I realized something this week. My pregnancy truly guarded me from time. If I was still pregnant with our child, my husbands loss was not that long ago, very much so recent. I wasn’t fully wrapping my head around the “month markers” that checked themselves off. Then, six months hit. I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m no longer pregnant or the realization that half of a year has passed. Time hit me in the face. I’m not saying six months is a long or short amount of time in the grief world, but I would say it’s significant. Do I feel like I’m where I should be for six months post loss? Who knows? How many handbooks have been written by someone who lost their husband, with a one year old, and birthed their second child alone- all before the age of 25? When I look at it like that, I’m doing pretty dang good.
Let’s be honest. Grief is really ugly. I recall those initial six weeks, I walked around in a haze. Shock is Gods way of protecting us. Man was I in shock. I went through the motions, made decisions, and kept myself groomed. I remember very little from those weeks. I was empty. Life has slowly been coming back to me. There are times I can talk about Fareed with ease, typically stories I’ve told before. It does get easier. The problem is when someone catches me off guard- asks about our future plans, recalls a fond memory of Fareed that I don’t often talk of, shows me a picture I haven’t looked at a thousand times. These moments can bring me to public tears. I still cry alone often. I still reminisce. I finally wore the sweatshirt that smelled like him, risking losing the scent. I can’t move things in the house with ease, but I’m getting stronger.
On thanksgiving my family and a couple friends decided to watch the old movie Bounce. As a widow, people will recommend anything they can to help you normalize. One part of the movie caught me off guard. The script goes:
Abby: It’s not that i can’t forgive him. Do you know how I spent that night he left? Trying to figure out if I was glad that he didn’t get on that plane. You know if I say, I’m glad he’s alive… I’m glad he found me that day. Or if I lie and say I’m not both ways I feel like I’m doing something wrong to someone I…. to both of them to him and to Greg. Being with him is like making a choice. Donna: You don’t have that choice Abby. You have other choices. Abby: Just can’t be him that’s all. Donna: Well whether it’s Buddy or some guy a year from now…. that person will be there because Greg isn’t. That’s just how it is.
This quote isn’t relevant to my stage of grief except in one way. It made me realize I don’t have the choice of having Fareed back. This may seem silly but in a way, I have been living as if Fareed may magically reappear. Keeping things the way they’ve been, feeling guilty when I have an ounce of joy he’s missing, wishing the boys will stay young so he doesn’t miss the milestones. Reality is- I don’t have that choice. I have to start making other choices. Choices that bring joy. Even if that joy hurts, we have to endure through that initial pain. We have to start making new traditions, new dreams. Life will never be the way it was. Grief can blind us to that in a way. I have felt a huge weight lifted as I realize that Living and Choosing to live are very different options.
It’s much easier to sit in grief, to be sad day in and day out. It’s easy to take things day by day because my dreams have been shattered. I desperately want something to look forward to. Until now, the thought of vacation makes me sick. Vacation is for family and mine isn’t whole. I’m realizing that those thoughts will only keep us where we are at. There will always be a missing piece to our family, but this is our family now. I don’t have another choice.
It’s hard to fully wrap my head around that. I feel like we have been living pretty well for the last six months. The boys have laughed and played. We have endured. But, normal people have dreams, futures they look ahead to. We have to start building that. We have to make a choice.
I dreaded the six month marker of Fareeds passing. I should have been celebrating his birthday, not mourning his loss. The day was brutal and I kept myself busy planning the balloon release so I wouldn’t have to face my emotions. That night people started coming over. At first, I was being my typical self- do this, help yourself to that. Halfway through the night I noticed something, I was sitting in the living room with a messy kitchen and not a care in the world. I was present and enjoying myself. This is strange for me because true joy has been rare and before Fareeds passing I was guilty of not being present with the people around me. His death taught me that these moments are all we get, we have to live them. Once I noticed how happy I was surrounded by these people, I started to soak it all in. The children laughing, the friends telling stories, our dog running around with balloons tied to his collar. I made a choice to enjoy that night. Did I feel guilty? A little. I felt like I should only be in tears on such an emotional night.
Grief makes us think irrational things. The ones who love us, want us happy again. Our lost loved one would be proud we were finally smiling. That guilt comes from our longing for a life we once knew. But, we don’t have that choice.
As hard as it might be, I want to start making those choices. My heart breaks even writing this. I’m trying so hard to cling to a chapter of my life that was closed so unfairly six months ago. But, I want to dream. I want to be the girl doing funny dance moves. (Fareed fell in love with those) I want to radiate with hope, not just strength. What’s the point of enduring if we don’t truly embrace what’s ahead?
Man this is scary, it’s unknown and unwanted territory. I want that book of dreams, goals, and plans I wrote with Fareed. But- I don’t have that choice. He’s not here.
So here’s to making other choices.
Here’s to embracing life right where we are at and realizing this is life. It might not be what we imagined, but this is it.
Photo courtesy of: Petal and Vine Photography