We lived together a little while before getting married. We married in the courthouse. We had a small wedding planned (he was in the army, he was a soldier), and he was getting deployed and would be gone for our planned wedding date so we just said, let’s go and get married now.
A little under a year of being together he was deployed for a short mission, it was supposed to be a diplomatic escort, and from what I was told his convoy was hit and he was killed in action.
It was kind of tricky because he was a soldier and he did have dangerous work and he told me from day one this is what I do and you have to be prepared for this, but nothing…nothing prepares you…nothing.
I actually don’t remember everything, I just remember ending up on the floor. His daughter came in and I had to tell her and she started crying.
There is a whole ritual army wives go through when someone’s husband passes. Those first few days really are a blur. I just remember we made a checklist and I remember pulling out the checklist. I don’t know without that checklist if I could have even gotten up in the mornings.
Of course, there were people to help me, but now when I look back on it I wish I didn’t have a checklist. I wish I could have been in my own space. I wish I could have just sat there on my own but life isn’t like that. You have responsibilities and you just have to get through them.
One of the few silver linings is her mom [my step-daughters] and I got along fairly well and we lived pretty close by each other. Her mother and I really leaned on each other at that time. She really helped me a lot. We’ve always stayed really close.
Last year for her 16th birthday what she wanted was for me to adopt her, so she’s my adopted daughter right now. We just have this amazing connection. Of all the bad things that happened, I did still come out of it with a family. They’re just amazing.
Moving and selling the house. I changed my name back to my maiden name not after my husband passed. It was more selfish, I just kind of wanted to in a way wash away the pain…to distance myself and come into a new place.
I spent a lot of time on projects while still having a full-time job. I went back to school again. I completely occupied my time. I think getting back to normal really was Anna and our daughter because I was trying to avoid what happened and avoid the pain.
All the denial that I was dealing with…I had to help her work through her grief so I had to work my own way through mine. I did a lot of denial. Many many months of denial.
They talk about anger and you really do get angry at a dead person. I still have that emotion ‘til this day. It’s totally irrational, but that’s just grief. That’s one thing I’ve learned, grief isn’t rational.
I think I learned this about grief…acceptance doesn’t mean no longer is there pain, the pain is always there…the feeling of loss is always there. I don’t think I will ever get over that. It’s just the more you accept that loss has to be a part of your life now and that’s hard sometimes. You want to feel like you’re moving forward and loss feels like you’re moving backward. Loss feels like you’re missing out on something. Loss is a part of life.
There are a lot of things I did after losing my husband. I don’t know if I did them on purpose for healing or I just happened to do them.
I just figured it out. Sometimes what he used to say to me would haunt me. He said I chose you because you’re strong and I can tell if anything happens I know you’re going to be there for my daughter.
I told myself, I know that I can and I’ve proven that to myself over and over again when I’ve needed to.
After he died I got involved in causes that impact soldiers, particularly Wounded Warriors and doing that and thrusting myself into helping other people helped. Helping someone with their grief is very different than just volunteering to give someone a meal or wrapping gifts on Christmas because it requires a lot of emotional presence from the volunteer.
It’s a script. No one ever asks me how do you feel or how did you feel. Those questions never come up.
Because of that, nothing is so terrible that I could never speak to you again. To throw a person away? Never.
I don’t know how other people come out of grief, but I came out of it appreciating my relationships more. Trying to make time for my relationships more, saying how I feel right now because you may not have tomorrow to say it. I don’t let petty things get in the way of me being with the people I love. I think the relationship that has grown the most because of this is the one with my mother.
I’d rather argue and get through this and then resolve it. That way if anything happens we were honest with each other and told each other how we feel.
Trust your network, trust the people around you but also make space for yourself.
Grieving isn’t about getting over something. It’s about accepting the loss. It’s okay to have good days and bad days. If you are feeling good about something it’s not a betrayal.