Afternoon sunlight danced through the living room of the cottage. Squeals of joy and cannonball splashes rang out from the lake as my 5 year old daughter swam with her grandfather. The baby monitor hummed as my 2 year old daughter napped in a pack and play covered with a mosquito net. Sweat rolled down my legs on that hot August afternoon as my mother stood up and answered the phone. She looked at me, her heart visibly breaking, as she quietly whispered into the phone “ok, I’ll tell her”. The sun continued to shine, the squeals of joy continued to echo across the lake, and the baby continued to nap. The world continued to turn as my world was about to end. My mother hung up the phone, and walked towards me, tears welling up in her eyes, and said “he’s dead.”
The room went dark, the walls fell away, my legs crumpled and I heard someone screaming in sorrow. As my mother’s arms wrapped around me, I realized the person screaming in sorrow was me. I was 41 years old with two young daughters, and I was now a widow. My husband was dead. Life as a I knew it simply ended in that moment. 16 years together ended. The life we had built together ended. The laughter that we shared over ridiculous and weird things ended. Our shared parenting of two young girls ended. Our friendship that had deepened and strengthened over the years ended. Our hopes and dreams for our future together ended. Our fighting over his addiction ended. My mistrust of him ended. My constant anxiety over what might happen ended. The pain that consumed much of our life together ended. His suffering and struggling ended. His presence in my life did not end. Our love did not end.
My life as I knew it ended in that moment. It didn’t just end….it was blown into a bajillion tiny bits. Bits that were so small, that despite trying so hard to put them back together…that puzzle has proved too hard to do. I can’t figure out how the puzzle of my old life fits together.
Profound loss changes you. It changes your view on the world, your capacity to love, your values, your gratitude, your weight, hell it even changed my bank account (grief shopping is totally a thing). It has changed me in every cell of my body. No wonder I can’t figure out how to put the puzzle that was my former life back together again. It’s simply an impossible task. Those blown apart bits…they don’t fit back together anymore. Those specks of dust of my former life….I have to sweep them aside and find new pieces to build a new, beautiful life.
I’m more vulnerable now. More open. More resilient. Braver. Weaker. More compassionate. More emotional. I’ve gone up a size in clothing. I’m more grateful. More present. My hair is greyer. My kids are more attached to me. I’m angrier. I’ve done things in the past two years I never imagined I would do. My career is changing. I’m learning to love again, in a way that is new, different, frightening. All of it, because of that phone call that ended it all. But now as as I sit here two years later, staring at this puzzle I have to put back together….it’s clear to me that phone call also marked a beginning. The beginning of my new life. One that is marked with sorrow and loss, but also with strength, resilience, beauty, connection and wonder. I feel like I’ve bought one of those *really* hard puzzles. The kind that don’t actually show you the picture of what you are working on but have 1000 pieces. This puzzle is damn hard to put together. I struggle to find how each piece fits and I often want to give up. Some days I hang my head and cry I can’t figure this damn thing out. Many days I want to give up on this puzzle. But I don’t and I won’t. I won’t give up. I want to see what picture while emerge. I have a feeling it will be beautiful.
His ending was our ending. But his ending is also my own new, scary, beautiful beginning.
3 thoughts on “Life After Your Spouse Dies”
I so understand your sense of ‘more’…. ‘more everything’. The difficult days can pop up out of nowhere. I believe you will find your way to more joy, more adventures, more peace. It’s all a very difficult process. Cheerleaders help on the tough days, faith and belief in a Higher Power helps on the toughest days. You can count me among your cheerleaders.
Peace and Prayers to you and yours.
I stumbled across your post and am glad. I just lost my husband in a car accident and we have 4 kids under 13 years old and have been together 15 years. Some moments imsad and others, I’m in disbelief. Your blog touched me and gave me hope. I know there are young widows like me. Keep writing, I would love to read more.
Thanks so much for your article. My partner of 12 years hung himself 3 days after Xmas just recently. We have two young kids under 10. He had alot of medical issues and servre depression. We moved interstate at the beginning of last year to get medical help for him so I only have his mum here. The world is very weird right now. Your article I can relate too as although I hate what he has done I also know how much everything was such a struggle for him both physically and mentally. I have taken comfort in your article and feel a little less alone on the path of grief. Grief is fucked. Thank you x