Everything has changed since I lost Ken on January 14, 2006. I lost my husband, my most trusted confidante, a truly wonderful man, the father of our kids. I became a single parent, no longer able to share my concerns for them with someone equally invested in their well-being. I make all the important decisions: I decide and I act when I want to on matters big and small. I learned to sleep alone with a pile of books and newspapers where a loving partner used to be. I started taking care of the grass and home repairs. When squirrels got into the house, I'm the one who had to figure out how to get them out. We set the table for three instead of four. I've driven 2,000 miles as a solo driver with my kids, something I never thought I could do. I've learned, and even worse, my kids have learned way too young that sometimes the very worst thing does happen. Just recently I noticed that sometimes I say the words "my late husband." I guess it's because I'm seeing someone else now and it sounds funny to say "my husband" when I'm clearly with another man. But I think my ability to utter those words also has to do with the fact that it's been almost five years. He's getting farther away, my late husband. He hasn't been my husband for a while now.
Of all the things that have changed for me, the one I'm noticing the most now, is how I seem to have lost the sense of safety and security Ken's existence brought to my life. Ken was a no-risk proposition. His solidity, his humanity, his goodness and his love for me and our kids was unshakably true for me. I had made such a good and important choice; we had chosen well when we chose each other -- and still, and still it ended, and it ended badly with Ken suffering, dying young, leaving us behind with so much left to be done. I had an illusion and the illusion was this: because I had chosen such a great partner, I would be safe. I think many women grow up with this illusion: a man will make me safe.
I don't think I can ever believe that again, and I'm OK with that. There is something strangely freeing to me about embracing this crapshoot of a life with open arms -- as an individual. Heads or tails? Who knows which answer is the right one, or where your life will lead you when you make your next choice? In losing Ken, I've had to grapple with my alone-ness, with my singular responsibility for how I will live the rest of my life, for how I will cope when it gets tough out there, and for realizing that the infinite possibilities of experience we are privileged to have while we are still alive and healthy are enormous gifts. Granted, we don't always know what's inside these gift boxes, but we get to open them, to be surprised, to receive something new. That's something Ken can't do anymore. So I'm lucky, more grateful, more open to happiness -- less safe, less secure. I accept.
When we lose someone, change becomes our predominant environmental condition. But even the changes change over time. Where are you now in relation to the change that has accompanied your loss? Write about change for five minutes. Get to know your current environment.
- Jill Schacter
- My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.