As I sit in the shadow of another holiday survived, I can see that life is improving somewhat. The holidays still bring on the impending doom of not having my husband here as I gaze around at families that appear complete, but there is a freedom that has come with my current situation too. It is not a jump up and yell “I’m FREE” freedom, but a loosening of the bindings that I have been smothered with in the past.
With grieving, I’ve found that I am able to change the things that I haven’t liked in my life and people are less offended (I think??). It’s kind of an evolution to becoming who I hope to be again. I’ve had to rewrite my entire life since my husband’s death…my whole future, my hopes, my dreams and my daily life. I’ve found that people are more forgiving during the normally stressful holiday season to me since his death. I’m not as much expected to do the “traditional” holiday stuff – as anyone who has faced a major loss should be able to do. I know through the years since his death, I have struggled to survive the holidays seeing the emptiness in my and my children’s eyes – it’s a hollow feeling knowing you’re not the complete entity you once were with your loved one with you. Each year I feel the burden the same, but the recovery time is much less. The stabbing wound that I once felt is now only a slicing – not as piercing or consuming. It almost feels at times like my life with him was a dream and I have vague memories of happiness and completeness – it is that grief fogginess that they describe I think.
Each year has been different, but one thing remains consistent. I have begun to forge toward holidays that I enjoy. I don’t bow to the expectations as much as I did. Before his death I felt obligated. Now either because of this or the way people have treated us (negatively or positively) my feelings of obligation have waned. My obligation now is only to my children and myself. I know it sounds selfish, but it is how it has to be for now, for today. We have spent the holidays alone, with family and mixed, but on our terms – not following the direction of those who’s expectations or feelings to us are unrealistic. Those who do love us, have adapted and been loving. I’m sure there are those who’ve I’ve offended, but the boys and I survived and found moments of joy during what is a flood of pain – the holiday season.
This year again is bittersweet as we head into the holidays. My father faces a diagnosis of a very serious cancer. We are waiting to hear the final word, the exact diagnosis and what he will, we will face. Even with this sadness around, I still have that feeling of freedom. Again, not the jump up and yell “I’m free”, but the freedom of knowing that I am a survivor and this is life – loss is a huge part of it. I know that we will survive. I know that he will do his best and it will be ok – painful, sad, heartbreaking, but we will endure. I know this freedom because my husband died. I don’t so much fear outliving someone or living without them. In the shadow of this holiday there is a light calling me toward tomorrow. The light that is always there no matter how faint it may be – it is there. It has kept me going so far and has allowed me to recognize the grace of surviving. Not just surviving through movement, busyness and denial alone, but by feeling and experiencing the greatest heartbreak I have ever known – loosing my husband. I believe in my core being that when we embrace and hold our heartbreak, our hearts become bigger and able to love in a deeper more meaningful way. The hard part is facing the shadows.