This big, horrible thing happens. You lose the person with whom you chose to partner for the challenging, amazing, and, sometimes, scary thing called life. Each of us has our own unique experiences of the grieving process. Yet, it’s normal to feel like you have no idea how you’ll go on without them.
Whether I like it or not, nearly twenty years after my husband’s death, I am living and breathing without him. I couldn’t imagine in the early days of losing him I would eventually have a life I could love again. It wasn’t easy. I needed to do a lot of soul-searching. It also required a lot from my circle of people who carried me through the darkest days. I had to find my footing in a world without Gary in my own time and my own way.
Sometimes I forget how far I’ve come. But, with spring in the air, I decided to clean out some old files. The files were buried deep on my computer. They contained details of wrapping up the end of Gary’s life and starting out again as a single woman on my own. There was correspondence with a car broker who helped me. I needed to sell both cars and buy something more reliable with lower repair costs. There was a checklist of all the financial details I’d sent to our accountant six months into widowhood. It outlined steps I’d taken to clear up outstanding charges on his credit card, business taxes, and transfer of accounts.
The World Doesn’t Wait While We Grieve
We live in a very unforgiving world. There was no respite from bills, mortgage payments, or accounts to be closed or changed over when I was trying to breathe through the crushing weight of the loss of him. Waiting costs money when you’re dealing with financial accounts. I didn’t have the luxury of taking time off work. I was a freelancer in the film industry who had just recently moved up into a new position. To avoid the risk of being replaced, I returned to work three days after Gary’s memorial.
I read through the old files. It was amazing to see what I had been able to manage on my own during the most difficult time of my life. In looking in the rearview mirror, I caught a glimpse of me nearly two decades ago. I saw myself finding the strength to take charge of my financial wellbeing even when, at times, I found myself on my knees wishing for the life I thought we were going to have together. We never know how much courage we’ll have to face life’s challenges until they happen. We can’t guess how we’ll manage until our world comes crashing down and we’re without a blueprint of how to put it back together again.
We’re Stronger Than We Know
I did not know that even when I was feeling at my weakest, I would find the strength and energy to do the best I could to pick up the pieces and create a life for myself. Most days now, my focus is on being present in the moment and creating extraordinary experiences as often as possible. But taking a moment to look back at how far I’d come and acknowledge myself is important. I didn’t do it all perfectly. I didn’t get it all done at once. But I managed the most important things and, though I didn’t know it at the time, in doing so I was already slowly beginning to rebuild my life.
There will always be the missing of Gary. And, he will always be my inspiration for the work I do as a patient/caregiver advocate, as a grief recovery coach, and as an expert who works with healthcare professionals to train them to communicate more consciously with patients and their families. I didn’t get to choose a whole life with the love of my life. I did get to choose to honor him by finding a way to live as big a life as possible. My glance in the rearview mirror helped me to see how resilient the human spirit is and how creative we are in finding our way even when big, horrible things happen.