There are days you sit in a chair and stare out the window because living seems to take too much energy. Even to think about what to make for dinner is an all-consuming task. It can be daunting, feeling as if there is nothing in this world that will ever hold your interest again. The mail order catalog with the Valentine’s Day gifts is a reminder there won’t be any lover’s keepsakes. No hiding in the cabinet those chocolate and peanut butter eggs my husband, gone two years, used to enjoy. How small and silly a thought, but how big a rip in my heart.
I had always been versatile and open to new ideas, but following my husband’s death, life became a narrow focus of work and children. The joy had flown from most of my days and I worried if this consuming disinterest in the world would be permanent.
Time could move excruciatingly slow, and yet other days I couldn’t account for the hours I’d lived through. On the dark days, I lamented that no one cared anymore about my worries, dreams or desires.
I hated being an empty vessel, and as I began dating, I expected that special someone to come along, fill me up, and make me happy. At that point, I mistakenly thought, things would return to normal. I’d be my old self. Little did I know at the beginning of my grief journey, my old self was forever gone. However, I wanted verification that I mattered to someone in some way. I wanted affection and caring, craving what I no longer had. My heart remained ever hopeful that I would find a happy ending, but due to some poor choices, I kept throwing myself on the rocks of dating disappointment.
With the loss of someone integral to mine and my children’s lives, my sense of normalcy had changed. Sometimes I wallowed in uncertainty about my life, and the tears would leak out of my eyes to run down my cheeks. I kept those emotions hidden most of the time. I couldn’t bear to have others see me so weak; it seemed too private to share. On rare occasions, I allowed myself to express my pain and anxiety. I wish now that I shared my grief more often.
One day I awoke and realized my life had never been a shipwreck and now was not the time to start. I was ever mindful that I was an example to my children, so I gathered my strength and took control of my destiny. Knowing the future was all in my hands was frightening and yet liberating. Becoming myself once more wasn’t an easy process, but a slow, methodical movement forward.
I am no longer the woman I was, but then having gone through this journey, how could I expect, or want, to return to who I had been? Indeed, as the years folded one into another, I had no need to rehash the past. It was behind me as it should be, neither forgotten nor dwelled upon.
I now avidly pursue the future as I welcome life’s unexpected joys and experiences. A new life and outlook has emerged, and it is interwoven with bits and pieces of my former life. I am thankful to have found myself again.
Elaine Williams is a widow and author of A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss will be available June 2008, http://www.ajourneywelltaken.com
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