Life throws everybody curve balls. They can be minimal, or heartbreaking, but they are unexpected. On the morning of December 31st, 2016, I would never imagine that it would be the last time I would wake up next to my husband, James. I would never believe that our last kiss was when the clock struck midnight while we celebrated the New Year’s entrance.
My wonderful husband passed away just a few hours after that kiss. He died instantly without any warning. I had no idea I was watching him take his last breath. I could write a full book on that night, not that I remember everything. I could explain how my brain couldn’t comprehend what was happening and how I suddenly felt abandoned, alone and confused.
That all sounds sad, and trust me it is, but instead of dwelling on that, I want to write about what I have been learning through my grief. You simply cannot control many things in life. The only thing that you can control is yourself and your responses to things. That is exactly what I have been learning to do.
I remember a few months after James passed away, trying to figure out what makes me happy. Although I don’t believe there is any silver lining to my story, I tried to think what could still bring me joy in life. At first when I started traveling, my favorite part was that no one knew who I was. No one knew my story. No one could look at me with sympathy or ask how I was “holding up”. In fact, I thought that was the reason I enjoyed traveling so much. It was not until I had been traveling for a few months that I realized why I loved it so much.
I was living life.
Experiencing new places made me feel proud, confident and alive. I had the opportunity to see places that James never got to see. So far, I have been to 16 countries since James passed away. That number is continuing to grow. At first when I was traveling, I did not tell anyone my story. In fact, sometimes I even used a fake name (Leanne, which is my middle name). As time went on and I realized why I was truly traveling, I began opening up to people. It was not a topic of conversation on a regular basis however; if I started traveling with someone for a few days and we were talking about our pasts I would bring it up.
Most people were shocked. Some cried. Most just could not believe they were sitting beside someone who seemed to be so “okay” when they had such a terrible thing happen to them. The thing about travel is that you meet so many different people along the way. I talked to people that were given everything in life but suddenly felt lost and stuck. I’ve met people that came from nothing but have somehow, against all odds, figured out a way to build a better life. I’ve met people from so many different countries with so many different stories.
Do you know what I realized?
Living is a decision. So many people go through life thinking they are living when really just going through the motions. It does not matter your past; the decision just comes down to you. There are many ways I could have reacted to my husband’s sudden death. I have days where I struggle. I have days where I’m confused why I’m suddenly on the other side of the world without the love of my life by my side. Of course, every day is not a rainbow; I’ll be the first to admit that! However, bungee jumping in Scotland and paragliding in Slovenia was my choice. My choice is to live.
Seeing someone that I love suddenly stop getting the opportunity to live made me realize that I have a choice. Your life is a choice. Nothing you have done or nothing in your past defines you, especially when it is completely out of your control. Becoming a 26-year-old widow does not define me. Picking myself up and deciding to live defines the person that I am today and the person that I have become. Embrace yourself and embrace life.
“The dark season shaped who I am now, but it no longer defines me.”
Coming to you from the beautiful country of Croatia.
Laura started an Instagram account just 30 days after her husband passed away. While reading various quotes, she began putting stories to them. She shares her entire journey of love, loss and moving forward. Laura decided to start guest blogging so that she could start going into more detail on her grief process and moving forward. Follow her on Instagram at @AdventuresAfterYou75