One year ago today, my life changed in a moment and the future that I imagined for myself with my husband of forty years, evaporated leaving a void in its place – a gaping hole that I had no idea how I was going to fill. It is a huge shock to lose anyone so suddenly but when that person has been part of your existence for more than two thirds of your life then the feeling is indescribable. It is not the first time that I have experienced loss but there are differences that each experience brings and there are similarities. Almost everyone who has experienced grief will tell you that the sadness washes over you like waves. At first it’s a tsunami that takes your breath away and leaves you panic stricken and gasping for air but as time goes by the seas of life become less choppy and you manage to put yourself beyond the breakers into calmer waters. This is my reflection of a year of living differently and the lessons that loss have taught me.
The Power of Love: In those first few days, I didn’t know how I was going to get through the funeral, never mind life but I was carried along by an outpouring of love and caring that startled me. We thought the funeral may be well attended and prepared for a hundred guests – four times that number supported the family on that day with their presence and their prayers and I learned that the power of love is immense and that God sends us angels in human form to comfort and care for us. Things don’t matter – People do. At the end of the day what matters is how well you have loved and how well you are loved by others.
Good Grief: When we deny ourselves the time and space to grieve we will never heal. Time doesn’t heal – it’s what you think and how you process your thoughts that determine whether you sink or swim. Grief is a process and involves coming to terms with loss – it typically passes through the phases of denial, anger, bargaining and finally acceptance. To help me towards acceptance, I had to acknowledge that life will never be the same again and not to try live life in the same way. To let go and make way for a different experience. You can and will live differently and life is still LIFE! Let the waves of grief carry you along – go with them, don’t waste energy fighting against the tide.
Milestones not Millstones: During the first 12 months, I have experienced several firsts – our anniversary, his birthday, Christmas, my birthday and lastly the anniversary of his death. These can either be dreaded, feared and spent in a dark room or they can be welcomed as part of healing. That’s why I was on the beach to watch the sunrise on our anniversary and I chose the nearest date to Tony’s birthday for his UK memorial service. I decided to think of all of these occasions as a celebration of Tony’s life and of our love. I still have that love – it was left with me and will stay with me forever and my heart still has room for more. I also have welcomed a brand new life into my heart – my granddaughter Katherine. When I look at her and our other two grandies Jessica and Craig, I am reminded that life is unstoppable and that Tony lives in them too as part of their DNA.
Learning from the Past: I have always thought of life as a journey – we encounter people who will walk some of the journey with us but there is only one person who walks with you all the way – YOU! Along the way we learn lessons - there are no mistakes, only lessons. All of our experiences good and bad teach us something – the mistake is not learning from them. If death has anything to teach us it is to live each day as if it is our last for we never know if it is. Say the words that you want others to hear – let those you love know it and if there is something in your heart that needs to be said- say it! Equally, if there is something you have always wanted to do - as Nike says, “Do it Now!” When you live your life as it was designed to be lived by our creator, then you are honouring those who have gone before you.
Think miserable thoughts and you will be miserable: If you think you are going to have a rotten day – chances are you will. I choose to think positively – sometimes it’s hard work to push worry away but I have learned positive thoughts generate energy and negative thoughts sap energy. I need energy to adapt to and conquer my new circumstances and so I make that choice every morning when I wake up and I make the same choice several times a day some days! I choose to live and not just to breathe – that is existing but it’s not living! Of course some days are harder than others to stay positive but life is good! The good is there if you look for it – in people, in situations and in everything.
Stay open to Possibility: I decided early on to accept invitations from friends and family to join them and not to stay at home alone. I know myself well enough to know that I am not designed to spend lots of time on my own. I love people and I like being with others - yes, there are times when I have wanted to be on my own but when an opportunity has come my way to enjoy myself I have grasped it with both hands. I have been told that some people feel guilty enjoying life after they have lost someone and that society has a way of judging the bereaved should they be found smiling too soon. I absolutely hate the idea that people feel sorry for me - I would rather die than be an object of pity and I would rather society find me guilty of enjoying life than be approved of and be alone and unhappy. I have been on tour with a bunch of strangers this year which proved to be an adventure and a hilarious one at that! I have traveled, made new friends, had weekends away, spent time with my camera and stayed open to the possibility of new interests, work and relationships and I have learned that, "Man cannot discover new oceans if he is afraid to lose sight of the shore." Don't let fear of the unknown hold you back - Set sail and trust that God will take good care of you!
I am truly grateful for what this year has taught me. I am truly grateful for the friends and family that have supported me during this leg of my journey and I am truly grateful that the universe has granted me the opportunity to live, learn and think differently this year. I know that Tony would have wanted me live life and to enjoy the rest of my journey. As I set sail for the next year of my adventure i know without doubt he would wish me, "Bon Voyage!"