I’m writing this (or at least beginning to write this) on February 17, what would’ve been the 39th anniversary of the relationship between my husband and myself. It was first the anniversary of when we began dating officially, and then it was the date on which we were married.
10 days from now will be the 10th anniversary of the date on which he was killed by a DUI driver. There’s a lot to think about.
I have felt the pain of his loss on each one of the 3650 days since then.
There were days I didn’t know how I would survive. There were even some days I didn’t really want to survive. But I had to. I had three young children I loved and who needed me. They were/are also my husband’s legacy. I owed it to them, and to him, to not just survive but to do the best I could to live and by doing that show them that they should go on living.
Those of you who know me are already aware that my situation was tremendously complicated by the fact that I’m physically disabled by multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis and stress do not go well together; the stress of the first year after Chris died landed me in the hospital emergency room multiple times.
And it all made the MS get worse, which made our lives even more difficult.
When the man who killed my husband was sentenced, I gave a Victim’s Impact Statement. I remember speaking about all of the birthdays and Christmases and other holidays that Chris would miss because the perpetrator had stolen him from us. Had stolen Chris right out of his life. Obviously, that’s exactly what happened. Our son who had just turned 8 less than three weeks before his dad was killed has now just turned 18 and is trying to decide where to go to college.
At every age, in every stage, life is complicated.
The emotional struggles are endless, the financial struggles painfully real. The trajectory of all our lives was cruelly altered when Chris died, causing additional complications I never could’ve imagined.
When you suffer a loss in your life, be prepared for the fact that things may become more complicated in ways that you never anticipated. Try not to make big decisions that you can avoid, although undoubtedly you’ll have to make some. Have patience with yourself.
Death is the cruel common denominator of life.
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, the color of your skin, your ethnicity or religion, or whether you’re rich or poor – none of us can escape the specter of death and what it does to the lives of those left behind.
Even when you think you’ve planned for it and prepared yourself for the eventuality, you’ll probably find out that you haven’t.
In the first month or so after Chris died and the initial fog of shock started to fade, the reality was brutal. In the midst of that, I made promises to him and to myself. A decade later, I can look back and report that I was able to keep some of those promises but I failed at others. Some things I just couldn’t do, some things got messed up by the pandemic, and kids… Well, they also have minds of their own, and at a certain point, you have to let them make their own choices and work through any consequences of those choices. Life is a work in progress for everyone, so promises and intentions sometimes have to be adjusted.
I hope that Chris is generally satisfied with how the kids and I have been doing. I know he loves us no matter what, just like he always did. There are times this past decade when my faith has been shaken, but even in the darkest days, I do believe love is an energy that doesn’t just dissipate into nothingness.
Moving Forward Day By Day
There are days I don’t think I can get through another one, and days when I look forward to the ones to come next week, next month, next year, and another decade from now.
Everybody has to deal with loss at some time or another. Some deaths are more shocking and sudden than others, but they all hurt loved ones left behind.
People never know what to say when somebody dies, or if they should acknowledge the existence of the deceased again in the future but because they worry it will hurt. My advice, even though you didn’t ask for it? Speak from the heart. If you don’t know what to say, it’s okay to say that. If you think of the person who’s no longer with us, say something! You’re not going to hurt anyone by saying their name; those who love that person think of them often anyway, and cherish knowing that others do, too.
If you are grieving, remember there’s no timeline for it. There is no right or wrong as long as you can cope with the essential things in your life. If you need help dealing with grief, reach out for it. There are a lot of resources, including free ones.
The best advice or counsel I received after Chris died was to take things 15 minutes at a time when trying to get through one day at a time was too much. It’s advice that helped a lot, especially when I couldn’t seem to breathe without crying. It’s advice I still follow.
The searing pain of loss gets muted, just like when a scar on your skin starts off bloody and bright red, and gradually fades away to a very pale pink and then a faded white. You can do things to make it heal quicker, but ultimately the process is somewhat different for everyone. You don’t necessarily have to get over it, you just have to get through it.
If you can’t keep all the promises you make to your loved one or yourself, give yourself some mercy. Be as understanding of yourself as you would be towards someone you love.
I still love Chris. I still miss him. I hope his soul is at peace knowing that we are doing our best, just like he always did. Those things will never change.
P.S. Don’t drink or do drugs and drive. #Think.