Over the past few blog posts, I’ve openly shared parts of my journey with grief. It’s been this ever-evolving process.
It’s taken me three and a half years to feel and accept the hard and traumatic parts of our loss and to give myself permission to grieve.
In my experience, when we lose someone we love, our brains go into survival mode. For me, survival mode manifested into a sub-conscious form of denial where I continued to live my life as though nothing ever happened.
I focused my mind on all the positive attributes of my husband and this mission to carry on his legacy by sharing his writings. I kept myself busy by filling my calendar with speaking events.
Looking back, I did this because I wanted to be strong for my daughter and our family, and because I wanted to make Andrew proud.
Then, three years later, I got sick, I got still, and the experience jolted me into dealing with the traumatic parts of the loss.
The most traumatic aspect of losing Andrew was the process of watching his body deteriorate. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes. To watch my athletic, football-playing, twenty-nine-year-old husband get weak, sick, and be in pain to the point of death within months was traumatic.
Also, something inside of me died on the day the hospice nurse explained to Andrew he was home at hospice. Witnessing the hope and fight escape his soul that day was devastating. These were the moments, the memories, the pain I wasn’t ready to face.
Some might think it’s better never to let your mind go to those dark places. What I found to be true, however, was going to those places, as difficult as it was, released my body from the stress of avoidance.
Because the pain was always there, deep down. When I got sick, and I found myself face-to-face with the pain, I realized exploring the pain actually freed me from the fear I held of feeling it.
I discovered the pain wouldn’t kill me. Actually, the opposite—being able to talk about it and feel it relieved me.
I also didn’t realize how my avoidance was holding me back from moving forward with my life. I was still holding onto my past for dear life. I didn’t want to let go of what was, so by not dealing with it, I was keeping myself in a waiting room. This impacted dating relationships, growth in my business, and my day-to-day activities.
Now, I feel different after going through that extremely challenging time in my life. What I thought might destroy me ended up transforming and liberating me.
Even though I know I’m not out of the woods completely and I will continue to face cycles of grief throughout my entire life, I now feel ready for a new beginning, to take ownership of my life, and blaze a new trail I might not ever have imagined possible. I see the opportunities and I finally feel excited about the future!
Love and blessings.
PS — I haven’t forgotten! In this week’s post, I’d planned to share some practical steps I’ve taken to build up my new foundation, but based on all the encouraging emails I received on last week’s post, I decided to dive a little deeper into grief. Next week, I’ll share some practical steps in moving forward after loss.