The morning that my husband died was rather unspectacular. There were no angels’ trumpets, the sky did not open up and drop a stairway leading to heaven, God did not appear and take him home. I had awakened that morning at 8:30 AM and heard a noise like a drop of water falling into a metal container. I had been holding my husband’s hand the night before and,although I no longer was that morning, when I heard the noise I figured he was okay and drifted back off to sleep. When I awoke, a little over an hour later he had passed away. It was so shocking that I could hardly believe it. I watched his body and waited for signs that his spirit was still in the room. Then, when I didn’t feel that presence, I went and called my brothers (including my brother-in-law who was like a brother to me), and my son and my sister, who all took the reins from there.
The rest of that morning and afternoon people came in and out, back and forth. I don’t even remember half of them as I was in a state of shock and trying to make sense of everything. It was a bright, sunny, freezing cold, wintry January morning, the day my husband left this place and went off to another. His well lived life was done.
Days later after the funeral and after the ashes and smoke had cleared I was left to pick up the pieces of my life, which I did and, as I held onto them, the shards of glass pierced my inner being. I would remain like that for a while wondering how I would ever move my life forward. The tenuousness of my life at that moment in time was frightening and left me exhausted daily. As I began my long journey through the tunnel of despair and sorrow, I was not sure what life had in store. Soon I began to create daily rituals and activities which gave me familiar routines, and these became a part of my new normal which began immediately after my husband’s death, just like that! Nothing would be the same in my world. I was creating my new world piece by piece, bit by bit. I was being brave, facing each new challenge and creating a new life that would be the foundation for my new normal and the start of my new beginning. Eventually, I decided I wanted to live and not die. I wanted to not become a living zombie, going through the motions, yearning for my old life with my husband, not really a part of the new, feeling nothing. I didn’t want to have one foot in the life I’d had and one foot in the new life I was about to begin.
Oftentimes, I hear of those who have lost a spouse and are not able to move their life forward. It’s a very difficult thing to do, but not impossible. One exercise that people can try is the Imagine Exercise. Think about your lost loved one, husband, wife, child, parent and if you believe that they have moved to a higher level of being, or gone to heaven, or whatever it is that you believe, and that they are no longer encumbered by human emotions, values, and restrictions, then know that their understanding of the human experience is no longer a mystery to them. They are full of love for you and wish you nothing but the best as you continue with the rest of your life. They are sending you nothing but love as there is no other emotion that’s greater. If you practice this little exercise repeatedly, make it a part of your daily meditation routine, it will begin to make sense that your loved ones, though no longer present with you here, are rooting for you to live life to the fullest and to fulfill your own purpose. They do not want you to remain sad and they want to see you happy as you continue on this earthly plane.
It would be awhile before I came to that conclusion and I was able to loosen my grip on my grief and embrace my new beginning. Grieving is a process and a part of that process is moving one’s life forward. Little exercises like this will help to make the transition from a numb life to living again a little easier.
I also found that I had changed. I was no longer attached to outcomes and I began to go with the flow more. I understood that this was a way of preventing greater disappointments and hurts, a way of shielding myself against any more pain, as I had already experienced the excruciating pain of loss and I wasn’t willing to be completely vulnerable anymore. So safeguarding my heart is my new normal but with that in place I’m able to navigate the New World I partially created and partially found myself in, well. I’m satisfied with what I’ve been able to accomplish as well as the variety of new experiences I’ve been able to have. My new life is very much different from my old one, as it should be, as it is one designed by me for me.
I would recommend that those who grieve take a bit of time to look in the mirror at their Present and imagine what the Future could look like. Think about the things you’ve always wanted to do and new interests you might want to explore. Give yourself time to construct your new life on paper or in a journal or maybe on a vision board.Rebuilding one’s life is much like building a house ;one can rearrange ideas bit by bit, piece by piece until you are able to create a potential future you can strive for. Remember, you do not have to stop the grief process ,but as soon as you begin to recreate a new life you’ll find that the pain begins to diminish until it’s no longer the constant companion that once followed you around like a shadow. Imagine your loved one is assisting you by inspiring your thoughts, in your dreams, through other signs as you go about your day. They’re there , you just have to pay attention. Then jump in, do it, do something. You will find by taking that first step toward moving your life away from your grief journey and toward the life you want to have you will continue to put one foot in front of the other until you walk straight into your brave new world .It’s what I did, and I know with patience, determination, perseverance and courage that anyone else can do it too
Read more about how I rebuilt my life after loss in Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all other ebooksellers