It was a random Monday night. I was married, I was 32 my husband was 31 nad he basically just dropped dead in our bedroom. I called 911, did everything I was supposed to do, unfortunately, it was one of those situations where perfectly healthy people just drop dead.
I don’t think I was functioning at all. I am very lucky in that I have a great family and great friends who took care of me. I was able to go home. The military provides benefits and I was able to take the time I needed to grieve and deal with everything I had gone through in that loss in a way that wasn’t involved with anybody else’s needs. I was very lucky in that way and that took about a year. There was like a year of fog and I have no idea what I did.
I had some issues with some benefits that required a little bit of a fight on my part. That was what I did the second year.
There are tons of organizations out there to help surviving spouses with what they need. That’s where I started learning about inequities facing military widows. While there is a great support system for that initial trauma and death, down the road, there may not be.
Because I didn’t have to care for anyone but myself, that’s the road down which I headed, to care for my fellow military widows.
Now I work for an organization where I get to walk in under the words, “We honor the dead by helping the living.”
What I remember first and foremost is that my husband loved to have a good time. He was all about vacationing and being with family and friends and enjoying life so I kind of took that idea and a lot of that first year was traveling. There was a lot of laying in bed and a lot of traveling.
I don’t want to gloss over the pain. It was serious, it was real…we were together since we were 16 years old so he was all I ever knew and I think that follows me now.
What really hit me one day was the idea, do dead people watch you shower?
I had an aha moment and I thought, if Jeff is going to check in on me, shouldn’t I give him a better movie of my life than lying in bed and crying all day? Because I don’t want to watch that movie and I don’t want to make him watch that movie so I’m going to watch him do amazing things.
I think there was probably an ounce of trying to escape with all that traveling and then what I learned from that was you can go anywhere but your problems stay with you so you have to work through them if you’re going to find any sort of happiness and calmness in your life.
It taught me if I want to feel better I probably have to do a little bit of work myself on this grief. That looked like therapy. I’ve had three therapists since losing my husband and they were all at different stages because my issues were situational.
I miss him benign there. I miss his arms. I miss having a soulmate…somebody that knows me. I have great friends and they know me but they don’t know me the way he knew me. We just had a connection that I honestly don’t know if I will ever find again and I’m okay with that. Still get a little teary, but I think what we had was special and it was also special because of the time in our lives that we met.
We were together for 11 years before we got married. I just miss him being there. I loved seeing him become the man that I always knew he could be and we were a team. I miss being part of a team. Being alone has its great points and I do love my life but, there’s nothing like having a partner to walk through life with.
Even the worst divorces can turn into 20-years later you’re happily at your kids’ weddings together or you’re able to do the college graduation and nobody’s fighting and bickering. There’s a chance with divorce, whether you stay or whether you leave that later on things could change and be better and death just doesn’t have that option.
Jeff was the biggest cheerleader. He believed in my ability to do anything. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where I was going. I had a bachelor’s degree so that box was checked. I was completely lost job and purpose-wise.
My goal was to come to DC and fix one specific issue and that anger at that issue was what got me to go back to school so I did that and that’s how I found the organization I’m in. And now, the issue to come to DC to fix has been fixed. By no means by myself alone. This was a massive group effort.
I feel like when bad things happen to us, one of the best ways to heal is to take it out of us and put it onto how do we help people like us who are going through this.
You’ve got to embrace the suck. You’ve got to acknowledge the situation sucks and that there’s nothing you can do about it.
Death is something none of us have any control over, whatsoever. Being able to release from that is important. Figure out what moves your heart and how you can share that with people. Whenever we give of ourselves we get back so much more.
I’m a big believer in it’s okay to cut out toxic people in your life, no matter who they are, how they’re related to you. That’s one thing I became a lot more firm about after losing him.
I’ve learned we’re here for a certain amount of time and none of us knows how long that is going to be.
I refuse to spend my time on this earth expending energy on people who are nasty, toxic. I’m going to spend my time with people that I love, that I respect, that I care about.
At the end of the day, if everybody that you love knows that you love them you’ve done a good job on this earth because there’s nothing else you can take with you other than love. That’s what goes across being alive and being dead.
Know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You might not see the light. There might just be darkness in front of you. With the right support, there’s a light at every tunnel and we can get there. It might feel like walking across glass and fire to get there, but I know my friends and family love me and that’s the light. The light is getting back to some semblance of happiness and normalcy and you’re not going to see that in the beginning but know that it is there.
It will be better one day and that’s for anybody going through something. You can get to happiness and calm.