Grief can be one of the loneliest places on the planet. It is completely isolating, debilitating, soul destroying and painful. At a time where you wish everything would just stop, where you could hit rewind and change the events, life keeps whirling by and it can take everything you have to hold on.
In September 2006, two days after my son turned 3 and with an 8 month old in tow… My life imploded. My husband, driving to attend a funeral was killed in a road accident. The events of that day are ingrained in my memory and if I allow myself to dwell, I actually think I can stop my own heart beating. It is still that raw. I guess I just don’t allow myself to do it that often.
My story is like so many others… there are only small differences in people’s grief journey really, and that comes more from how we choose to cope. The trauma or shock, the loss of control, the loneliness and confusion all of this goes with the unfortunate territory. I’m no lone soldier in dealing with all of this, so I won’t bore you with the details.
For me, an aspect of my widow journey that I wasn’t prepared for… and trust me there was A LOT I was not prepared for, was the guilt I would feel when happiness returned. Or more importantly, when I chose to be happy and seek out happiness opposed to being riddled with distress and sadness. I actually don’t think happiness just turns up, we have to make a conscious decision to go about creating it.
As desperately as I wanted to create happiness and forge a new future, the guilt of this was all too consuming. You see, when you are widowed and you have children, your decisions tend to impact more than just you. This was something I struggled with terribly. The unfortunate reality was, every decision I made pulled me further and further away from my past. There’s a massive degree of guilt that can follow these major decisions. It changes the course of so many people’s lives and I felt accountable for that.
Time and healing have helped me understand that all of what I have done, Uni degree, moved, met someone… all of this is the natural progression and I am entitled to create the life I need, albeit very different to my previous life. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t hours and days where I feel bad for being so happy again. I mean, really? Do I really deserve to be this happy? What does that mean and say about me? My husband didn’t make his 33rd birthday, never finished his family and doesn’t get to see his boys grow up. Yet I’m off creating a happy future! I guess it means I have chosen to not allow his death to be in vain! He was very big on why worry about what you can’t change and deep down I know he would want his kids to be happy… Happy Mum, happy sons right?
I may not be living the life we would have created but I’m teaching my boys what resilience is. I’m showing them that no matter how bad things get, we have the choice to rise from the ashes. I’m teaching them that bad things happen to good people but it doesn’t have to destroy us. I’m showing them that good things can come from bad situations. I’m teaching them that happiness is our responsibility. I’m showing them how important it is to love and care for each other because life is short. I’m teaching them so many things because of their Dad’s death. Things maybe I didn’t fully understand before his death.
I am not the same person I was before my husband passed away. I truly believe no one ever is after losing a loved one. My ability to fully appreciate the things and people I have in my life has been heightened through facing such a traumatic experience. I understand more readily the responsibility I have in my own life and the direction it goes. I chose and continue to choose to be happy… I’ve worked through the guilt, some still resides, but essentially I am proud of who I have become despite what forced me here.
There are so many emotions and feelings that come from losing a loved one. The anxiety and isolation only began to lesson for me after connecting with EA. Suddenly I was talking to people with as many questions and insecurities as me. People just like me fighting the fear, the unknown, the judgement, the confusion. Finally there was a forum for me to express myself and feel understood. SERIOUSLY understood without judgement. If Andrew’s death taught me anything, it was that whether I liked it or not I had been cast into the spotlight. I had to defend myself against personal decisions because of the impact it had on others and this was not always the easiest of burdens to carry. Finally people, somewhere, behind a computer screen got just how tough some of this stuff was.
We have shared the lows and celebrated the highs and no matter where our journeys lead, I know I wouldn’t have made it through without these lovely ladies. All from different walks of life, coping with different traumas but tied by the bond of young Mums coping without their kids Dad. Maria and Aisling you are the guardian angels for so many.