Losing someone or something that you have loved with all your heart, regardless of the how, who or when, will without any doubt feel as though it has broken you. But it is up to you – when the time is right – to begin the curious and open exploration of what it and you might look like when you begin gluing the pieces back together.
About six months after my lovely 39-year-old husband passed away, my curiosity and determination to understand the process of grieving became absolutely paramount.
It began after I repeatedly found myself – being the morning person that I am – rather joyfully waking up to familiar thoughts, like do I have time for a run before the kids wake up? only to be suddenly catapulted back into harsh reality. The person I believed that I’d walk beside for the rest of my life and the beautiful man that our two gorgeous young children lovingly called daddy, had died of cancer and was gone forever.
Not only was I starting each day with an adrenaline-pumped WTF! moment, but it would also on a daily basis prise open the painful scar across my chest, where it felt like my heart had been torn out.
I couldn’t carry on stumbling and bumbling through each day and decided that I had to find a way to embrace what my life and loss was hurling at me.
I began to question my bizarre amnesia, that only ever occurred for a split second upon waking and that back in the earlier stages of losing Andy would throw me into an overwhelming panic from the sheer magnitude of thoughts, worries and unknowns. But soon enough I began to realise that if I didn’t learn how to transition from the grief of my loss into the reality of what the present has to offer, I might not ever be able to fully honour the life of my gorgeous husband or explore how to become the inspiring woman and parent that I had always strived to be.
I recognised a new-found ability to be able separate grief and loss from the day to day frustrations and disappointments that we all have to deal with. A bad day is a bad day – just because the guy that makes my coffee had been rude to me, and I’d received a parking fine, and a rejection for my book proposal all on the same day – didn’t mean that I had to tack that onto the emotional challenges of my past and further weave a story of how sad or hard my life was.
I was clumsily but clearly beginning to decipher the difference between thinking and feeling the emotions of what was now in the past, whilst simultaneously bringing my focus towards the opportunities of the present. I began to be able view everything in my life as though it were happening FOR me, instead of TO me, which instantaneously helped me to leap from victim to opportunist.
I certainly didn’t expect that as a mother of two entering her forties, that I’d actually at some point not only be getting naked with a man who wasn’t my husband, but would also have to learn how to suppress fits of giggles at the sight of another man’s penis; (however impressive it was) after momentarily having forgotten that I am no longer a married woman and that this was not just an embarrassing situation that I had somehow landed myself in. Let alone the fact that all I wanted to do afterwards was call my hilarious best friend, who just happened to be my dead husband, and share with him every detail of what I had just experienced.
Grief is grief and loss is loss; at some point we will all experience losing something or someone that we passionately love. But it is up to us as individuals as to whether we make the conscious decision to dive into the potential of what life still so abundantly has to offer, or whether we choose to remain firmly in the shadow of our loss. There is always a choice, even if it is not the one that we had ever imagined.
Never, ever did I picture myself as a 43-year-old woman, a single parent to two children and the sole breadwinner of my family, who not only would have to navigate how to become the provider, but who would also be solely responsible for inspiring and teaching a young boy and a girl how to grieve, and thrive simultaneously. But here I am. I also never imagined living the most bizarre and surreal chapter of my life so far, as I have travelled all over the globe with a feature length documentary that captured the last year of my husband’s life and death, teaching, speaking and inspiring a shift in perspective into how we experience, approach and honour the concept of life, loss and legacy.
Everything in life happens for a reason, some good, some bad, but always an opportunity to grow.