It’s been a year. I can’t believe it. A year since I heard his voice and saw his smile. A year since he last said, “I love you.” A year since he’s been gone.
It feels like it was yesterday. It feels like it was an eternity ago. Some days and moments it still feels like my heart is actually shattering into pieces and sinking down and trying to escape my body. Sometimes the pain is an ache and cry and sometimes it is a screaming and kicking tantrum. I can’t stop it from happening and I’ve stopped trying. I ride the waves and wait for calmer clarity. However, those moments don’t last as long anymore. It passes faster and comes less often. It’s more tolerable. Or maybe the ache is just a part of me now and I’m use to it.
Either way, a lot can change in a year. I don’t feel like the same person I was before all this. I recognize the smile and ignorant bliss in my eyes in my pictures from before but I am distant from it and her and know I can never go back to that. That was from my first life and I loved it completely but it is gone. This is now my second. It is only forward movement so that is what I’ve chosen to pursue. It is my only choice. It’s a very conscious movement forward as I balance what I am forced to leave behind with how I want to honour him all while trying to decide and shape where I want to go. However, as complex as it might be, I am determined to make this new life worthwhile. Afterall, not everyone gets to live but I am somehow still here. I have chosen to not just get by but to actually live. Maybe they seem like the same thing but I can tell you they are very different. In this choice I can slowly feel myself becoming more myself than I’ve allowed myself to experience previously. Loss pushes you like that and makes you question who you are and what you’re doing.
My life has changed in the last year because it had to but also because I’ve made it. I’ve done things that I’ve had to do and others because I’ve made the effort. I’m proud of myself in a bittersweet way. Looking back, I’ve accomplished and done a lot. I started my first permanent teaching job. Within this school year, I have been teaching over 230 students in over 11 classes between my two schools. I’ve taught myself the basics of music so I could teach it. I have travelled to Chicago, Ireland, Iceland, and Quebec. I’ve reached out to other young widows and made meaningful connections. I travelled to BC to meet and stay with one of those friends who I had never met. I trained and completed a half marathon that I ran the whole time. I learned how to slalom ski. I passed the gym tests to be able to independently (unsupervised with a partner) rock climb and have improved at that. I tried ice climbing and made it to the top multiple times. I stopped being intimidated by all the guys at the gym and started working out in the weight area. I’ve squatted 160 pounds consistently. I’ve committed myself to working out 6 days a week, not for the physical appearance but for my mental state and have followed through. I’ve fat biked in the winter. I bought myself cross-country skiis and trained Tango to ski (mostly) straight in front of me (it’s a thing – it’s called skijorning). I’ve had corrective vision surgery and can now see better than 20/20. I’ve hosted parties at my house, including a birthday party in his honour. I’ve become a better snowboarder. I’ve mountain biked quite a bit and become better at that too. I’ve taken care of Tango and his endless energy with lots of walks and hikes. I’ve trained and loved him the best I can. I’ve fixed my vacuum, filled holes in the walls, changed light bulbs, hung pictures and all that other house stuff that I’ve never had to do. I’ve refinished furniture and redecorated parts of my home. I’ve met with multiple contractors and arranged for a new patio for my backyard. I’ve attended five weddings without my forever date.
I guess in a way, I have done a bit. But those are my small wins. My other wins are much harder fought battles. They are the accomplishments that are the foundation for giving me the strength and ability to pursue the things I would once never attempt or be motivated enough to pursue. They are the things I am really proud of that have proved to me that I can, in fact, do hard things. Or not only CAN I do them but that I AM doing them. That when I feel weak and like I can’t do this that I actually can keep going. The two sets of things I’ve done don’t really even compare. My big wins are the little day to day things that I’ve had to handle that are not picture pretty for an Instagram post.
I’ve seen the love of my life lifeless in a hospital bed. I looked into the eyes that I loved that always gazed at me with life and love to see a blank, emptiness devoid of anything. I’ve visited the spot where he died and then driven past it again. I’ve met with the investigating officer to get no real answers or closure. I’ve read 15 pages of a coroner’s report detailing how my husband’s body became disfigured and stopped working. I’ve planned my husband’s funeral and made decisions that I thought he would want made. I’ve picked clothes for him to wear in his casket. I’ve picked an urn and followed through with what I know he did want. I’ve dealt with countless insurance companies. I’ve spent hours on the phone and in person to close his many accounts and move things to my name and then followed through to prove that he is, in fact, dead.
I’ve gotten out of bed every day even on the days I wanted to skip or hide. I’ve gone to work and done my best. I’ve continued to cook healthy meals for myself and try new recipes. I’ve managed to function after sleepless or nearly sleepless nights. I’ve dealt with anxiety and panic. I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve journaled and I’ve started this blog. I’ve thrown out and organized (some) of his belongings. I’ve taken my wedding ring on and off. I’ve gone to restaurants, places, and done things we always did together alone or with friends. I’ve developed an awkward sense of widow humour that I (mostly) keep to myself. I’ve let myself cry and be miserable but then I’ve picked myself up off the floor and kept going.
I’ve comforted people when I’ve told them about what happened and they couldn’t handle it or felt uncomfortable. I’ve said I’m okay when I wasn’t because I know not everyone can deal with the depth of my feelings or they were just trying to be polite. I’ve tried to smile as people give me a look of pity. I’ve listened to people’s inappropriate (to put it VERY kindly) questions and comments. I’ve met new people. I’ve reconnected with some old friends. I’ve become closer with some people and more distant with others. I’ve learned to accept help when it is offered and ask for help when I need it. I’ve tried to tell people more what they mean to me and how I value them.
I’ve learned to put myself first and be a little bit selfish with my life. I’ve started to say no to things I don’t want to do and to say yes to things that scare me. I’ve become a little more comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve found ways to treat myself and make my life a little more joyful. I’ve become accustomed to my own company and started to enjoy it again. I’ve driven myself where I needed to go including far(ish) places that I never would have driven by myself before. I’ve gotten lost on country roads but then always found my way. I’ve surprised myself with the sound and feeling of my own genuine laugh after thinking it was stifled. I’ve embraced the duality of my life and been okay to feel sadness in my growing pains and hope for where I’m going. I’ve learned that I am, to my surprise, resilient.
There’s a conversation we always use to have that has stayed in my head. It’s what I think of when I’m not sure I can continue. It was always very similar and went something like this:
Me: There’s the cottage/party/event this weekend/day. Are we free to go? Him: I’m sorry, I can’t, I’m working. Me: Okay, that’s okay, we’ll go another time Him: Well, are you working? Me: Obviously, No Him: So then why can’t you go? Me: I don’t want to leave you behind. I’d like to go with you. Him: I’d like to go with you too but I can’t go. There’s no reason you shouldn’t go because I can’t. Go have fun and enjoy yourself Me: Are you sure? Will you be upset? Him: No, not at all! I want you to have a good time. I love you. Stop worrying about me, I don’t want to hold you back. Just go have fun.
A year later. It’s still hard. I still miss him and think about him all the time. But I know I still have a life to experience. I wish he did too but I’m the one left to experience it. I still have lots to see and do and I know he wouldn’t want me to hold myself back on his account. He would want me to truly live. That’s what I have to do. Starting my second year without him and I know I can do it because I’ve done it already.