I call myself a writer, but I haven’t written anything (other than syllabi, course proposals, and research material) in a long time. I am taking this brief respite from work to write something personal. Oh sure, it happens to be the first day of a new year, so you’re probably thinking, “It’s just that ‘new year, new me’ bullshit,” but it’s more than that. It’s a story of a widow stepping out of the fog and looking for the sun for the first time in seven years. Yes, the first day of a new year is a good time to start anew, but this is something I’ve needed to do for some time. I’ve been lost in a fog of grief for the last seven years and I’m ready to walk out of the fog and resume living. I’m ready to experience life. I’m ready to meet the new me.
I was 42 years old when I enrolled at college, 44 when I proudly accepted my first degree, 47 when I earned a B.S. degree, and almost 50 when I earned an M.A. I was still working on the Associate’s degree when I lost my husband to cancer. To say that it changed my life would be an understatement. His death changed everything. I promised him that I would finish my education and I wasn’t about to let him down, but that promise became my driving force to keep going. My mom was able to see me accept a B.S., but sadly, she passed away before I presented my Master’s thesis. Oddly enough, I know both my husband and my mom were with me the whole way and had the best seats in the house during commencement ceremonies. I did all that, but I still wasn’t sure who I was without my husband by my side.
During the last seven years, I earned three degrees and did it during the most difficult and loneliest period of my life. I never claimed that I did it alone; I had family and friends, but I often felt alone. In 2008, before my husband died, I remember telling people that life is what you make it. I forgot that after his death. I believed that my life was some plot from a real nightmare. While I was lost in that fog of grief, I forgot that my life was exactly what I made it.
During the last seven years, I went from earning minimum wage in a bookstore to becoming a Director at a college. I’ve had opportunities to present at conferences and lead different activities. I met many different people and made new friends. And I did all that while stumbling through in a thick fog of despair that many of us know so well. Knowing that, I wonder what I can achieve with the sun shining and the fog lifted.
After seven years, I still wake during the night reaching for him; I still pick up my phone to call him when something happens; and I still miss him. It still hurts. The loneliness and longing for human touch is still sometimes overwhelming, but the pain has lessened. Life does go on. I’ve always been independent and confident, but when I lost him, I lost myself too. I started worrying that I didn’t have anyone to help me with things. I remembered that I could do so much on my own. Sure, it is difficult, but it can be done. Life is what you make it.
Realistically, I know that when you love someone-you never completely overcome grief. However, I also know that life continues. Your world ends, but the world around you continues moving forward. Some describe the time after a loved one’s death as a “limbo.” That is a good description of widowhood. It’s as though you are suspended in time and unsure of whether you want to continue living. Fortunately, most do continue living.
I am tired of living in limbo. I am ready to step out of the fog and get to know the person I’ve become. I am an intelligent person. I know there will still be rough moments and difficult times, but I also know there are still smiles to share and memories to make. I’ve accomplished a lot during the last seven years, while consumed in a fog of despair so thick I thought I’d never escape. I can only imagine what I can accomplish without the fog and constant darkness that consumed me. It’s nice to have a partner to share life with, but it can still be meaningful, even when you’re alone. I’ll always love you, Doyle. It’s time to start a new chapter on my own. We made a great life together. Now, it’s time for me to make a life on my own. Life is what you make it.