I lost my husband of 12 years 15 days before I turned 30. On Father’s Day, one day after our oldest’s fifth birthday, we entered the hospital; seven days later, the virus that attacked his heart took his life and I was forced to walk away without him. June 24, 2012, I became a widow.
I want you to know that a large part of me died with him that day. I want you to know that each day since has been more than a struggle – to breathe, to sleep, to eat, to care for our sweet babies.
I want you to know that when you lose someone so intertwined with your very being, life does not keep moving forward. Life stops, and a new life, one where you are half of yourself and you don’t recognize anything, begins. And whether you like it or not, running next to every second of every day in this new life, is a striking parallel of what would have been. An ever-present reminder of dreams and love and happiness that you can’t reach.
I want you to know that you could never predict how you would feel until it happens to you. And you may say that this wouldn’t be your ‘worst,‘ and that may be true, but you just can’t know. You can’t know about the person you would become or the decisions you would make until this life is yours.
I want you to know that I am not suicidal, even when I say I don’t want to be here, that I can’t do this, that I can’t live without him. And although I recognize that I have to do this (I have survived ten months, nine days, and two hours that I truly never thought I could survive), I will never want to do this. I want you to know that I would never do anything to bring our kiddos more pain. I know that God has a plan for me and I am (maybe not so happily) willing to see it through.
I want you to know that when I lost my husband, I lost my best friend, my buffer, my biggest supporter, my teammate, my financial stability, my source of encouragement, my biggest fan, my business sounding board, my emotional mainstay, my physical comfort…my happily ever after. The person who loved me unconditionally. The person who, in the face of any other tragedy, could hold me up in the shower, ease sleepless nights, and understand implicitly all that I think and feel but can’t adequately express.
I want you to know that I will never get remarried. When I said ‘I do‘ at 18 to the most amazing man I could ever have known, let alone marry, I was in it for my life, not just his. And I know he would feel the same if he had to live this nightmare.
I want you to know that I grieve the loss of my husband while also grieving the loss of everything that would have been. I won’t be pregnant again or have an opportunity to use all of the baby names that we picked out. I won’t get to hear another first cry or hold and nurse a new baby. I won’t complete our travel list or build the house of our dreams or enjoy our family traditions that were twelve years in the making. I won’t get to watch him dance with our baby girl at her wedding or sit next to him as our littles win spelling bees or basketball games. I won’t get to see him grow old or enjoy retirement or our 50th wedding anniversary.
I want you to know that the things you may not consider (his pillows losing his smell, receiving the death certificate, removing his wedding band, looking at our last complete family picture, having checks or an insurance card without his name on them, etc.) are the things that bring me to my knees.
I want you to know that I would gladly take any amount of physical pain, emotional hardships, or financial struggles to have him by my side.
I want you to know that I am not, and won’t ever be, the mom, friend, daughter and sister that I was. That I am far less sympathetic than I was and carry self-pity as if it is a new appendage in this new life. That this life is isolating despite the greatest efforts of those who love me. I want you to know that there is no solution to grief; I am not a problem to be solved. I want you to know that the best thing you can say is simply “I am sorry.” The best thing you can do is love without judgement and be flexible enough to meet me wherever it is I may be, understanding that may change moment by moment.
I want you to know that it is not your responsibility to question my faith. If you are Christian and believe that God can bring me through the things He brings me to, lean into that belief. What I need from you is love and prayers, patience and understanding…not judgment.
I want you to know that talking about death is important, as hard as that may be. Talk about whether or not you want to be buried or cremated. Talk about songs and scripture that are important to you. Talk about finances and passwords. Know that funeral homes are not all the same, that life insurance is something to strongly consider regardless of your age or financial abilities, and that some sort of an I-am-living-my-worst-nightmare plan might be necessary.
I want you to know how important it is to enjoy those you love while they are still on this side of heaven. Make memories and live as though you aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Take family pictures and candid pictures, set aside sentimental things, record their voice, save emails and notes and signatures. Absorb moments and embraces and compliments and love…because at any given moment, what you have received might have to last a lifetime.