What if you woke up to discover that your happiness was completely gone? That happened to me one cold November morning. Sid, my husband and soul mate for almost thirty-eight years, had died suddenly in his sleep.
I felt like my heart could not possibly go on beating without him. I remember lying alone in the dark that night, begging God to take me, too. But when the sun came up, I was still breathing.
Even though I could barely function at the time, I knew deep in my shattered heart that somehow I would have to eventually figure out how to find the road back to happiness.
As family members and friends drifted back to their normal routines, I was left alone to ponder the questions, What do I do now? Will I ever really be happy again? How do I even begin to take that first step on the road back to happiness?
It was a slow, painful process as I inched my way along through the many stages of grief. I discovered that overcoming this tragedy would be the most difficult thing I would ever do. I also learned finding happiness again would take more than just time. Getting grief counseling and joining a support group gave me the tools I needed to take the journey that often seemed like two steps forward and three steps back.
One of the things that helped me the most was the advice I got from my counselor. My old life was not forgotten, but it was gone. In order to be happy again, I would have to find the “new normal.” Nothing would be the same again, but it was possible to find a new way to be happy.
Another thing that helped me was a question the counselor asked. If the situation were reversed, would I want my husband to give up just because I was no longer living? Of course the answer was “no.” In fact, the best way to honor Sid, I began to believe, was to make the most of the rest of my life without him.
Each person has a different path and timeline on the road to recovery. But I found it was very important for me to keep focusing on that tiny light at the end of the tunnel. Faith and hope were my constant companions as I trudged along towards a brighter future.
I also felt like Sid was right behind me, helping me stay on course. Sometimes when I really got discouraged, I could almost hear him tell me, “You can do this.”
Slowly I pushed myself to resume the hobbies and social life I had lost interest in after Sid died. I found new interests, and made new friends along the way.
I also discovered that it was very healing to help others. I began to share my experiences with other widows, particularly ones that had suffered a more recent loss. Finding the balance between moving ahead and honoring the past was a challenge, too.
That involved stumbling over some unexpected bumps like happiness guilt. All the twists and turns often made the journey exhausting, and sometimes it was hard to find the strength to go on. But I knew I couldn’t give up.
My road back to happiness was more like a steep, slow climb full of road blocks. But I made it. Now I know that I can treasure those memories from the past, live for today and look forward to tomorrow. And I know Sid would be proud of me.
Melinda Richarz Lyons 2012