Twenty years ago tomorrow the worst thing that I could ever imagine happened to me. My husband died. Twenty years provides great perspective. When it happened, I couldn’t imagine surviving one year, let alone twenty years. I was in shock for the first few months and focused on just surviving. One foot in front of another. One day after another. One week . . .
Now, though, twenty years later, I can see all the good things that happened because of it. I know that that sounds weird. That is the tough paradox of losing someone. Things can get better. Things can be good. Good things can even happen because of the bad things that went before.
When my husband died–he was quite young–I didn’t know who I was anymore. My identity was being part of a we–a team, both at work and at home. Co-parents and co-workers. We’d been together since high school and had done college and graduate school together. We had ended up working for the same company. I know that the people around me didn’t think of me as “half” of two, but I did. I had to struggle with who I was going to be for the rest of my life. I had family and friends who helped me. I had an incredible therapist who helped me. I had four kids who gave me a reason to go on. Slowly but surely I figured out who I would be. I figured out what it was that I liked to do at work. I figured out what it would take to build a life doing that work.
I now have a life and work that I really love. I can see that it wouldn’t have happened in the same way if I hadn’t gone through what I did. I can testify that you can survive the worst and you can build the life you want. Give yourself time and space to heal, and then decide what you want and figure out how to do it.