When Nathan passed away, suddenly and traumatically, my message inbox was flooded. In those first few weeks I had a tribe of people living in our house, making sure I kept breathing, eating nibbles of food, drinking whatever water I could manage, bringing to me all of the impossible decisions that I needed to be making, and helping to care for my girls. And when the flood of messages became too much, I would often pass my phone to a family member to guard for me. It was overwhelming.
So much care, but also so many things said in kindness that my head and heart could not acknowledge or tolerate as the truth. Messages assuring me that my future could still be bright and promising, and hold joy and hope. That I was strong, and courageous, and I could do ‘this’. It was too much for my broken heart and mind to imagine, that there could be a world ahead of me without the man I had loved for 21 years sharing it with me. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want a future without him. The future seemed bleak, and impossible, and filled with agony. And it stayed that way for me for a very long time. Truthfully, the only thing keeping me living and breathing on this earth was that I couldn’t leave our two daughters who had already known the worst trauma, shock, and pain when their beloved Dad didn’t come home. I couldn’t let them know that type of trauma a second time. And so, minute-by-minute, I kept making the choice to stay.
Six months into the journey of grief and loss, I penned these words:
“It's beyond my understanding that it has been 6 months since I've heard his voice, seen his face, felt his touch. Beyond my understanding that I still live, despite day after day after day after day of experiencing the type of pain that feels like it might bury me.
I feel like I'm in the biggest battle of my life, for my life.
Fighting to believe the best days of my life aren't behind me.
Fighting to believe in love.
Fighting to believe in hope.
Fighting against loneliness, the type of loneliness only known when the soul who knew yours most intimately is no longer yours to hold.
Fighting to not pull away from life, when all around me are so many reminders of what I've lost and is mine no longer.
Fighting not to become a hermit, because people can be too hard some days.
Fighting not to let my heart become bitter, from the hurt and disappointment of watching friends choose to walk away, or not show up at all.
Fighting to believe my life will be more than the tragedy of becoming a widow at 40.
Fighting to believe our daughters will still live a rich life, despite the immeasurable loss that is now theirs to carry.
Fighting for the part of my soul that died, the day that he left the earth.
In those early days of acute, intense grief, I believed that my Plan A life – the one I had chosen, intentionally created and carved out with my life partner – that Plan A life was finished. It was over, stolen from me. Gone. What would my life be, now? Plan B? or C? Or D? How was it fair that I had only had 40 years of living my one, joyous life? And should I live another 40 years, surely they would be a shadow of the life that I had really wanted? Now all I had was memories, and longings, and pain. Listening to people tell me otherwise – it made me angry. So, so angry.
I have grappled and wrestled and fought against the truth that is now mine to carry, for almost two years now. Not long after I wrote the words above, I had an experience that helped shift my internal world. A weekend that gave me some tools and helped me start to see that I could still have some control and power over my emotional health and my future. A revelation that I was still living. And that despite the worst, I could still make intentional choices for the days ahead of me, to own my life and make it mine. Since that watershed moment, I have slowly inched towards believing something different from what I thought the truth was in those early months. Perhaps life could still hold adventure, and joy, and laughter, and wonder, and see new dreams form and come to pass, and maybe even hold love again for me, one day.
I was talking to a dear friend recently about this shift that had slowly and unknowingly happened deep inside my soul. A realisation that this isn’t my Plan B, C , or D life. My friend spoke the words… “It’s a new Plan A”. Those words, they rang with truth. This life, it’s not what I would have chosen, or even envisioned or imagined. And yet, it is mine to hold. A new version of myself to get to know. New doors to open. New relationships to build and nurture. A discovering of a deeper richness of this gift called Life.
And it’s a strange thing, to carry deep penetrating sadness and missing a soul who was such a vital thread of my life – while also holding the truth that my story wasn’t broken the day Nathan died. I just entered a new chapter. And the chapters ahead still hold promise, despite the pain that coexists and the questions that will never be answered.
I ebb and flow, of course, with how well I sit within these emerging revelations. But I write this with hope in my heart. Not just for me, but for you, too. Hope that wherever you sit on the thread of this journey called life, that you will know your story isn’t finished yet. There is still much to be written, and much possibility ahead, and hidden joys to emerge.
Turns out, those messages that I couldn’t bear to read and acknowledge in those early days? They were right.