Widowed at 31: My Journey at 6 Months
It feels like forever since I have been able to say, truly say, that I feel like myself. That I feel like more than a shadow of what I once was. In the first couple of months as a young widow, I tried to put on my happy face to let loved ones know I'm good. I put on my boss face at work, to reassure folks I can handle whatever they throw my way. At church, I try and keep it together, even though it feels like the sermon is whipping my soul. I get most of my cries out at home as I pack my lunch, lay out my clothes, and figure out which face I'll put on tomorrow.
Avoidance has become my best friend. I avoided driving the first 4 months, because it was one of my biggest triggers. I hid his pictures at my house and my momma's house, because gazing on his face unraveled me. I couldn't gaze upon babies, couples, and families, and as I'd reluctantly watch families on TV, I'd cover my flat stomach that I had expected to be full of life by now. At the grocery store I avoided aisles that carried his favorite food. I try not to let the pain consume me every time I drive by an 18 wheeler. I took off my wedding band because it hurt to look at. I wear his around my neck and would sleep with his wallet.
His face haunts my dreams.
Seeing his wrecked car, his medical white coat...no matter how hard I tugged, it was unreachable by gnarled metal and dried crimson. It was literally my undoing. I could only get to his bible that he carried in his trunk and a few other items. His bible comforts me. I would drift off while awake, somewhere into the past, somewhere into an imagined future. I'm "therapied" up with 1 on 1 sessions, large group sessions, and small group sessions. Although our loss is different, I feel at home around them. They get the feeling of walking dead while alive. Of belonging to this secret society of loss that should not be secret, because it's a society everyone will eventually be a part of even though nobody wants to join.
He always knew at my core I was an introvert and he was the social butterfly. He brought me out of my shell. His death put me back in it. Only God can take me out now. I found myself by finding God. I always heard of divine providence, but I never paid attention to it until it divinely worked in my life. A car I had for 16 years stopped working after my husband passed, but God blessed me with a new one at a reasonable price. My therapist suggested I ask my employer for WFH days to ease my return to work, but before I could, my employer offered WFH days to our entire department. I needed to move to lessen the pain and ease my commute. Moving out of our first and only home together was supposed to cost me, but I didn't have to pay a dime. One day "Am I good enough?" mental mantras kept entering my mind, and kept making me doubt myself at work. That afternoon, I'm contacted by a multinational technology company I applied to over a year ago. Although the opportunity is on the table, I remain at my current job, which I love (now is not my season to relocate to the other side of the country). However, I'm not going to lie. Having a down to earth conversation about virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and social justice with one of the biggest companies ever to do it was the best way to remind me that I still have something very much to offer the world.
And not to get too spooky, but days that I felt really low, a message conveying hope and inspiration would pop up on my phone, or a sweet cinnamon smell (the same scent on his wallet) would appear on my clothes and in my home. Ironically, one of the guys in my department told me he smelled cinnamon in the office. I even had a chat with a woman I barely knew. She read me like a worn bible, and told me to stop procrastinating. That thing I've been sitting on for a while, that my husband always encouraged me to do, make it happen. I doubt she knew that I'd finished writing my query letter and synopsis the day my husband passed. I had written and revised two novels, one I revised in a room my husband and I rented in a crowded Long Island home, while he completed his surgery rotation in New York. Talking to this woman, and praying to God, resurfaced my interest to shop my work. There's other examples, but I do feel that through my journey, I am encouraged by those I can see and am being gently nudged beyond the veil by those I cannot.
My faith grows everyday. My husband used to jokingly call me a "worry ball", but I find myself not as anxious about the material things. These first six months have shown me that life can and will work itself out. Loss is a spiritual wound that can't be stitched up by the pleasures and remedies of the world. In my case, I lost my husband, who would have been an earthly physician (5/27/17 was when he would've graduated from medical school). But by leaning on God, the great physician, I feel my spiritual wound is finally starting to heal.
If anything, losing a spouse of almost 3 years, who I was in a relationship with for 6, and who I have known since I was 19 (I'm 31 now) has taught me that your next breath is a blessing and not promised. Everyone dies, some earlier than we would've liked. Growing old with my husband, I have come to accept, is an imagined future. All I have now is his memory that I'll carry with me until I leave this life and enter the next. Until then, I'm going to try and maintain an attitude of gratitude and look for reasons to smile. He loved my smile :).