In a prior post (March 8), I talked about the dual nature of the world and how to reach neutrality. Following along with that vein of thought, I am now able to make the following statement:
My late husband’s death was both the worst thing and the best thing that ever happened to me.
I realize that for many of you who are just at the beginning of your grief journey, it may be difficult to believe or understand that statement. It is also necessary for you to know from where I came to see how I got to where I am.
I met my late husband when we were both teenagers. He was my first boyfriend, and, as fate would have it, he turned out to be the only one I would have for the next twenty five years. We came from similar backgrounds, and, since we met when we weren’t fully formed adults, we approached each new experience together. We were a team, and it made for a very harmonious life, for we basically saw eye-to-eye on the majority of subjects. For the almost twenty years we were married, I would tell anyone who would listen that he was as close to perfect as a human being can come. He was beloved by his family and friends, who all had him standing high up on a pedestal. He was a good son, brother, husband, father, and friend. He was sane and rational – always willing to give thoughtful advice when asked. Doesn’t quite seem like the profile of someone who would take his own life – does it?
We both had solid upbringings upon which we built a fairy tale life. Most everything to which we aspired, we were able to obtain, as long as we put forth the effort. Here’s the downside (and reflective of the duality of life) to having such a good life ~ you never get to develop the hardcore coping skills to deal with disaster. Moreover, when you are placed atop a pedestal by others, there is lots of room for (self) disappointment and the fall can be a long way down.
After his death, I found myself alone for the first time since I was 15 years old – a single parent with my life in major disarray. Within two months of his death, it was also necessary to move out of the home in which we had lived for the past ten years and where our younger son had been born. Along with moving, I needed to look for a job and care for my children, all the while grieving the love of my life, as well as the loss of my life as I had known it for the past twenty five years.
All this messiness was just the situation that allowed me to start my life anew. I, alone, was the master of my fate and could decide how I wanted to live the rest of my life.
After having lived through this tragedy, what surprised me was that so many good things happened next. I suppose it is has something to do with attitude and how you look at life. Even though I did go through stressful times and obviously something terrible happened to me, I still felt positive about life -- almost lucky. Immediately after my late husband’s death, I felt the most incredible outpouring of love and support from close friends, as well as people I hadn’t spoken to in years. It was amazing to me that all these people took time away from their busy lives to help me. It truly made me believe in the goodness of mankind at a time when I did not have much hope. This hope gave me the strength to push forward.
Over the years I have had personal and job related successes. I found a vocation which I enjoy, and I was fortunate to find another love of my life.
I have seen first hand how short life is and work hard not to let the little annoyances in life bother me. When I see people taking life way too seriously, I just want to shake them and tell them to stop and smell the roses before it is too late. Unfortunately, I think that’s a lesson you have to learn the hard way. I wish I didn’t have to learn it in so brutal a manner, but I’m glad I learned it at a young enough age to take full advantage of that knowledge.
I would have been content traveling along the path of my “former” life. However, that option was snatched from my grasp by the worst thing that ever happened to me. From those depths, I was forced to carve a new life that has brought me much satisfaction, a new love, and a spiritual rebirth. My late husband’s death was the springboard for this new life, so it became the best thing to happen to me too!
Ellen Gerst, a Life Coach who specializes in grief and relationships, is the author of A Practical Guide to Widow/erhood. Born out of Ellen’s own experiences as a young widow, "A Practical Guide" provides "how-to" information to help a griever re-adjust each aspect of his/her life without his/her loved one. Her newest book, 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief, is an easy-to-read reference guide filled with suggestions for every day use on moving forward through the grief journey. Ellen has also written Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story, a step-by-step guide on how to redesign your life to include a new love connection after the loss of a mate. For more detailed information on products and services, visit her website.