Losing my husband unexpectedly and learning to live with that loss has taught me so much. I’ve been thinking about this off and on for quite awhile…and while the sum total is far too long for one blog post and the learning process is ongoing probably for the rest of my life, I think there are a few pretty solid bullet points to share. What follows is in no particular order…just stream of consciousness…
I’ve learned that grief is ongoing, constant, never-ending…and yet also up and down, back and forth, in and out..different, it seems, one day to the next, one moment to the next. I’ve learned not to expect it to ever end…I don’t expect the process to ever heal me completely; it has become a part of me…I’ve had to learn to make friends with it. I also don’t expect to always be in a state of devastation, but I do expect to always be missing him. I’ve learned how to speak to others in grief…what to say, and what not to say. THAT is something I believe more people should be informed about, for sure.
I’ve learned how widowhood changes other relationships in my life. Some people who were friends with us when he was alive are now distant, and I’ve forged new friendships too, a lot of them being other widows and widowers who have been rocks of support and sharing (like here at Widow’s Voice). Sharing in our grief is SO important, and I’ve learned never to take that for granted. I’ve also learned a lot about the ins and outs of a new relationship after a loss. I’ve learned I cannot replace Mike, I cannot compare, and I appreciate this new love and companionship with as much balance and understanding as I can muster in that regard. I work hard not to allow little things to bother me like they used to - much of it seems so unimportant now, and yet, I am more fragile and sensitive too so I find I don’t have time for any bullsh*t either.
I’ve learned how drastically different this strange new normal is, this life without Mike. I’ve had to learn to live with the fact that he is not around to share life’s little joys, he is not here to chat with about a new movie or some news tidbit or share a meal. Life without Mike is a very different place indeed…and yet, I’ve learned that the memories I carry with me about the life we had, the way he was, and the wisdom he shared with me over the years did not disappear. Having been married to this incredible man will lend a certain flavor and texture to the rest of my days.
Mike wasn’t perfect. None of us are, and he was the first to admit his own mistakes while he was here. But he had his own brand of unusual, eccentric, and amazing. He taught me so much about life, love, spirituality…how to react, even if he didn’t always take his own advice. I realized the other day that I had completely forgiven him his faults; those little things that upset me here and there as in any marriage, I now never think about…do I regret ever being upset with him about things that seem so silly and irrelevant now? Yes, but it doesn’t keep me up at night. I know no marriage, no relationship, is really ever perfect, and I feel above all else a deep gratitude that I had the years I had with him. Wherever he is, I feel he has forgiven me too, for not being perfect. My relationship now with my dead husband is only about love, and an overwhelming sense of peace.
I’ve learned to treasure my own life, the days I have left, and the people around me now in a way I was never aware of before. I’ve learned how short life really is and how important it is to express love to others and work to make the world a better place, even if only in small ways. I’ve learned not to be self-centered or to take things too hard, or too personally. Time is too precious for petty and negative, and the world most certainly does not revolve around me.
I’ve learned that life really is change. It’s as if that little magic bubble of marriage and life I shared with Mike burst when he died, leaving me exposed to the reality that people - including myself - get old, we die, and in between are many instances of moving and shifting…nothing stays the same.
But despite the feeling of emotional fragility I’ve discovered on the heels of my new relationship, I’ve also learned how strong I really am. That I can conquer my fears, or at least learn to live with them. That I can be my own independent individual and rely on myself - and that I can survive incredible pain. While it’s hard not to have Mike around to share the burden, the experience of having been married to someone like him and then losing him has made me my own unique person, with my own unique traits and brand of wisdom, strength, and eccentricity.
I am Stephanie 2.0, updated daily.