After Eight Years, It’s Getting Better at the Holidays

Thanksgiving is here. I am grateful for many, many things. Every day I count my blessings…really. My life is pretty, dang good most days. Sure I have struggles and challenges, everyone does. Widowed and non-widowed alike will have moments of acute gratitude and acute pain. It is what it is. People have joy and sorrow in their lives every, single day….holiday or not.

I’m getting better at holidays. Over eight years of practice now and I don’t feel completely taken down by them. This is my ninth Thanksgiving widowed. It is my boys ninth Thanksgiving without their dad. When I write these words, they knock the wind out of me. Yesterday, I was so fortunate to see Dave’s work buddies. I’m not sure if they know how much it means to me to get that call to come by and see them. They were just gathered for a short time, but being in the room with them, well, it reminds me that he was real. He was here. We had something. After all these years alone, sometimes I forget that I’m loveable. I forget that I don’t have to bear all the responsibility alone. I forget it happened to me.

Along with those moments of respite, I remember things too. I remember that for a while, I had someone who always had my back. No matter what, Dave had my back. I had his. We knew this. Our relationship wasn’t perfect…very far from perfect, but I never doubted that he would catch me if I fell. He would catch me when the big things happened…when I lost a job, a friend, a dream…and when the little, daily things would trip me, his hand was always there to help me up again. I did everything in my power to be that to him…always. Even in the midst of a fight, maybe even hating each other for a while for whatever reason, I knew he would always be there for me. I could fall and be caught…no matter what. Knowing this changed me. I was braver. I was more trusting. I learned to love fiercely, because I wasn’t afraid of being dropped.

In the years since he died, I sought out people who might catch me. I’ve been lucky because I have a pretty strong net of people who will catch me. The ones that wouldn’t or couldn’t catch me weeded themselves out pretty quickly after his death. It takes a special soul to catch a widow…at least that’s how I see it. As a widow, I feel even more invisible. I feel that not only I would not be caught, but who would even notice if I fell? Who would see me? I feel invisible…would anyone even notice if I needed them to get my back?

I think this is one of those feelings that transcends time for me. No matter how much I achieve, no matter how much I build in this new, unexpected life, I still worry about being seen and having someone there to catch me. I know that having someone like that is rare…I was lucky.

I think this fear of not being caught is a reflection of not receiving one of the things I value most in life. I put it out there every day for other people. It is who I am. I build relationships. I will love you fiercely. I will have your back. If you are family, friend, colleague, student, neighbor, well, really anyone who has become a part of my life, this is what I will do for you. Some people get this. Some people are ok with it…some are not. It is who I am. I am one of those people you can count on…nearly all the time. I think this is why I miss having someone in my corner so badly. It is one of the many, many reasons I miss Dave so badly…especially this week. As I think about what would have been our 17th wedding anniversary that just passed, as I think about another holiday season, as I think about the future and how mine was ripped away eight and a half years ago, I miss him deeply. I miss being caught. I miss being seen. I miss being loved fiercely and being able to love someone that way.

In the eighth plus year of this unexpected life, I know for certain that it will continue to teach me unexpected things. I know that there will be new and unexpected joys. I know that I will appreciate them even more than the average bear…I know that even though I worry about no one seeing me, no one catching me…someone will. I know that this holiday season will pass and it will give me unexpected gifts. I know that I will be stronger, more loving, and more me with every passing day…and for that I am grateful.

Christine Thiele

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Christine Thiele is a free lance writer, middle school teacher, and a former professional and volunteer youth minister. She has written for The Journal of Student Ministries, YouthWorker Journal , Grief Digest, OpentoHope.com, is a contributing author in several Open to Hope books and The Widow's Handbook (to be released in 2014 by Kent State University Press). Along with her writing, Christine is raising her two lovely and energetic sons. Since her husband's death in 2005 from pancreas cancer, her writing has been focused on grief and healing issues. Read her blog at http://widowisland.wordpress.com/

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