Down one road is my old life--the one that began when I met Ken. Down this road is the memory of a life once lived.
I'll never forget the day he buzzed up, walked the steps to my apartment, entered my world with his kind eyes, compassion, and soothing voice, and changed it forever. Three months after I met him, I wrote these words.
"I can't believe I've found you. My whole life feels transformed--everything softer, everything whole. I would have settled for less and thought I was happy. That's a scary thought. I think into the future. I imagine that we can have 50 years together and it sounds too short. I imagine you dying, and me never feeling quite as alone as I did before I knew you."
Just 13 years later, confronting the medical reality that he was almost certainly near death, we talked in his hospital room at MD Anderson's stem cell transplant unit. It was the end of four years of cancer treatment which began when he was 48 years old.
"I don't want to feel all the pain I'll be in if you die," I said. "What if everything falls apart?"
His simple reply:
"Sometimes it will feel like it's falling apart."
Those feelings have found their place for me in The Heartbreak Diary. Often, the only way I can relieve my pain and create meaning out of what happened to me, to the man I loved, and to our young children, is to keep on writing about how this loss makes me feel. My heart was shattered by Ken's death. The life I'd hoped to lead was taken away from me. I am heartbroken still, but the only way I can come to terms with it is on paper. In my everyday life, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, my children walk in the door looking taller than when they walked out, and though I'm moving forward, in a way I'm still living in the past. If I can write about my loss, I can keep on living.
No matter what type of loss you have endured, when you commit to keeping your own Heartbreak Diary you have a place to unload your sorrows. It creates a map made of words where your deepest feelings can be recorded to reveal their wisdom. It's like a roadmap out of sorrow to new hope.
No one can understand your own brand of pain as well as you can. You are the one best suited to honor your grief, respect your strength, pay tribute to your sorrow, and then watch as your words lead you to a new beginning. All you have to do is begin. Fifteen minutes a day. You need show it to no one.
I am at a crossroads. One road takes me back to the life I had before I lost my husband.
Ahead is a different road altogether: the road that moves forward, past the life-changing moment that was Ken's death. I want to believe there is more for me in this life. But it's hard. It's hard to imagine any kind of complete life without Ken. I'm going to have to be dragged by my hair, or under the chassis of a hooligan's truck down this new road. Only I'm the one who has to do the pulling and the dragging because no one else really cares what I do for the next forty years of my life. Like it or not, I'm like a pilgrim, a gold rush girl, a new immigrant crossing the sea, a colonist in a wagon heading West. This road has a new trajectory, (though from time to time it runs along the road of memory). So I stand here at a crossroads. One foot on each road. Pushing, dragging, propelling myself forward.
Moving beyond pain requires acceptance. Acceptance of what you've lost, acceptance of what you have that is good, and acceptance of a future that is unknown. What do you accept in your life right now?
I accept that Ken is dead.
I accept that my life with him is over.
I accept that my life as his wife is over.
I accept that I am a single woman with two children.
I accept that my children are my number one priority.
I accept that I have absorbed a lot of loss and disappointment.
I accept that my life has not turned out the way I had hoped.
I accept that it is very hard to find a good partner at this stage in life.
I accept that I am increasingly lonely.
I accept that I am lucky nonetheless.
I accept that I am in good health.
I accept that I must work hard to recreate my life.
I accept that I don't know what the future holds.
At a Crossroads
Moving into the future
without you is impossible
necessary to my existence
on this earth,
earth where you are scattered.
Once you were the most solid one
I knew here,
here where I must
move forward in pieces
on the unsteady ground
in the dark, alien landscape
you left with your light.
Return me to a point
where I can at least begin,
begin to remember
I have my own light
that once brought you to me
where I stood
at a crossroads.