For a long time, I was living more in the past than in the present. Actually, I was shackled to the past. There was no way I could contemplate the future without pain and fear. I felt incapable of dreaming. Hope seemed lost and joy unattainable. When I tried to think towards the future, it felt overwhelming, scary and lonely. And so I sat in my grief, mostly reflective of moments passed. I suspect this is normal in grief? From the moment our loved one dies, our memories are what hold us near to them. And memories, by nature, are of the past.
Moving forward to be present in the here and now previously felt like stepping away from my life with my husband, and I didn’t want to be farther away from him. Taking real steps toward the future seemed way too much of a stretch. It felt terrifying, isolating and I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t able. My husband’s death made it crystal clear how uncertain the future is, and so it seemed ridiculous in some ways to hope and plan and dream for what may never come to be. I just wasn’t ready.
But then something happened. It happened slowly over time I guess, because I barely noticed it. There was no magical Aha! moment. But sure enough, it was happening. One day the new milestones, the memories we were making without him didn’t feel as terrible as it once had. I was moving forward. I wasn’t abandoning my memories or thinking of my husband less, but I realized I was very gradually learning how to live again. And on really good days I noticed I was sometimes dreaming about the life ahead of me instead of dreading it.
Somewhere along the line I went from feeling like moving ahead would be moving farther away from my husband to realizing that it was happening anyway. It turns out it didn’t really matter how I felt about it, life was moving me forward regardless of whether I was ready or not. At first it was without my consent, as I clung tightly to the past. But now I’m more of a willing participant. I went from being unable to look ahead to catching myself dreaming of the future. And sometimes it even feels exciting. I’m currently at a point where I’m healing enough to start learning how to live the life ahead of me.
Do I wish I were living my life with my husband by my side? Of course I do! I’d give anything to grow old with him. I wish so much that we could be dreaming of a future together. Our future, not just my future. The hard reality is he’s gone from this earth and I’m still here. Believe me, there was a time when I wished I wasn’t.
But time really does have a way of changing things. Grief subsides just enough for hope to reclaim it’s rightful place in our hearts. Once hope finds it’s way in, it opens the door to welcome joy. And before you know it, grief is more of a whisper instead of a roar.
So, am I “cured?” Am I “over it?” Hardly. Plus, I’m pretty sure that’s not a thing. But today I can honestly say I’m beginning to embrace the life I didn’t anticipate and trusting the plans God surely has for me. There’s a little less fear and slightly more anticipation. I’m sure there will be days when the tears will still flow. I’m confident there will be memories that crack me wide open for the rest of my life. The difference is, it is no longer all-consuming. It doesn’t have me shackled. Grief has gone from all times to sometimes.
With this new found hope, I’m giving myself permission to be a little selfish…to prioritize myself. I made those Dr. appointments. I’m working on weight loss (down 10.8 lbs after two weeks!) and searching for what activities and hobbies excite me. When I figure it out, I’ll allow myself time to do those things. I’m booking that summer vacation and saying YES to that speaking invitation. I’ve adopted that dog and I’m leaving the dishes in the sink sometimes.
After all, this life is so short. We know this more than many, don’t we? We know what things matter and what things don’t. One day I’ll be reunited with my husband, but until then I need to learn how to live and do more of what matters. I am ready to live in the time I have left here. And should there come a day when grief sneaks up on me and shoves me down, as I suspect it will, that’s ok. I’ll get up again as soon as I’m able. And you will too…as soon as you’re able.
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