Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Diary of a Coping Widow

About six months ago I was happily married. I had a husband whom I loved dearly along with elaborate plans for a perfectly perfect marriage. Today I am a widow. No more marriage and no more fantastically perfect plans. It's been, shall I say, a difficult transition moving from married to single, wife to widow (actually, "difficult transition" may be the understatement of the year).

Let's call the first month after Dan died "the fog." In those first several weeks, the world spun around me as I moved about it dazed and confused. I was inundated with immediate business like making funeral arrangements, notifying bank and insurance accounts, paying bills, transferring services to my name, modifying user settings on our computer accounts, and settling my work leave of absence.  My email, text message, and Facebook inboxes overflowed with notes of condolences, inspiration, and comfort.  My snail mailbox overflowed with Mass cards, sympathy cards, comforting cards, and gifts.  Essentially, I was in a constant state of "fog." (Please don't hold me accountable for anything I said or did in those weeks - I don't remember it). In the first chaotic month, I wondered how I was keeping it together, getting things done, making phone calls, taking care of business. I was numb to the words, "my husband died" as I repeated it over and over (and over, and over) to various representatives on the other end of a phone line in who-knows-where.

The next two months could be labeled "the distraction." Sure, I had my days, but the summer was full of reunions with friends and family, mini vacations, family vacations, and a flexible schedule that allowed for my fluctuating and unpredictable emotional needs. I stayed mostly in Pennsylvania at my parents house and made several trips to our apartment (always with a buddy) to get used to being there sans Dan. I laughed, I cried, I smiled. I had fun. I think I was still in shock, numb to everything around me.  I was in denial that Dan was really gone - like, seriously - not coming back forever. I pretended I was living someone else's life because I could. Distraction was a good thing.

September came and I went back to work. I'll label this phase, "the reality check." I was forced to transition from the initial grief period with an infinite level of acceptance for any type of behavior (think Lifetime movie marathons, yoga pants, and two hour naps in the afternoon) to reporting to a place every day, at a specific time, in dress pants. And make-up. And no naps. I was thrown into reality. I worked with my wonderfully na├»ve students and laughed with my compassionately supportive colleagues. Work turned out to be a good change. But after school, in my apartment, I had to establish a new routine for myself. I made time for exercise, writing, playing the piano. I learned to take care of myself and enjoy things I hadn't had time to in years. I wondered why I was SO tired when I got home. Grieving is exhausting.

October brought what I'll call, "the rollercoaster." My emotions cycled from high to low, controlled to helpless. Some of the time, I felt the energy to do normal things again. I spent time with friends, went out for drinks, and traveled. I ventured out into society as a single person. I survived the first of several milestones that hit back-to-back for us this time of year. In October, we passed what would have been Dan's second birthday with his new bone marrow. I celebrated my birthday and I'm getting ready for the triple Thanksgiving-Dan's birthday-Christmas punch in the next month. For the last six months, I've been living my life in milestones; my first "this" or "that" without Dan.  I've been living in the past in a way, too, always remembering "last year at this time." I don't know any other way to live right now. 

I'm so fortunate to have many people ask how I'm doing. Thank you for caring and thank you for asking. I'm okay. My tears vary from a well to a river each day, but I'm okay. My emotions vary from hope to fear, from smiles to sobs, but I'm okay. The last six months have challenged my strength and resilience beyond compare. I continue to have my days, hours, and moments where the pain is unbearable. I have daily pep talks with myself and frequently channel Dan's support to help me find the little joys, believe in all-will-be-well, and continue his crusade of love. I'm okay. I desperately miss Dan. I'm slowly clearing his things out of my apartment, re-decorating, and filling up my social calendar. I'm delicately moving forward towards hope for a joyful future. I'm practicing the love that Dan taught me every single moment of every single day we spent together. I'm doing my best to continue to see that people are good, this world is good, and this life has so much good to offer. My heart is broken and the Dan-sized hole still gapes. But I'm okay. I know that Dan is okay. And he wants me to be okay, too. 

Six months a widow; approaching the holiday season that brings joy and a new year that breeds hope. This Thanksgiving and Christmas I will ache for Dan, but I will pray for peace and search for comfort in the blessings around me. I will do my best to embody the spirit of love these seasons hold. I will cry, I will be lonely, and I will be sad. But I'll do my best to let love in. It's never failed me yet. ALL will be well.