I've been thinking a lot lately about accomplishment, and just how important it has been in helping me to heal and learn to live again. I'm a few months into my third year of being widowed now. Since he died, there have been dozens and dozens of leaps into the unknown. Like most of you, a lot of what I have accomplished I did not have a choice in; planning his funeral, making it through all of the "first"s of year one, or even just getting out of bed on the days when I had only about one cell left in me that was strong enough to do so.
It can be so easy to forget to look back at all the things we've accomplished, especially when we're in pain. Even though these past few years are full of things I never wanted to accomplish - things I never wanted to be able to say I have done - each one of them still makes me feel incredibly proud. It's a kind of pride unlike any other. Because his death did break me… it completely broke me. And for a long time, I was terrified I might not survive. Yet here I am, somehow, learning to live a beautiful life once more and discovering that he is still an integral part of that. And I am proud - not because it didn't break me - because it broke me and I am still here.
There are also the other things I'm proud myself for since he died… the ones I did get to choose. I have done things I never imagined I'd do because they are things he never got to do - like open-cockpit aerobatics in a WWII era biplane (I am still astounded that I did this!). I've achieved lifelong dreams that he and I talked of often - like having my first solo art show, selling my photography for the first time and visiting my first national park. I've even achieved a few new goals that the old me NEVER would have set for herself - like taking up Crossfit and, just recently, doing competitions (a big deal for a woman who hasn't done anything athletic since the age of twelve! No, seriously).
When we're talking about building our broken selves back up - pride in who we are and what we can do is a vital part of it. Because that pride - along with trust - breeds hope. A hope that "maybe, just maybe… I can survive this." which turns into "Maybe I actually can have a happy life again" and becomes "I am building a happy life again, no matter what".
Whether it's the things we never imagined having to do, or the things we never imagined we could do - it's really all about one thing: surprising ourselves and never forgetting it. There is so much healing in sitting down each day to allow yourself to feel pride in all you've accomplished. Going hand-in-hand with that is continuing to give yourself new things to accomplish each day that you can feel proud of. Things that allow you to surprise yourself. Even if that something seems very small, we all know - in grief - no accomplishment is small.
There is also, I've begun to realize, another aspect of accomplishment which I didn't expect to have after my fiancé died; him. He is interwoven into every single thing I achieve. Not only because his death has changed everything about my life, but because I still feel his pride in all I do. Death has not changed that. Sure, it still really sucks that I cannot call him or see his face light up when I tell him. That will always suck. But I still feel how proud he is and I decide to focus on that.
At first, accomplishing things was just survival… a thing I had to do. But over time, I'm discovering it to be one of the most important parts of building a meaningful and happy new life that includes him in it. With every moment that we surprise ourselves, we come to know, love and appreciate ourselves more fully and see our partner's place in our lives more clearly. Each accomplishment becomes a gift from their afterlife to our after life - ensuring they never really leave our side.
I challenge you to get out there and surprise yourself (and your partner) today. Big, small, doesn't matter. Spend ten minutes (or all day!) allowing yourself to feel proud for all you have accomplished up to this point of your journey... And feel how proud your partner is too. A little pride can go a long way.