When my husband died, I was still in the process of integrating in to his 'before life' and forming connections with his friends. We lived in Brisbane and he was from Sydney, so most of his close friends weren't local and we therefore didn't get to hang out with them regularly.
I knew they were wonderful people though, lots of fun, loyal friends to Dan and the kind of people I was looking forward to having in my life too.
When he passed away unexpectedly, six weeks after our wedding, one of the many random thoughts that ran through my mind was 'now I will lose my connection to all of these people whom I was really looking forward to getting to know!' Luckily for me, I wasn't entirely correct.
Sure there are some whom I lost touch. Some of them have stayed in contact, checking in on important dates, liking my Facebook posts, etc. And others have been more present throughout the past 22 months and I'm now blessed to call them friends of my own accord.
This was a great surprise to me. I wasn't expecting it but am so happy to not only have them in my life - to share my love for Dan and swap memories with - but to be making new memories together through our own genuine connection.
One in particular has been an incredible support. She went to school with my husband and lived down the street from him. They'd formed a special life-long brother/sister connection that they'd both held dear. She had also, many years earlier, experienced her own grief at the loss of a partner when her boyfriend died unexpectedly, and consequently, fought her own battle with severe depression.
After Dan's death, this friend called or text me at least once a week for a very long time. Even thought she lived in another state, I started feeling like she was one of the few people I could talk to about what I was going through and rely on to listen to me and 'be there' with me in my darkest days.
This regular 'checking in' didn't stop at that point where most other people start to forget or drop off, it continued for well into the second year and we still talk regularly now. I value and treasure both her friendship and the connection it gives me to my husband.
So when I heard that her long-term boyfriend had proposed and they were planning their wedding, I was over the moon for my friend and honoured to be invited to their wedding. However, when the invitation arrived, I saw it would be held the week after Dan's death anniversary, on the same date of his funeral.
I knew that this friend would not only have no idea of the significance of this date for me (the funeral day is something that not many would think about), I also knew she'd be mortified if I told her the impact it had on me.
So, over the past couple of months, I've been thinking about what to do. On one hand, I really want to be there to celebrate my friend's happy day. A hopeless romantic, I have always loved weddings and was honoured to be invited. But on the other hand, I knew this would be a difficult time for me. Possibly not the best day to be travelling interstate, to a 'love' themed event where I wouldn't know many people.
I was torn. I didn't have to make a quick decision, it's still a couple of months away, so I let it sit and wait until the answer came to me. We continued to speak regularly, my friend was very understanding and never put any pressure on me to attend but couldn't keep the excitement out of her voice when I enquired about her wedding plans.
As an example of what a wonderful person she is, they happy couple even asked my permission to incorporate Dan in to their day - choosing a reading from one of his favourite books and asking guests to consider making a donation to a charity that supports people with depression, in lieu of a wedding gift.
This week, I finally made my decision - and booked my flights to attend. This was based on a range of factors. Another friend offered to come with me as my 'plus one' and keep me company; the excitement that I felt for my engaged friend started feeling stronger than the dread I felt for my husband's pending anniversary; and I decided that the 1st of August didn't have to ONLY be about the day we said goodbye to Dan - but it could also be the day to celebrate something beautiful.
I chose to make it a day to celebrate love. The love that my friend shares with her husband-to-be, and the love that brought me not only to Dan but to this special person he heralded into my life.