In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been wanting to write another blog but fear get in the way to be honest. I was overwhelmed with the amount of people who actually read the last blog and I started to get nervous about what everyone may think. I was worried people may think I should be over the death of my husband by now and may think it’s weird that I want to talk about him or blog about the realities of grief. The truth is Winston and I live a great life but our reality is a bit unique. It helps me to share and I’m hoping in some way it helps you too. I wrote several drafts and never felt right about them until tonight. So here goes:
I have to say that 2017 has been a pretty tough year for me but I cannot confidently say I’m ready to move into 2018. You see in 2017 when I spoke about Ryan I would say he passed away last year. It didn’t seem so long ago that I saw his smile or heard his voice. Now just thinking about the fact that I will have to say he passed away in 2016 seems so hard and sad. The new year adds another layer of reality that he is really gone and it reiterates the permanence of death. A similar feeling came over me when Winston turned 32 months old last September… I know you usually stop referencing months when your child hits two but this was significant to me. Winston was 16 months old when Ryan passed away so the thought of him being old enough that the majority of his life was not with his dad hit me hard. It just doesn’t seem right or fair but it’s real. I feel like the memories he has of Ryan are starting to fade and that really pulls on my heart. We talk about Ryan every single day but there is no way to explain every facet of such an amazing person to a child and him really get to know his daddy the way I knew him. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had Ryan in my life for 8+ years and I wish Winston could have had more. I often think about what he would being doing now with Winston. I can almost hear him laughing along with me as Winston says “Hey you silly goose!” I can only imagine how proud he would be of our intelligent, thoughtful, silly, energetic, inquisitive, superhero-loving Winston Boy. I wonder if he would notice the subtle traits that so often remind me of him… like the way he lines up all of his toys in a row like Ryan used to line up his crawfish heads when we’d eat them, or his fascination of hunting for and collecting the perfect rock on the playground for himself and of course one for Mommy just like his dad’s fascination with finding the perfect diamond, or his incredible retention of information or his love for books. I just know he would be in awe just as I am.
They say time heals but I’m not sure about that… Time is a funny complicated gift we are given. I don’t know if my heart will ever actually “heal” no matter how much time I’m given on earth. I think with losing a spouse it just takes a long time to process such a tremendous loss and as the reality of living without your best friend starts to set in so do the realities of life in general. This was the person who you did everything with which means everything is different and the void is unavoidable. I say unavoidable because I know that Winston and I’s presence can sometimes remind people that Ryan is gone. They can visually see the void. We’ve experienced being avoided because of this and I get it. I don’t blame anyone for it being too hard to see us sometimes. When I find a little pocket of avoidance of the void I embrace it too.
Think about it. When something awesome happens in your life who is the first person you want to tell… and when something really bad happens, or you need help making a decision, or you need back up with disciplining your kid, or you can’t quite unzip your dress, or your back really hurt and you need a massage, or your really sick and can’t even get up to get a drink of water, or you just want to yell at somebody, or you need a shoulder to cry on, or a breaker trips, or your grass needs to be cut, or your just need a moment of peace away from your child to collect your thoughts, or you just need a hug, or a high five, or a pat on the back… who’s your person?
So what happens when suddenly they aren’t there anymore? Here comes the void. The great exciting news that you want to share suddenly tastes a little bitter when you can’t pick up the phone. And life keeps moving. Bad things still happen, decisions still have to be made, you’re on your own with disciplining your kid and you are praying you’re getting it right, you get stuck in a dress and you have to sleep in it until you learn you can use a hanger to catch a zipper (true story), your back still hurts, you go to sleep with a dry throat because there is no one to get that water for you, you cry instead of yell, yell instead of cry, you figure out how to work everything in your house or you call your dad, you hire help, your moments of peace are in the car where you break down and hope your child doesn’t notice the tears coming from your sunglasses, you hug your child, you give him a high five, and you pat him on the back… because… you recognized that you are his person… you hang in there. I’m hanging in there. You just live with the void and remember that if the love wasn’t so tremendous the void wouldn’t be either. I’ll take the love… and live with the void.
Often people tell me how strong I am but so many things almost broke me in the last 365 days. I’ve never had to be so determined in my life to push through. I’ve seen things in people that I never knew existed. I questioned everything. I stood my ground. I dug deep for strength. I allowed others to help me more than I felt comfortable with. I sadly witnessed the wrath of cancer take several beautiful women from this earth and wreak havoc on families in the way of grief and despair. At the same time, I was dealing with the aftermath of losing Ryan to cancer and reevaluating how to actually start over. Meanwhile, I’ve started to have to explain to Winston more and more what heaven is, where it is, why we cannot go there right now to visit Daddy when he asks for him. I’ve had to fight back the tears and the lump in my throat when people ask me if my husband and I plan to have more children or when they talk to Winston about his daddy not realizing he’s passed away. Or when Winston asks if his daddy can come when he sees his friends with theirs. I try so hard to keep it together for everyone and for Winston but it’s so tough. What makes it easier is that this year I’ve also witnessed cancer survivors and families turn their despair into powerful monumental breakthroughs and triumphs. I’ve seen people give so much to strangers. I’ve experienced forgiveness and togetherness like never before. I’ve been a witness to Ryan’s undeniable presence. I’ve renovated our home to be a safe, comfortable and beautiful space for Winston and I. I’ve laughed harder than I have in three years with my silly boy. One thing I know is that I couldn’t be as “strong” as everyone says I am without all of you.
A few months ago Winston handed me a fortune cookie that read, “Joy shared is multiplied; grief shared is halved.” When I read this phrase I immediately put it down and said “Yeah right!” I was kinda pissed to be honest. My mind focused on “grief being halved” and I thought to myself “sharing your grief doesn’t take half of it away…” about a half hour later it dawned on me… If it weren’t for all of the support from my friends and family this grief could be twice as bad… WOW! It was then that I fully recognized the impact of all of my support. Thank God for each and Every One of you. Thanks for allowing me to share.
Moving into 2018 I’ll do it like I do everything now. I’ll embrace the “Bitter Sweet” and I’ll live with the void because I know it was created out of love and I’ll enjoy the gift of today. Cheers to all the Joy 2018 shall bring!