Life, And Hope After Loss
My life has been reasonably good. For most of my adult life I’ve been independent, responsible and goal-driven. While others were out having fun I was being diligent with homework and careful budgeting plans in order to achieve my goals. I traveled extensively in my early 20’s, which ultimately helped me focus on a career path and then achieve that. I accomplished several things in that decade of life and am proud of my hard work and healthy habits.
I married a man when I was 32 after dating for 3 years. He was 8 years younger than me and even though I tried to break up with him a few times because of the age difference, he still continued to woo me with his humor and charm. He was a good man with a strong moral character, good judgment and good sense, to say just a little about this solid person. We shared a love for living healthy lifestyles and encouraged each other in our health and other goals. He was stellar in everything he did. Not only did he practice healthy habits and had a generous spirit, he was also kind to everyone he came in contact with. On occasion it would annoy me when he would take the time to ask a stranger how their day was going when we were in a hurry to do something or to get somewhere. But now I get it - he knew what was important in life: people and their well-being, and relating to them.
Fast forward 11 years, we started the day just like any other day. It was a Sunday and he had plans to be with his siblings that morning (something that didn’t happen often, so it was a high priority for all 4 of them, since they didn’t live together anymore, and loved each other a lot). While he was away for the day I was planning to stay home to clean and organize, but decided to go to church instead. My faith had been slowly dwindling and I was feeling more and more disconnected from my church community. It was a lovely service and I made connections with a couple different people, in short yet meaningful conversations. I was looking froward to sharing my experience with my husband later that day.
I was downtown after church. It was a cold, windy day in May. I wondered around enjoying the mild, yet sweet afternoon. I noticed I had a voicemail from one of my husband's family members. The message said to call back ASAP because it was an emergency. I felt a sickening pit in my stomach. I wanted to deny whatever was possibly happening. When they called again I couldn’t avoid the situation. I was told to come immediately to a place about 40 minutes away, but to not drive myself. Luckily my mother happened to be in town at that time and she drove me there.
We arrived at a hospital emergency room where they were desperately performing CPR and all manner of life saving attempts on my dear husband. They had been doing this for about an hour by the time I had arrived. The room was silent while all the people were working on him. It felt as if they were looking to me to tell them to stop, because clearly nothing they tried was working. He had drowned in a nearby reservoir after a freak boating accident. One of his brothers had also drowned. The search and rescue teams were still looking for him while we sat in the ER. I felt like I was in a sort of bubble and was unable to absorb anything that was happening around me. Even when the attending doctor said there is nothing else they could do, I was numb. The numbness enveloped me immediately. Thank God my mother, a retired ER nurse, was there to ask all the right questions and to give me the signal that confirmed that they had done absolutely everything possible to save him. He was likely already dead when they retrieved him from the water. So they stopped, and at that moment he “officially” stopped too. Before the rest of the family got to the ER I was able to spend some precious time with him to say my goodbyes.
My numbness continued to increase. When I got to my parents home that evening, my "dry drunk"dad poured me a glass of wine that I didn’t want, but he insisted, not knowing how else to help me. He had been sober for many years, but only by white knuckling it and he never really healed from the inside. His only solution for my tragedy was to increase the numbness.
Several friends tried to talk to me on the phone right away, however I found that I couldn’t speak. To say the words didn’t make sense to my brain and they were too painful to utter: My sweet husband, who always did everything right, had died. In fact, I wouldn't be able to say those specific words out loud until much later, after two years of therapy and grief counseling. I wasn't isolating myself at that point - I craved connection with people, but simply couldn’t use my voice. Texts, Facebook messages and emails became my preferred method to communicate with people; and people-connections became my lifeline. This was unusual as I was normally introverted and prefer to isolate. But I knew I couldn’t be left alone with my pain, nor did I want to be alone with it.
What I noticed happened right away was a tangible expression of God’s love and care for me, through others. In the days, weeks and months after he died I was overwhelmed, in a good way, by love and support from people I knew, as well as several people I didn’t know, who reached out to me in support. Soon I felt like I could grieve with full abandon and that God had me in His hands while I did that, and that He saw me in my deepest grief. I felt anchored to Him in my sea of despair. Before this event I believed in God and had a sincere faith that He is with me and for me, but it was nothing close to what I felt during this intense period in my life. God met me in my deepest pit of despair. I didn’t have to do a thing but to receive His gift of Love and comfort during this time. I felt I had to, because I don't know if I would have survived without His extension of love and support. I began to see the thoughtful and loving texts, letters and cards I received as God’s hand at work in my life. This is just one profound aspect of my healing journey, but it was the foundation for my recovery.
I don’t think I will ever forget the magnitude of love that showed up in my life. As as result, I now cherish people even more. What used to seem like normal, mundane interactions with people throughout the day now have deep meaning to me. Life is precious and it can all quickly change from one moment to the next. I know this more deeply than ever before. I have been changed for the better, because of this profound and life-changing experience. Though I would give anything and everything to have him be alive again, that is not my reality. That is not my path, so I press on and seek to share hope with others in my situation. I'm embracing this journey through grief, for myself, and also to let others know that we can heal and that we do recover. As this life-force moves on and through me I am carried to the next thing. Today I can say that I am honored to be a beacon of hope for someone else who is suffering.