Does it have to take a tragedy for some people to love the life they have right now? I'm sorry to say that's what did it for me. It took the death of an incredible man, husband, and father to make me love more purely what's right in front of me. I'm not proud of this, but it's the truth. My husband? He loved his life before he got sick. There are plenty of people just like him. But I was not one of them. So please forgive the rant I'm about to make. This is not a holier than thou speech. Because if you ever feel like you're dissatisfied too much, or complain too much, or aren't as happy as you should be, or feel stuck or purposeless, well, I can relate. I used to feel like that too often too, until I lost my husband and the dream of growing old with him, parenting our kids together, and pursuing our new life, as just a couple on our own after the kids grew up.
Sometimes we young widows and widowers just want to shake the rest of you with your intact families, your healthy spouses, your regular routines, and a big old list of complaints. Here's what we want to shout through a big megaphone:
This is it folks. This is what the good life is: your to-do list, your kids who are great sometimes and annoying other times, your professional or domestic work, your vacations, your family trips in the car, your driving the kids around to their activities and sitting on the side of soccer or baseball fields, having your spouse there to help you, helping your spouse, the books you read, your warm home, your friends and neighbors, your plans for your children's or your own continuing education, your pets, the trees outside your house, your garden, your dreams for new possibilities, enjoying or making art or music, volunteering your time...that's what the good life is. It doesn't get better than that even if you're stinking rich or scary smart or imagine you could be doing something different, there's really nothing better than what's you've got right in front of you this minute, so enjoy it. Because there's no guarantee it will be the same tomorrow. In fact, it's all going to change, repeatedly.
As soon as I realized I could never replace my old great life, I made a commitment to myself that I would do my very best to remember how lucky I am right now. There is nothing better I could be doing right now and I am excited and open to finding out what's going to happen next.
When the worst happens, like it did to me, I gained the freedom of knowing that I can survive anything. When Ken died at 52 years of age with so much left to give to his family, friends and profession, I felt an imperative to love the life I have, that I'm lucky to have.
As a young widow, I would love you to know this without your having to lose anything at all. I wish I had figured it out sooner.
- 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.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
I journal a lot about loss. The pain goes into the writing so the happiness and joy can exist out in the world. For me, writing has been my #1 tool for easing the pain of grief.
I don't care if I'm writing gibberish, random phrases, single words, stories, memories, poetry, fears or dreams. Getting the thoughts out on paper is what helps me. I just commit to sitting there with my journal, try not judge what comes out, and write for at least 30 minutes. Often one thought leads to another, and sometimes even poetry eventually comes out.
The other day I was thinking about whether or not I'm ready to "let Ken go". I was ruminating on how joyful it is to be in a new relationship, but how sad it is that Ken has to be dead and missing everything here in the world. I decided that whatever it means to let go of him, I'm not there yet. All that musing led to this poem:
I'm not letting you go
You are still needed,
still giving, still providing.
Still. So still.
I'm not letting you go
I could listen to you talk endlessly,
further, deeper, more.
We have movement
but he's got staying power
Still, I'm not letting you go
until we stop moving forward,
I can't imagine it.
Still, it might happen.
I won't let you go.
I'll let him slip and fade
If that's what has to be.
You can stay. You can go.
We're moving toward each other
in a room, in a house, in a city
in a new life.
I'm with you
While I'm here in this coffee shop.
You're not here.
I'm still with you.
He's still with me too.
You and me?
I'm going with you.
He's gone. He's staying here too.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Ken died when I was 44 years old. This led to some early and compulsive dating caused by my initial grief impulse that went something like this: HELP. I CAN"T MAKE IT ON MY OWN. MUST HAVE NEW HUSBAND AND FATHER FOR MY KIDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.
After about two years or so that included many, many nights spent on Match.com, EHarmony, Green Singles, and J-Date, (Yes, I used them all, sometimes all at once) many hopeful yet ultimately fruitless meetings with men in coffee shops, a couple of very weird and not particularly satisfying attempts at an intimate life, and a couple of actual, though brief relationships, I got over the fantasy. First of all, my kids, who were 10 and 6 when he died, didn't share it. They weren't looking for a new daddy, they were still getting over losing theirs, one of the best men and fathers I have ever known. And I realized, in fact, that I was making it on my own. I didn't need to be SAVED.
This doesn't mean that I don't want a partner, that I like being widowed, that I've decided to give up on men, or even that I never want to get married again. Now, 5+ years after Ken's death, I've finally settled down into the life I have. This life, as of today, includes being with a man for the last 10 months. He's divorced, has two young kids, and we both have our own households that won't be merging any time in the foreseeable future. So what is he to me? The classic term is boyfriend. But come on. I'm going to turn 50 this year. Boyfriend sounds so high school. Lover sounds simply ridiculous. Partner is OK, but Mark isn't exactly my partner because a lot of our lives are lived kind of separately.
Mark is my manamine. He's no boy. He's my man.