12 months of widowhood, the road from surviving to living.
I'm a bit behind schedule with this one being that the anniversary of Lauren's death was now 6 weeks ago. A large part of that delay has been because I've been so busy trying to balance running a business with solo parenting, running a home and finding time for me to be me. But another reason for the lack of sharing recently has been because I've actually been trying to navigate a particularly complicated set of emotions around being in another relationship along with the dualities and sensitivities that has created.
This blog follows on from the one I wrote at 6 months after losing Lauren and the difference in me and how I view life and grief now compared to then is vast.
I closed the last blog by summarising that 'widowed life sucks!' Which is no lie. However, as I moved through from months 6 to 12 I've managed to rediscover myself, find pockets of my life where hope is starting to reappear.
As I entered March and on the night before my birthday I had, what at the time I had written down as a visitation dream. I could hear Lauren's voice saying to me 'Before I met you, I never knew how great you could be.'
I woke in the middle of the night, having had quite vivid dream about Lauren and I, and it was this sentence woke me up, it felt as though she actually said it to me and even though I couldn't recall much of the dream by the next morning I could still hear that sentence.
To me, I took it that she was telling me about how I'd exceeded all of her expectations of what it felt like to be loved and what the role of a husband, partner and father should be.
When I think back now it was at this point I started to think more about my own value in life.
Shortly after that I posted this video to my Facebook page about how for the first time since Lauren had died I felt genuinely positive and felt less intimidated by the idea of rebuilding the crumbled pieces of my life.
When I read back on the content I was sharing around this time, the narrative had absolutely started to change, I began talking more about living life positively and making the most of the life that Molly and I are blessed with.
Month 8 and Easter arrived, the thing with these days, especially when they are family focused ones, is they are a reminder of the fact that Lauren isn't able to share in the excitement of these activities anymore, but despite Easter causing me to feel quite 'griefy' I posted about the launch of my new marketing consultancy and my first efforts to begin to work for myself in an attempt to add something positive to the day.
As May arrived I started to talk more about being 'empowered by grief', using it as a motivator to live a full life, rather than being pinned down by it. On recent reflection I was telling my Mum about how the worst thing about widowhood was the complete loss of hope for the future. After all, everything we do today is generally for a better tomorrow and losing your partner makes you feel as though tomorrow can never be better. But hope is what drives us forward and it was at this point that I started to feel hopeful that I could find pockets of happiness for me, rather than just using Molly as my sole purpose for existing and that shift from just surviving the days to living was pivotal and it was around late April/ early May that I opened myself up to the idea of a future relationship.
It wasn't something that I was going to go looking for, but at just 33, I'd like to think I have plenty of life to live and actually hoped for someone to share the highs, and the lows with. So if somebody came into my life that made me feel like I could embark on a new relationship then I'd be open minded and open hearted about the situation.
As we entered June that's exactly what happened. I started to date Jess, who has been a breath of fresh air, she's approached my situation with maturity, compassion, understanding and patience and I couldn't even begin to imagine what it feels like to be in her shoes and striking up a relationship with a young widow. But, credit to her she has handled it impeccably and has, in a very short time, added so much positivity to my life.
From there June, July and August have been somewhat of a whirlwind in which, with Jess' help I've rediscovered my smile, found that I'm able to find a place in my life to live for me and rebuild in a way that I actually never thought I could.
With that said and whilst it has been a positive move forward in my life, it hasn't been without its emotional challenges. Not necessarily because I feel guilty from the perspective of what it means to Lauren, I gave her all of me and I know that she'd only ever want me to do what makes me happy. But more so for the amazing family that had welcomed me with open arms since the day that I first met them all those years ago, to a family that have had the pain of losing their daughter, sister, niece and cousin. The dualities of feeling positive for me, but worrying that the decisions I make could, and most likely will cause upset to these people, people that I love dearly has been particularly challenging and still is. I know that they'll all want me to be happy, it's the least I deserve, however I also know that my ability to find love again is a reaffirmation of what they've lost, and that thought causes me much distress.
I can only hope that it's clear that I've been trying desperately to rebuild my life for me in a way that doesn't dishonour, disrespect or disregard the life and love that I've lost. It has been an incredibly delicate balance to which there are no right or wrong answers and I hope that it's something that I'm managing to achieve although at times it feels like I'm not.
When I think about the journey that I've been on, going from the time after losing Lauren where I felt like I was just waiting to die and would never have even contemplated another relationship, to where I am now and feeling positive and hopeful for the future feels good and with so much uncertainty about what's around the corner I feel it's important to lean into what feels good. I'll forever carry the love and the grief I have for Lauren, but, as I've mentioned in previous blogs, the size of grief doesn't change, we simply create a bigger life around it so that it doesn't catch us out as frequently.
In addition to learning how to live for me again the last few months have been nothing short of chaotic! My business has been successful much sooner than I thought it would and balancing that with solo parenting through the summer holidays, attending social events, keeping on top of a home and more recently getting Molly ready to start Primary School has been the epitome of hard work. But I am grateful for the love and support that I have around me and for those that have chipped in to help lighten the load.
I recently received some messages from others that had sadly joined me in life as a young widow and had stumbled across my blog. They were thanking me for sharing and demonstrating that life still moves forward and the truth is that it really does. But what's important to understand is that there are no timelines to this, we are all different, as are our responses to grief. Their messages reminded me of the wider purposes I had for blogging, reminded me that actually it has been one of the reasons I've made it through the journey that I've been on and that I've still got lots to share.
My life has forever been changed by losing Lauren. Emotionally I'll carry that loss forever, physically I now suffer from anxiety attacks, stress and overwhelm which I hadn't before and practically life as a solo parent is challenging. But, the biggest change for me over the last 6 months is that I've rediscovered my desire to live, I'm no longer just surviving and am wanting to waste no time on second guessing what feels good. The truth is none of us no what life has in store for us and in the last 6 months that motivation to live, which is empowered by my loss and grief, has seen me successfully start a business, embark on a new relationship, enabled me to get Molly off to an incredible start at primary school and overall restored my hope that tomorrow can be better.
I'd like to leave this blog with a thought and some inspiration I've taken from the Japanese art of Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi). It's a technique that they use to repair broken pottery, by using gold to join and repair their valuable items. They believe that by rebuilding something and embracing the imperfections or the breaks it can be rebuilt to be stronger, more beautiful and more resilient than before. The breaks are considered a part of the history of the piece and not the end of its life. I think this is a wonderful way to view life after loss.
Thanks for reading and being a part of our journey!