In September 2011, my dad, a very important figure in my life, died following a brief illness. It was a difficult and sad time. I was very fortunate to have my husband there to support me. Nine days after my dad’s funeral, I was having a particularly sad day. I remember that night my husband put his arms around me and said, “You are going to be alright.” How prophetic those words would become. The very next day, my husband died suddenly and unexpectedly. My world was turned upside down.
When you experience profound loss, you have no idea where your path will take you. You cannot predict how you will feel as the years go by. It’s hard for me to believe, it has been five years since I got that horrendous phone call on Friday, September 16th; in many ways it stills feels like yesterday. There is still not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my husband and all that I lost on that day; his life and my life as I knew it.
I guess I would say that I have learned how to live with the day-to-day reminders. I can talk about my husband with family and friends and find joy in thinking about the good times we had with him. It does comfort me when people talk about him. It touches my heart when they share stories with me. People cannot possibly know how much that means to me.
I still get sneak attacks of sadness but I have learned to manage my sad moments by myself, and that was a big step for me. I allow myself time to process and work through my grief because one thing I’ve learned after five years is that it does not go away and cannot be ignored. However, grief does get different, and I honor the way my grief is now different.
My family and friends continue to sustain, love, and support me. They are always there for me. My three granddaughters are a source of joy and happiness. They still talk about “Beepa” and ask me questions about him. We go to the cemetery together each year on the anniversary. The girls decorate little pumpkins and arrange them over so carefully around the stone.
Parting with things that were important to your loved one is difficult and takes time. Only you know when the time is right. Recently, I sold our lake cabin. It was bittersweet but something I had to do on an emotional level. It was such a special place for us to spend time together and enjoy family and friends. We will always have those memories and we will hold them in a special place in our hearts. Selling the cabin was a very important part of my healing.
I remember a time about one year ago, I was feeling particularly tired and cranky. I was not sure why I did not connect those feelings to my grief. Fortunately, I had the good sense to make an appointment with my grief counselor. After describing to her what I was going through, she said: “I think you are depressed.” I was rather shocked by her statement because that never occurred to me. Depression is new to me. I left her office that day feeling somewhat relieved to know there was a name for what I was feeling and a reason for my state of mind.
My therapist suggested I try mindful meditation. She also advised me to check in with my physician. Knowing what was going on gave me the determination to make a plan and work on my sadness. Mindful meditation did help and once again, I was reminded just how powerful the ups and downs of grief can be.
So years later, I do still experience grief and loss. I accept that I always will. After all, when you lose people who are so important to you, how could it be any different? Accepting this allows me the strength and courage to keep living, enjoy friends and family, and seek new adventures that bring happiness and fulfillment to my life. I believe we make a conscious choice to engage in life or not to. I choose to “engage.” In the beginning, when everyone told me I was strong, I did not believe them but now I think “perhaps they were right.”