortableness is just too much for some.
Do you remember that interview question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I always hated that one—like we know where we will be in five years.
Could I ever imagine myself saying, “In five years, I am going to be a widowed single mother”? Never!
I used to use this as my identity when people would ask me about myself. I said it like a badge of honor. I am softened on this now. Yes, I am widowed. Yes, I am a single mother. Most importantly, I am a mother to a wonderful, vibrant, athletic, funny, 14-year-old son who is just an amazing human.
Grief is hard. Being alone is hard. It’s easy for us to wallow in the tragedies that happen in our lives, and it’s natural for any of us to focus on those unspeakable moments that bring us to our knees. But if we get up, if we take those first steps out of the darkness, if we take our story just a little further, if we go far enough down the road, I always believe love is waiting for us.
Andy, you were a light in this world, and I am beyond lucky to have had that light shone on me for a brief moment. Forever in my heart.
Another one of us: