Tag Archive | Starting over

A Decade of Despair

Holidays are difficult. We are a society indoctrinated to view Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful for all we have. Unfortunately, it leaves little sympathy for those who remember all they’ve lost and spend their days in despair. After spending nearly a decade withering in the shade of grief, I recently began to exit the shade and absorb the brief rays of sunshine. I’m proud of the steps I made to let go of grief. It will likely take another decade to free my soul from the clutches of grief; however, it’s the little steps that count.

I put a strand of lights on the Christmas tree. I placed two ornaments on the tree. It doesn’t sound like much, right? It is monumental for me. These acts represent the indomitable will of the soul to continue living. Losing my husband so near Christmas made me despise the holiday I once loved. It is still difficult, but hanging lights and ornaments represented how far I’ve come since that dreadful time in 2009. I remain unwilling to embrace the holidays, but instead of focusing on the last decade of empty holidays, I’m finally recalling all the joyful holidays we shared. It’s the little things that count.

For the first time in nearly a decade, I’m considering what I have to be thankful for, which is actually many things. I am thankful for my children. The love we have for our children cannot be described in mere words. It’s a connection that transcends time itself. Those of us who are parents know that each child has his or her own personality and dreams, but it is as though a little part of our souls continues to live within them. I am thankful that I got to experience carrying these two beautiful beings and watch them become adults. The love we have for our children is completely unconditional. Through them, we contribute to the miracle of life. I am grateful for my children.

During the last decade, I learned that people are cruel. More importantly, I also learned that people are kind and good. The good far outweighs the bad. There were a few “mean girls” in my life, the type of women who are threatened by strong women because of their own insecurities.  I managed to survive their bad behavior and today, I hope they find the confidence they lack and are able to contribute to the future. Sadly, they aren’t likely to outgrow their bad behavior, but I am grateful that I learned their opinions do not define me. I learned that I have wonderful friends in my life and those are the people who count. I am fortunate to have the type of friends who root for each other when times get rough. Sure, there may be constructive criticism, but never for the sake of cruelty. I am thankful that I have more good friends than mean girls in my life.

I am grateful that I’ve accepted my new life alone. I wasted a lot of time longing for companionship that is long gone. I am thankful that one person helped me embrace my new life. The horror and repulsion in his face when I admitted my attraction to him was enough to make me realize the love boat sailed away long ago. He is a good person and never intended to be cruel, and his honesty made me a stronger person. Human nature dictates that we long for companionship and affection, but with strength, we can overcome the yearning. Without one person’s honesty, I don’t think I could have faced the reality of spending my life alone. I am grateful for my life and all that it includes or excludes. I am thankful that I’ve learned I’m strong enough to face life alone and I can still smile. I’ve spent nearly a decade hoping that someone might be attracted to me and fulfill that need for companionship and affection, but now I realize that prospect is unlikely and I’ve reached a place in which I’m fine with that. I am grateful to be at peace with myself.

I am grateful that I can find fulfillment through my work. I love my job and fortunately, it requires a lot of time and effort. My job keeps me focused and busy, which is a great thing. It makes me feel as though I am contributing to the field of education, and I believe education is crucial to the future of humanity. It is through education that we learn to co-exist and be productive. When I’m not working for my job, I’m working to restore my patio at home and that task fills the still moments when my mind tries to wander. I’m thankful that I can still find personal fulfillment in my life.

On this Thanksgiving, for the first time in nearly a decade, I am truly grateful for so much. My family, my friends, and my strength. I still miss Doyle terribly and I miss the constant in my life who was there from the moment of my conception-my mom, but I am grateful I was able to share so many wonderful years with them both. I finally realize how fortunate I am to have family and friends who stood by me when I was consumed by grief and who continue to stand by me today. It is they who give me the strength to persevere despite the loneliness and hard times in life. It is they who convinced me to carry on.  I am grateful that I am carrying on. It may take another decade to become me again. Then again, it may take another year or perhaps a day. The point is that after a decade, I am carrying on. Life is riddled with complications and pain, but it is also full of love, joy, and happiness. The key is to hang on to the happy moments with all your being and to carry on through the sad moments knowing that a happy moment, no matter how seemingly small, will come again.

© Relinda November 2017





Life is What You Make It


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.