Since this is my first blog I feel the need to write about my journey of grief.
When I first lost my husband, Jack I was shocked, devastated and lost. My best friend, my lover of sixteen years, together seventeen years, the father of my children, was gone! I was blessed with the support of family and friends but after a couple of weeks, life moves on. I went back to school, the kids went back to school, friends and family went on to live their lives. I passed through the first stage of grief, I accepted his death. I chose to stay busy – that is how I coped. I didn’t want to take the eleven week quarter off to get depressed or stay in a pity party as I knew that would not help me. My church grief counselor told me that it would really start to settle in at the three-month mark. She was right, he wasn’t coming back, wasn’t on a business trip or a fishing trip so reality really set in. As I was just getting my head above water, I found out that my eighty-four-year-old father was dying. The doctor predicted that he would only live a few months longer. I spend as much time with him as I could as I was a full-time student but would go over after school to check on him and make sure his caregiver was being attentive to his every need. My siblings & I would take turns taking care of him on Sundays. Dealing with all this grief, I escaped my responsibilities by going to yoga, taking time for myself, blocking out any thoughts and just breathing and working through my poses. It was my healthy de-stresser that helped me find my new self. Also I went to church twice a week to meditate which helped to bring me peace. Sometimes I would tear up in yoga and at church allowing my grief to come out. Bereavement counselors told me to get the emotions out, by crying, screaming in the shower or in a pillow so I did. My kids and I would cry together.
To maintain stability for my kids, I decided to stay in the family home until my youngest child graduated from high school. I wanted to keep the children in their lifestyle to create some sense of normality. Around the six-month mark, I asked my brother to help me re-design my bedroom in order for me to move forward. We re-arranged the furniture making it asymmetrical, repainted three walls and added crown molding.
I chose new artwork and accessorized with new pillows and replaced the bedding with a different duvet cover, sheets & shams. By creating my new personal space, I continued to move forward with my life.
I had to learn to be alone and be alright with it. My kids wanted to sleep with me and stay home with me on weekend nights. Finally, I said to them that I wanted to sleep alone and I wanted them to go out and have fun with their friends on the weekends. That I was fine being alone but did appreciate their support.
Then, as the holidays approached, I had to decide how I wanted to celebrate them, not that I was in a celebratory state or anything but I had to be the rock, the stable one for my kids. I could choose to do it exactly the same as we (with Jack) had always done or make different traditions. I decided to start fresh by doing all the holidays differently.
After going through the major stages of grief that first year, I realized that I needed to re-create myself. It was time to take off my wedding ring- wearing it on my right hand. I asked my sons to help me clean out Jack’s closet. All three of them sat on the sofa not budging. My son-in-law had to give them a nudge. So each of them went into his closet with me and chose their pieces. I organized garments in groups per son in dry cleaning bags. I gave some clothes to my brother as he was of similar size. The rest were donated to charity.
Then I had to socialize differently, most of my friends were married so their time with me was limited. I made new friends at grief camps with other fellow widows and widowers. My widow friends encouraged me to join some groups so I did. I met new single friends. I started to go out and have fun with my new friends to laugh and enjoy life again. I became a foodie and a wine connoisseur.
The biggest read that helped me the most was Second First by Christina Rasmussen – funny how she has my same last name. As I was reading this book, she talked about being in the waiting room kind of like being in limbo. That after you pass through the major stages of grief, you still haven’t completely embraced your new life yet because you think your old life is safe. After experiencing great loss, the world is uncertain and confusing. So fear, being scared of the uncertainty and afraid to take action set in. Emotionally you don’t realize that you’re in the waiting room, you’re going through the motions of life yet not fully embracing it. As I was reading her book the light bulb went off. I had to figure out how I was getting myself out of the waiting room. How to re-enter life, to embrace it, re-create and re-invent myself. I had to figure out how I was going to start over and re-enter life again.
After graduating from college, I spend a month recuperating from exhaustion. I engaged again with my children, trying to catch up with them. I did a lot of soul searching, spent a lot of time thinking and focused on just being in the moment. I re-entered the dating scene after eighteen years which was different to say the least. I started my career as a Design Consultant for Ethan Allen Furniture. I went to work full-time for the first time in twenty years. I continued my career working for other designers & started PR Design. My sons moved out and it was time to get the house ready for sale. It was a big house with a lot of maintenance for the two of us. So after my daughter graduated from high school, the house went on the market. It took nine months to sell my home. It was time to downsize & let go of a home that was no longer serving us. It was the last thing that I had with Jack. I was looking forward to a fresh start, excited to find a new home. I started working for a Senior Designer as I was working toward my NCIDQ. I learned what I could from her but high end design wasn’t my passion. I knew what God wanted me to do so I took the courage to start my new specialty business, New Beginnings “Helping People Move Forward” a re-creation service that helps people through the loss of a loved one, a divorce or downsizing from independent living into assisted living. I have fostered relationships with grief and transition professionals so my team can help people fully engage in life again. I know I will never completely get over my tragedy (nobody does) but I have chosen to move forward with my life following my passion and fully engaging in life once again.