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 naïve 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.