“When I think about how far I have come, I sometimes can’t believe it. In seven months since Albert’s death, I have evolved and grown into someone I barely recognize. And that isn’t a negative or a positive statement. I say it as a fact. I am different. I am the same. I am becoming the woman I was meant to be. When tragedy hits you, you have many choices in front of you and each day is different and the choices I make daily are different. A counselor I met with looked at me and asked this simple question, ‘Would Albert want you to grieve with fear, or grieve with hope?’ I immediately knew the answer. Albert would want me to grieve with hope. Hope. What a polarizing word.
As I sat there on the couch, tears streaming down my face. I knew I needed to live. I have every reason and right to live. Just because Albert died, doesn’t mean I have to as well. That would be the last thing he would want me to do. As I left the grief support house in my hometown, I had a renewed hope. I knew I couldn’t sit on the sidelines of life any longer. I got in my car, turned up the music, and went for a drive. I cried, I laughed, I got intently quiet and focused on the road ahead of me. My life is mine. And I need to hope.
When you are 32, with a 2-year-old son, and your husband suddenly dies, life has a much deeper meaning. I am rediscovering who I am. I am looking at myself with new eyes and more understanding. I see myself and the way I look at the world and others. It is different. I see everything so much differently now. When I see a friend struggling, I don’t ignore it. I offer my support. When I see a stranger struggling, I don’t ignore it. I offer my support. As human beings, I believe that in order to find true happiness and to create a more joyous existence, we must connect with one another. Connection is what brings us together and breaks down stigmas of what is socially acceptable to talk about.
When someone dies, whether it be from disease, suicide, uncontrollable circumstances, addiction, it doesn’t matter how many people are affected by it, death is death and it is tragic. No death is worse than another. When someone dies it creates ripples that can be felt for years and years. In these past seven months, I have had the humble pleasure of talking with many young widows about the loss of their beloved husbands. No story is the same, but our hearts are so uniquely alike. These women have endured something no one ever should at our age. Their stories are beautiful and full of longing for what could have been. The hope you lose when your person is taken from you all too soon. The dreams you had, ripped at the seams. When your beloved dies, the secondary losses from this tragedy are overwhelming. You think, ‘I wanted to have children with him,’ or ‘I am a stay at home mom, how am I going to provide for my family?,’ or ‘Who am I without him?’ You become so intransigently intertwined with someone else that the thought of being without them is terrifying. You depended on them to open that jar you couldn’t get a grip on, or your lights get turned off because he was the one who always paid the electric bill, or your child can’t get to sleep because they keep begging for daddy to come back home. It is in those moments you break down and sob, cursing God and what he has done to you and your family. How could someone who is supposed to be so powerful and loving let this happen? How can you ever believe in anything ever again? How can you trust again? How can you love again?
As I sit here thinking about all the hopes and dreams, the should’ve, the could’ve and the won’t’s, I am still. My heart is trying to relay a message of hope. Hope for my future, hope for loving and trusting again. Hope to believe in me again. I am living in a world surrounded by constant reminders that I am not the norm. That I am somehow unworthy of happiness because of the cards I have been dealt. I open up Instagram and Facebook and see happy couples on their wedding day, mothers growing another life inside them, families on their summer vacations, and pictures of fathers and sons laughing together. I see these images and while I could be angry and jealous and utterly sad, I am not. I had all those things, and they will always be a part of me. I know how blessed I am to have experienced such joy, even if it was for but a moment. I see those images and see hope. Hope for what life has waiting for me if I only have the courage to step out and take it. I am slowly pushing the boundaries of what was once my comfort zone. I am meeting new people, going new places, and experiencing new things because I am simply choosing to live. And you know what? I haven’t felt this free in a long time. I am breaking down barriers I have held onto for years and coming to realizations about myself I was afraid to accept. I am truly finding myself in a way I never thought possible.
As I step into this wild and wonderful unknown, I know I will be ok. Actually, I will be more than ok, I will thrive. With the support of family and friends, I have been given grace and space to grow and continue the process of finding myself. I started working towards my doula certification, started a podcast, creating events for others like me in my area, and writing. I have started going out more, seeing my friends, and having one too many to drink. I am working on creating a healthier lifestyle and loving myself. I am a constant work in progress and perfectly imperfect. And I love that. I can look at myself in the mirror and see the lines form around my eyes as I smile, or the lines by my mouth crease as I cry, and I love it. My hair definitely has a few more grays than it used to, and I am ok with that. I am aging, something Albert will never get to do. I will grow older. Albert will not. I will take each day and be thankful that I am slowly but surely getting older, wiser, and quite frankly, more beautiful. Beauty is wisdom, beauty is self-awareness, beauty is giving oneself to others. In a world where we can feel so small and insignificant, know that you are not. You matter. Your voice will be the difference in someone’s life. Your experiences and tragedies will inspire others and help them to know they aren’t alone. I am one person, but I know that by speaking up and sharing my life, it can only bring good to the world.
Watching your husband or loved one die in front of you, changes you. I know that firsthand. I have chosen to stand up to the storm that continually tries to knock me down. I ride the waves of grief, letting the sadness wash over me and then back out again. Letting happiness shine its warm light on me even if for a moment. I will always be grieving, that is the unfortunate side effect of grief. It never goes away. I will always have a little ache in my heart. I will always have that twinge of longing for what could have been. I will always love Albert. But I will feel joy along with the ache in my heart, and find that beautifully delicate balance of life after loss. I see my future and it is brighter than I could ever imagine. I see hope. I see love. I see laughter. I see me. Whole. Resilient. Loved.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brianna Simpson of Fredericksburg, Virginia. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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