Today seemed like the day to literally dust off the laptop and share some thoughts about life, gratitude, and the strange ride the past few months have been in our house. The premise of moving through something is the boldest illustration of just how weird life can be. In the weirdness, I have been in my head, focused on the present moment, and approaching each day as it comes.
There have been good and bad days and many moments when life feels normal. The new normal anyway. Three holidays and two birthdays have passed. There are fewer photos documenting our days than before, but the new normal has not been as daunting and heavy as one would expect after such a sudden loss. I have been committed to doing the work and moving through daily.
The best piece of advice I received from those who have walked a similar path had to do with giving myself permission to feel everything and taking time to sit in the emotions. Ugh. As much as I would like to say I chose to be wise and do what was suggested intentionally, I did so because I had no choice. Sometimes putting one foot in front of the other looks more like sitting in a mud puddle for a minute or two.
For those who are skeptics, you may want to skip ahead a bit.
Messages from Beyond.
Two weeks ago, I attended a group reading with a medium. Yes, a medium, as in someone who can connect with people who have passed on. I went in with an open mind and heart and did not know what, if anything, I would walk away with. Of course I hoped to find out if she was at peace and okay.
The medium did 8 or 9 readings during the hour and a half session that took place at the Venue, our favorite home away from home. I figured if there were ever a place for her to come through, this would be it. When she began speaking about a sister figure or best friend stepping forward I did not think anything of it. The medium began to mention things that got my attention. Cancer. Fund raiser. Stubborn. Fighter. Dancing. Promises.
The lady in front of me thought it was a friend of hers and claimed it. As the medium kept sharing, she stopped talking to the lady and pointed in my direction and asked if any of this made sense to me. I was floored. My friends who were there knew before I did that it was her. I raised my hand took the mic and said I understood.
I did not give her any information other than to validate what she was saying. At one point the medium just stopped and said “okay, okay, okay” while pacing. My wife was a persistent woman and was in overdrive. I had to laugh. She described her as compassionate, kind, loving, and someone who was always there for people. Nailed it really.
She described our relationship as inseparable and close. I then told her she was my wife. My wife was adamant about me keeping my promises to her. The medium mentioned it four times. Message received. Through her I was able to connect with my wife and get the message thanking me for never leaving her side and for always being there for her.
As the medium was wrapping up she mentioned a signature or handwriting and asked if that made sense to me. I told her I had a tattoo of her handwriting on my arm. I was wearing long sleeves and got it a month after she passed.
If you have ever seen mediums working they pace around a lot and gesture while someone is coming through. At the end of the reading she walked to the end of the stage and stood still. The words “I love you” came out of her mouth. I got goose bumps.
As soon as she finished, I texted the keywords to myself so I would remember what just happened. It was an amazing night. Whether or not you believe in the spirit world, there is no disputing that our loved ones are with us. It is a hard sell and even harder to explain what happened that night to someone who was not there to see it firsthand.
On the way home, I opened a Spotify playlist hit shuffle. The first seven songs that played all meant something to us. I turned off the music because it was too much. Persistent wife strikes again. I laughed and said out loud “Okay, I got it. I can only handle so much Yvette.”
Am I crazy? Maybe. But I will take it gladly. I debated sharing this for a long time because it was an intensely personal experience. As usual I couldn’t help myself.
Ninety something days later, the idea that only way out of something is through has been reinforced and proven hundreds of times over. As much as I hoped to discover a shortcut to the grieving process, I am glad I didn’t and have scrapped any plans I may have had to just blow through the red light. The journey is not over, but has become less crushing with every passing day.
There are no universal rules or approach to grief. I have grown infinitely since my wife died and feel more gratitude than I ever imagined possible. It sounds crazy to associate grief and loss with gratitude yet here I am doing just that.
I have learned more about myself, the world, and people in the past three months than any other time in my life. I have made peace with my emotions, rediscovered myself, mended broken relationships which seemed irreparable, practiced forgiveness, let go of resentments and regrets, embraced change, and even opened myself up to the possibility of loving someone new.
None of this would have been possible without the concerted effort to keep the promises I made to my wife when we learned that she was dying and choosing to be fearless despite the pain. I am keeping the specifics to myself on this one but will say there are great lessons in grief and in the decision to live after someone has passed.
Embrace the Journey
The journey is not a one size fits all situation. The greatest lessons to be learned is life is short, precious, and beautiful. The new normal is different, but surprisingly good. I have laughed, cried, felt numb, screamed, yelled, and even punched a wall in a brief fit of anger. Not my finest moment but I own it. Every emotion has been necessary and brought healing to areas I did not realize needed to be addressed.
Simply put, without challenges growth is slow. Whatever challenges you may be facing in your life, remember to embrace every emotion and not fight the process. Or punch things. Learning how to be grateful for the dark is the key to peace. Without the darkness you will not be able to fully appreciate the light.
Authenticity demands a willingness to look at the entire picture without fear or hesitation. Do not resist the process and be fearless as you move through the valleys. The clouds will lift and you will be able to see that life is still beautiful even when it doesn’t feel like it. This too shall pass my friends.