One year ago, everything was new. I was newly widowed, and a new single parent. There were new emotions, new challenges, and new triggers around every corner.
I had heard about Camp Widow, and I had a new idea. I would peek out of my armored shell of grief, and go against the grain of my own personality. I would force myself to be a new person, even for just a few days. My new year’s resolution was to stand up, wipe the snot off of my nose, and just do something new.
I never was much of a social person. Megan always had to drag me out of the house to be around other people, and even when she succeeded, I was usually grumpy and unsociable. Who knows what lit this new fire in me, but I resolved to put myself in what was sure to be a complete train wreck of a weekend, validating my outlook that it was better and safer to be a loner.
Arriving in Tampa, I still figured that I’d just survive the weekend, go home, and try to figure out my new normal on my own. It wasn’t long after arriving at the hotel that a new woman sat down beside me. Sarah.
Megan and I had talked through the years, and she always said that she would want me to find someone new when she was gone. Looking back, I don’t know if she ever really thought I would though, being as unsociable as I was. Or maybe she did. Maybe she remembered the person that I was when our own relationship was new. When I was 22 years old. When I was a newly discharged Marine. Perhaps she knew that her death would bring that person back, when the new normal also meant not having to worry about keeping her healthy every moment.
As I sat at that table in a bar in Tampa, and struck up a conversation with Sarah, a new relationship started to form. I could write volumes about that weekend alone, but that’s for another time and venue.
When I arrived home, I really didn’t know what to think. I was still grieving (and I still am), but this new me felt oddly familiar. I had a new person to talk to, a new friend, but I was more surprised that there seemed to be a resurgence of the old me in the new me. This is not to say that I was suddenly 22 years old again. I am still a father, with a mortgage and bills to pay. However, I felt a small pinch of new happiness. I was outgoing, like my old, goofy self. I was braver and more confident that I could deal with anything. I felt...new.
I decided to go with it. After all, I wasn’t disregarding Megan’s wish for me to find someone new, and I held true to my wedding vows without fail. I allowed my new self to let fate take it’s course, be vulnerable, and follow my heart. Wouldn’t you know it, this new person did the same. For a while, things were muddled. Neither of us had been in a new relationship in years, there were new triggers for grief almost daily. I still missed Megan, she still missed Drew...and that will always be there.
The key was that we allowed it to be there for each other. Our new relationship was not founded on a band-aid or a fix. I am still allowed to grieve over Megan at any time (and boy was last week a new doozy), and I support and allow her to grieve over Drew at any time. The shiny and new didn't distract us. Hell, sometimes, we grieve together, over each other’s losses, and I’m sure any onlookers wonder just what in the hell is going on. I was newly grieving a man I had never met.
Grief clouds us. It can force us to make risky decisions, poor decisions, and worst of all, no decisions. Somehow, I was lucky enough to make a risky decision that turned out to be the beginning of something wonderful. That decision has brought new emotions, new experiences, new triggers, new joys, new friends, and new loves in the span of one year. My new year’s resolution is to continue to embrace the new as it comes; good, bad, or indifferent.
For had I not pursued and embraced the new last year, I would still be the old me.
Happy New Year to all.