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Grief is a Journey, Not a Destination
Elaine Williams copyright 2008

There are days you sit in a chair and stare out the window because living seems to take too much energy. Even to think about what to make for dinner is an all-consuming task. It can be daunting, feeling as if there is nothing in this world that will ever hold your interest again. The mail order catalog with the Valentine's Day gifts is a reminder there won't be any lover's keepsakes. No hiding in the cabinet those chocolate and peanut butter eggs my husband, gone two years, used to enjoy. How small and silly a thought, but how big a rip in my heart.

I had always been versatile and open to new ideas, but following my husband's death, life became a narrow focus of work and children. The joy had flown from most of my days and I worried if this consuming disinterest in the world would be permanent.

Time could move excruciatingly slow, and yet other days I couldn't account for the hours I'd lived through. On the dark days, I lamented that no one cared anymore about my worries, dreams or desires.

I hated being an empty vessel, and as I began dating, I expected that special someone to come along, fill me up, and make me happy. At that point, I mistakenly thought, things would return to normal. I'd be my old self. Little did I know at the beginning of my grief journey, my old self was forever gone. However, I wanted verification that I mattered to someone in some way. I wanted affection and caring, craving what I no longer had. My heart remained ever hopeful that I would find a happy ending, but due to some poor choices, I kept throwing myself on the rocks of dating disappointment.

With the loss of someone integral to mine and my children's lives, my sense of normalcy had changed. Sometimes I wallowed in uncertainty about my life, and the tears would leak out of my eyes to run down my cheeks. I kept those emotions hidden most of the time. I couldn't bear to have others see me so weak; it seemed too private to share. On rare occasions, I allowed myself to express my pain and anxiety. I wish now that I shared my grief more often.

One day I awoke and realized my life had never been a shipwreck and now was not the time to start. I was ever mindful that I was an example to my children, so I gathered my strength and took control of my destiny. Knowing the future was all in my hands was frightening and yet liberating. Becoming myself once more wasn't an easy process, but a slow, methodical movement forward.

I am no longer the woman I was, but then having gone through this journey, how could I expect, or want, to return to who I had been? Indeed, as the years folded one into another, I had no need to rehash the past. It was behind me as it should be, neither forgotten nor dwelled upon.

I now avidly pursue the future as I welcome life's unexpected joys and experiences. A new life and outlook has emerged, and it is interwoven with bits and pieces of my former life. I am thankful to have found myself again.

A Journey Well Taken:
Life After Loss by Elaine Williams

Crafting a New Life as a Widow
Elaine Williams © 2008

When you become a widow your life changes and there is no guarantee of sanity in the transition. Some days are topsy-turvy; other days have a numbing calm. You wonder if life will ever be joyful again. You're not crazy, you're grieving.

Joy has a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it, yes, even in the midst of loss. I discovered it's a waste of energy to feel guilt over a moment of joy while in the pain of loss. I used to tell myself I had to stop being so serious and cut myself some slack. I refused to be a victim in life and I vowed not to become bitter over my husband's loss.
Sure, it was unfair that my kids lost their dad at 11, 18, and 19, but inside each of us are life tools, and we do the best with what we have learned in life.

So how do you craft your new life as a widow? Time and patience are the best advice I could give. I had never expected my husband would die, even though he was diagnosed with end stage esophagus cancer. I was so determined he would get well, he would beat it, that losing him never was an option until the last three weeks. So I wasn't prepared for his death, but who ever is? Stuff like this didn't happen to me. I'd always considered myself an upbeat, lucky person. I still consider myself in that category, which is why I know from my own experience you can create a new life and be happy and feel joy once more.

I recall many days up until about two and a half years into my loss where I felt weighted down by uncertainty and indecision. I wanted nothing more than to just hide away in some safe, dark place where no one else could find me. Many days I felt a complete lack of enthusiasm for life. I worked because that occupied my mind, and in deepest grief, I often wondered if I'd ever experience true joy again. I felt off kilter, as if an essential life force had been pulled from me. I had a big hole.

For months I hung in a kind of limbo. I asked myself what was it that I wanted to do with my life? Was this empty feeling all there was? I knew I had to contribute something more - that there was a purpose for me. I wanted full knowledge of what my the next step was in my life.

As a writer I attempted to pick up my writing, but there was no passion there. I have always been a writer and to think that that well had dried up, felt devastating.

Slowly, I began to find a new me, one that I had never fully tapped into. I wondered had experiencing loss uncovered the stronger, more independent me? I have learned to live fully on my own, taking care of my children but also taking care of myself.

When I made myself step outside my comfort zone, I often found a new world waiting for me. I discovered that living a full life is all within my own control.