Yesterday would have been my 8-year wedding anniversary with Andrew (he passed away from cancer on July 26, 2013). I can’t help but think about what our lives would currently look like had he lived, where we would be living, what we would be doing, what our daughter, Ellie’s, relationship with her dad would look like, and what my relationship with Andrew would be like. In my mind, we would be living in Oxford, England, where Andrew would be getting another master’s degree at Oxford University and writing more books at The Eagle and Child pub where his hero, C.S. Lewis, used to discuss literature with J.R.R Tolkien. I picture myself working at a cozy bookstore and also writing books. In my imagination, I see Ellie light up with happiness and confidence whenever she sees her dad. I envision Andrew teaching Ellie how to play soccer in the park. I imagine feeling a deeper appreciation for Andrew in all the ways God made him and I see him having a greater appreciation for my unique abilities and strengths. I see a mutual gratefulness for a second chance at love, at life, and at building our family.
The past several months, I’ve experienced an emotional and internal war over accepting the loss of my husband/Ellie’s dad and accepting our new reality without him. It’s been a dark time for me. When Andrew passed away, I thought something was wrong with me because I wasn’t crying every day. I more felt a sense of appreciation for life as I was driven and inspired to make Andrew proud by doing something that made a difference in the lives of others. Before losing Andrew, my only involvements with grief were from movies and from a limited amount of time around friends who had lost loved ones. Based on those experiences, I felt incredibly guilty I wasn’t grieving the way I thought a “normal” person should grieve. I also resisted learning about grief at the time because I didn’t want to be labeled something that wasn’t by my choosing.
As time has gone by, the pain of our loss and of our new reality has begun to significantly affect me. I started going back to therapy and studying up on the topic of grief. What surprised me from my research was everything I’ve experienced is actually in line with the five stages of grief (according to Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler in their book, Grief and Grieving). The stages, in order, are:
Recently, I was guilt-tripping over the fact I was just now beginning to feel really sad and depressed, because it’s been a little over two years since Andrew’s passing. I felt an expectation (put on me by me) to be sad and depressed right after Andrew passed away, and feeling this pressure (put on me by me) to pull myself up by my bootstraps already because I should have taken time early on to be sad about it. Luckily, I’m self-aware enough to know even though my feelings are valid, they’re not facts, and putting pressure on myself will only make me feel worse, impeding my ability to heal.
On the website grief.com there is a quote by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler that reads:
You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.
This quote makes me feel deeply seen and understood.
These days I’m simplifying my life, and giving myself time and space to heal. I’m nurturing my soul through journaling a lot, reading good books, going to therapy, exercising, using food for fuel, not comfort (which is not easy and I’m a work-in-progress), getting out in nature, and learning how to give myself grace and kindness, instead of guilt and shame.
Part of the Acceptance phase of grief that has been the most difficult for me has been accepting I can’t go back and change the past- the things I said to Andrew or the way I treated him at times. I have some regrets, and knowing I can’t go back and right my wrongs has been really hard to come to terms with. The best I can do is to learn from my mistakes and make better future choices. The finality that he won’t be coming back is really starting to set in. So I’m taking it one day at a time as I learn to accept Ellie’s and my new normal without Andrew. I want to end with a beautiful quote and my new everyday prayer from a book I just finished called, Never Broken, by Jewel, “The faith to step into the pain when it comes and the courage to let it ravage me and pass through instead of hanging on to it and letting it tear me down. Life is ever-changing. What is consistent is knowing I am up for anything. That I am never broken.” Sending you lots of love and blessings.
P.S. Looking to share the gift of learning the ABCs, as well as build lifetime character lessons with a special child in your life? To get your signed copy of The Ellie Project click here!