Over the years, I have written about using gratitude as a coping skill with my grief. I try to be thankful every day. I try to count my blessings, even when it feels like there are none. As the holidays approach, I must use this tactic more and more. Another skill I’ve acquired over the years is to take things moment by moment.
Before I was widowed, I would look ahead to the future. I would plan, think about what I wanted for myself and my family and set “future” goals. When Dave was diagnosed, we were thrown into the world of moment by moment. As he dealt with a very painful cancer, painful treatment and the side effects our days shrunk down to hour to hour, then minute to minute. We really never knew how his body would be working, responding or how he would feel emotionally as he dealt with his own mortality in a new and very real way. On top of cancer entering our lives, I had just given birth to our second son. Living with an infant is also a moment by moment life, based on our beautiful little boy’s needs. We had both ends of the spectrum every day. Our moments traveled the gambit from deep joy to deep despair. Moment to moment, I learned more about my new little boy and said goodbye to parts of my life and to my husband in many ways. If I had to live with the future to think about during those days, I know I would have drowned. I couldn’t think about it at all. I knew that my future held a picture of me without Dave, me raising this beautiful new baby and his big brother alone…it was too terrifying to consider. So, I stopped looking toward the future. I lived in each moment. I tried to be present to whomever needed me in that moment…sick husband, new baby, struggling child…all while trying to keep it together.
Living moment to moment is how I continue to live now. For many years, it was a coping strategy. I really didn’t have much to look forward to after Dave died. I had to tend to the boys and love them the best I could with all my strength and will. I took it one moment, one task, one minute, one breath at a time. I didn’t do it purposefully. I did it to survive. I tried to feel joy if it came in the moment. I know I felt sadness nearly every moment for a very long time. I let my anger in when it came and in each moment I did my best. I found myself surviving. Some days, I even found myself smiling. I lived in the moment. If I let myself slip into the past, there was deep, deep despair in my heart. I had to live in the moment…no choice.
Now, I live in the moment by choice. I’m still not good at looking ahead. Last night while I was lying in bed, I had to remind myself that I choose to live in the moment. This past year has had so many wonderful moments for me. So many moments I never planned, so many spontaneous moments. It has been a pretty wonderful year filled with moments that I hope I will never forget. I had to remind myself about my choice last night because I was feeling pretty lonely. I had to remind myself that because I choose to live moment to moment there will times that are hard. During those moments I can think about the joyful moments and it will help me endure. When I think about the moments that filled my heart over the past months, I can’t believe how blessed I have been. My moments with my kids, my family and my friends, my moments at a job I love with people I enjoy so much, moments with students, my moments coaching the past weeks, my moments with the sweet man…each moment so special, most moments unplanned…each moment contained within a future I could never see. All moments which add up to a pretty normal, pretty happy life…all things considered. Even in the lonely moments, I know they will pass…because, it really is only a moment. Who really knows what the next moment will hold for me? Even when I crawl into my bed alone at the end of each day and the shiver of winter seems to emphasize my aloneness, I know that the moment will pass. I can fully experience the lonely, the cold, even the sadness that comes with it because I know that the moment will pass. Even more, I can cherish, savor, and be still in the moments of joy, love, and belonging because I know they too will pass…no matter how much I want them to stay. My choice, my moments, I never would have guessed they would bring me to a place of peace.
Not every moment is peaceful, not every moment is joyful, but not every moment is sad anymore, not every moment is lonely anymore. The more I think about it the more I think balance is the key. The future is fleeting and nearly never worked out as I had imagined. My moments however are filled with the reality of my life. My moments leave me knowing that I gave myself, my presence, my love, really my whole being to them…and I really never could have planned for that. In my struggle to survive, I have found the intention to be present to myself and those around me in a way that I never knew when I was always glancing ahead. My tragedy has led me to a place I truly never knew before…now…and in this very moment…I am grateful.