Andy Guice’s life forever changed when he met his wife. She uplifted and encouraged him in ways he’d never known. Then she underwent three rounds of chemotherapy for ovarian cancer and suffered a terrible death during just before their third wedding anniversary. He was 31 years old. The first part of this interview series covered her illness and the many difficult months following her death. Months that held suicidal ideation and intensive therapy. The remainder of his interview now follows, revealing wisdom and hope that have changed him once again.
JARVIE: What truths about life have you learned from your loss, and/or how do you think losing Kristin changed you?
GUICE: Life does indeed go on and absolutely nothing ever feels the same, yet that doesn’t mean happiness isn’t obtainable again… it just requires a lot of work before doing so.
Kristin was an incredibly positive person, and it perplexed me how someone like her could exist as it was foreign to me. It took me years after her death to realize that everything in life can be seen with multiple perspectives, and we have to actively choose what to give power to. Kristin learned and chose to focus on the positive, and I learned and chose to mostly see only negative things, and that colored everything else in my life.
I love the quote “I believe what I think I know.” I learned how to thrive in negativity to survive bullying, depression, embarrassment, heartbreak and life. I never learned anything to the contrary until I shifted my thoughts from being certain to being curious. From that point, it felt like a veil was lifted and the entire world became an exponentially more beautiful place to live in.
JARVIE: Where are you now in your healing process?
GUICE: I think I’ve been through the myriad of grieving emotions a few times over now, and while I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘fully’ over my loss, I have come to terms with the fact Kristin is gone.
I am ready to find love again. In fact, I wasn’t ever ready to find love in the first place – I just happened to come across it with Kristin and it happened to be one of the best decisions of my life. Losing Kristin forced me to fully embrace what she helped me see in myself and the person that I am, as well as the person I can be. I find it incredibly unfortunate that I can’t show her who I am today, but I know she would be so happy to know how much she truly influenced the fibers of who I am right now.
For the moment, I’m very grateful to be dating someone who truly energizes me. It helps reaffirm that life does go on, and that I can find love again. I’m also blessed with a renewed vigor for life itself and the relationships I keep with others. I’m no longer worried daily about How do I not scare this person away? and instead think things like How can I improve this person’s life today? It feels amazing, yet at times, also hollow that I can’t share it with the person who showed me this way of being.
JARVIE: What advice would you give to someone who is losing and/or has just lost their spouse?
GUICE: Be selfish, be sad, and be whatever the heck you need to be to survive.
Time will help make things more manageable, but that absolutely doesn’t mean it heals the wound. It only is an antibiotic to help ease the pain. We all have to learn our own way to sow the wound and help it heal, and that path is different for everyone. Not only that, but you have to want to follow it.
Find one or two ‘rocks’ in your life and talk to them. Mine happened to be my mom, my brother, my cousin, Joe, and my friend, Joe. Without them, I know for certain I wouldn’t be here today.
JARVIE: Has anything surprised you about your grief journey?
GUICE: That I am alive today and that I completed a marathon to honor my wife. I am truly a stronger person today than I was with her, and that fact will forever both haunt and bless me on a daily basis.
JARVIE: In what ways do you think men have a different experience than women in grief? Are there different cultural expectations?
GUICE: Men are told to provide, to nurture, to protect. They’re not usually told to embrace their emotions and talk about their feelings. I lost a TON of friends over the course of this due to people simply thinking I’m a whiny little baby about my ‘problems.’ No joke…
I think women offer a much stronger and more compassionate support structure than men have. That isn’t to say there aren’t great men out there, but it just requires a bit more searching to find the ones you can confide in and truly lean on for anything. I am forever grateful to have those people – both men and women – in my life.
JARVIE: I understand you are dating again. What’s that like?
GUICE: It is both fun and horrible at the same time. While I’m not the hunkiest guy around, it is admittedly a bit fun to feel like a worthwhile bachelor amongst a sea of the hideous men that end up on dating sites.
I attempted dating before therapy and it wasn’t overly successful, but it did show me that I could be liked and possibly even loved again. It also made my mental instability very omnipresent as I struggled to maintain a level head on a day-to-day basis. Dating post-therapy has been more successful, but the constant flashbacks of my former life and the uncontrollable yearn to be back in the arms of my lost love continues to haunt me to this day.
It sucks to be vulnerable and put myself out there with the glaring chip-on-my-shoulder that is being a widow. However, life begins outside of your comfort zone. I know I can find love again, and I know that life goes on. I know I can rebuild and I’m pretty sure I will survive.
If losing Kristin has taught me anything, it has taught me to understand and respect exactly what I am, and what I am not. It taught me I am worthwhile and possibly even a good person, and now I’m honored with the privilege to be able to love again.
Everything worthwhile in life is difficult at some point, and dating is no different.
JARVIE: What does resilience mean to you?
GUICE: It means perseverance through life’s challenges. It is the will to live for the sake of living, even when it feels like there’s no will to do so. It means finding something to hold on to despite feeling helpless, powerless, and hopeless.
Michelle Jarvie is an author and educator from Minneapolis, MN. She is dedicated to kaleidoscope living: finding new patterns within the broken pieces. Connect with her online at michellejarvie.com