Widowhood–Navigating the emotional minefield on Valentine’s Day

After my beloved husband died in 2018, I knew that the days ahead, navigating through this new life I never wanted, would be challenging.

Inevitably I encountered emotional landmines, especially during the holidays, riding a roller coaster of triggered anxiety and depression. Even something simple as grocery shopping and spotting a carton of orange sherbet—his favourite dessert—swallowed me whole with a fresh wave of grief.

Now that the bright lights of Christmas and New Year’s are behind us, a new landmine blasts at every turn complete with hearts, flowers, chocolates and advertisements for dinner for two–and when you’re suffering heartache as a widow or widower on Valentine’s Day, they seem to pop up everywhere.

My husband and I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day with a lot of fanfare, as he was a “here’s-a-gift-for-no-reason” type of guy, however, we did mark the day in our own way.

He’d kick off the morning by serving me tea and toast, using peanut butter to draw a heart on the toast, and I would give him a bowl of Smarties (he loved his sweets).

I’d give him a card—the kind we used to give as kids at school–of course, there wasn’t anything childlike in the naughty note I’d written inside the card (well, I am a romance author after all).

He’d give me a card—the traditional “for all occasions card.”

Twenty-years ago, my husband gave me a card for my birthday–the card looked oddly familiar, and then when I opened the card I knew why it looked familiar. He had given me that card on our anniversary with a sticky note inside with his endearment—here it was again for my birthday, with a different note inside.

It was a running joke that I treasured all these years, as he said it saved him from never forgetting a card for any occasion, he’d just recycle the card and just change the sticky note to suit the occasion.

As I said earlier, he loved giving gifts for no reason, and about six months after he died, I finally went through a few of his things in his man cave area, and discovered a binder filled with vintage Beatles cards.

I figured out that he had been collecting them to surprise me with them at some point, but with chemotherapy and in his weakened state, he hadn’t spend much downtime in his man cave, and I am guessing he forgot about that binder with all that was going on.

It was a bittersweet moment, and I remember having to spend a day in bed after finding the cards—the heart ache was so intense. I then shook myself out of my despair and with tears in my eyes, felt joy for his thoughtfulness. I forced myself to go to MICHAEL’s and purchased a frame. Some of the cards hang in my office where I can enjoy them.

This Valentine’s Day I will make toast and use peanut butter to draw a heart on it; I will hold the for-every-occasion-card close to my heart; I will look out into the garden and take in the tall oak tree, and remember the day twenty-eight-years ago when we planted the acorn together on the first day we moved into our home.

I will open the treasure trove of memories my husband left me from the beautiful life he lovingly gifted me every single day of our marriage, remember his deep love, his smile, his wit, his great sense of humour, and how passionate he was about our family, and although it will be another heart-wrenching reminder of all that I’ve lost, I will force myself to smile through the tears and continue to be grateful for the everlasting love we share.

As I do every night, I will close my eyes, remember his soft kisses and say, “I’ll see you on the other side of the stars, my love.”

SMILE THROUGH THE TEARS

Like many people who are challenged with grieving the loss of a loved one, the upcoming Christmas season is again emphasizing the loss of my husband in every level of my being.

It’s a daily struggle to navigate life without my beloved. I have learned that even on a day when I feel good, it doesn’t mean that I’ve been cured of my grief, because there is no cure.

Therefore, I have no choice but to find a way to embrace the concept of allowing grief to co-exist with joy, so that even with feeling heartache and pain, I can enjoy moments of joy, laughter, and  . . . smile through the tears.

I could tell you it’s been easy to have grief and joy co-exist with each other, and that it gets better each day, because time heals all wounds, but that would be fiction filled with empty platitudes.

It does not get easier or better with time, however, with time, patience, and a sense of humour, I am finding a balance with handling both as I . . .  smile through the tears.

I am going to share how I am preparing for the Christmas season in the hopes that it will help another person who is struggling with the challenges of pushing through each day of the holiday season.

Something that I personally find helpful; not only to steer my way through any holiday, but also through my daily life is; changing my routine, creating new traditions, releasing any and all idea of what “normal” is, or what it used to be, because there is no normal when it comes to grieving, and at the same time, keeping my cherished husband’s memory and image in my mind and heart as I . . . smile through the tears.

MEMORY FILLED ADVENT PILLOW.

I grew up with the advent calendar tradition for the days leading up to Christmas, and each day I enjoyed a chocolate kiss candy, so I used this idea and added my own twist, creating a new tradition with the Christmas Advent Pillow.

Each day, beginning December 1st, I will pull out a note from the pockets of the pillow that holds a treasured memory of my life with my husband, along with a list of what I am grateful for on that day, as I have also found an attitude of gratitude has helped me handle my grief.

On December 1st I pulled out the first memory and relived that moment in time when my cheeks burned with mortification under my green face (homemade avocado mask), and how my husband’s sense of humour, love and support got me through an embarrassing situation (or what David loved to call them “Lucy moments”) I . . . smiled through the tears.

As I opened the flood gates, remembering all our adventures, my heart and soul once again filled with love and gratitude for the life we had together, and with each memory, I . . . smile through the tears.

I’m still a work in progress and I know I will never nail the concept of having joy co-exist with grief perfectly, or navigate this new life without finding it unbearable at times, but you know what? I’m okay with that.

In the past I have blogged about life with my husband and my “Lucy moments,” and as I re-read them, I . . . smile through the tears.

Here are a few memories if you’d like to read them:

Antioxidant Little Pricks
How Does One Eat A Taco?
Nothing says I love you…Like a box of rice.
Exploding Roast Beef

Always on my mind, forever in my heart, the sunshine in my soul.
I love you, Mr. Rugged

My New Life – Two Years Later

 

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July 10, 2018 at 7:15 p.m.; I held my husband in my arms as he took his last breath.

It was the biggest heartache of my life, and these past two years have been the hardest years of my life.

Nothing prepared me for that last moment.
Nothing prepared me for the days leading up to his death.

Time does not heal the heartache.
Time does not diminish how much I miss him.

I’m still a major work in progress, navigating and working my way through this new life I never wanted.

I live each day wondering how I will get through another day without the love of my life—a loving husband, bonus dad, Baba (grandfather), friend, and uncle that nothing I can write will do justice to the wonderful man he was to us all.

He’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up, and my last thought before I sleep.

Every day I wake up wondering, how will I push through today; and then I remember my promise to him—to honour his legacy of hope, optimism, love, laugh and live—the best description of David I could offer.

A kinder more courageous person I have never met. A true warrior, and the way he handled the last fourteen months of his life only emphasized what a beautiful human being he was from the time he was born until the day he died.

I keep memories of our life together alive, because memories are all I have left.

I am so grateful to have been loved and cherished by this beautiful soul and so privileged and honoured to have been able to love and cherish him.

 

David, my love, the number of years without you could never be greater than the number of ways I love you, the way we all love you.

Eternally in loving memory.

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A New Life After Death

On May 4, 2017, I hung onto my husband’s hand as we listened to a team of specialists explain the ramifications of my husband’s diagnosis of Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer.

In that moment, all the oxygen got sucked out of our lives, and it felt as if someone had turned off the light switch to our world, shrouding us in darkness.

I was filled with fear, angst and an intense sadness and I worried I would never regain any composure or strength.

It was my husband who composed himself quickly, squeezed my hand and said, We’ll get through this.”

 

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I felt the love flow from his fingertips straight to my soul; we took deep breaths and pulled ourselves together, and as we did throughout our marriage when faced with a challenge, we held onto to each other tight, and prepared for the emotional roller coaster we knew we were about to take.

From that moment on, we filled our home with love, laughter, and spending every minute of every day together, celebrating the moments, cherishing our time together,  with family and close friends.

We turned the seven-hour chemo treatments at the Cancer Center into “dates,” complete with all our favourite board games, snacks, and the memory board we put together filled with pictures of our travels, and family adventures through the years.

 

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Cancer is a short drive from optimism and laughter to the cul-de-sac of worry and anxiety about the future, however, we remained adamant about taking it one moment at a time, working hard not to drive down “What-if Avenue” or “Brooding Dead End.”

 

CANCER CANOOT

 

My husband was bombarded with countless blood tests, medication–enough to open our own pharmacy, treatments, clinical trials, emergency trips to the hospital, and endured harsh side effects.

He went through all this, maintaining his incredible sense of humor, wit, selflessness, and kindness; never complaining or asking “why me?”

A true warrior.

 

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On June 5, 2018, we were delivered devastating news; there were no more treatments available, as the cancer had spread and there was nothing else that could be done.

I held my husband’s hand and said, “We’ll get through this.”

For the first time since I’ve known him, he looked at me, despondent and said, “Not this time, my love.”

On July 10, 2018, I held my beloved husband in my arms as we said our last “I love you’s.”

lAST LOVE YO

 

Since that day, I have faced the hardest months of my life. In the early months, it felt like I had lost a limb, was dropped off in a dark forest, with no instructions on how to find the light, and having to navigate my way through this forest without the use of a limb.

Every day presents a new challenge, the grieving at times is more intense now than in the early days, and missing him is even hard to put into words.

 

FOR THE BLOG

 

For those of you who have endured the loss of a spouse—that person who is not only your lover, but best friend and the one person that would’ve helped you the most during this grieving period, you know that it changes you as a person.

I did find my way out of that dark forest, although, it still feels like I am missing a limb, and embraced my mission of moving forward and honouring my husband’s life, and his legacy of live, love, laugh and stay passionate about all things that bring positivism into my own life and into my family’s life.

With the support of family, friends and a group beautiful souls who have also lost their life partners, I’m doing okay adjusting to this new life.

I’ve redecorated my surroundings, changed my daily routine, volunteering at my grandson’s school, enjoying the little ones at every chance I get, and remaining committed to living up to the promise I made my husband that I would continue following my passion with creative writing.
I wanted to let you all know why I’ve been absent all these months, and not updating the blog.

My goal is to start uploading new recipes, and updating you on my creative writing journey, and at times talk about grief, and hopefully reach out and help others who may be struggling as well.

Thank you for sticking with me all these months, and I send out my best wishes and love to you all as you too navigate through the challenges in your life.

 

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In Loving Memory of our cherished & beloved Warrior

 

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Cancer may have taken your body,
and now Heaven has your soul,
I have your heart; forever intertwined with mine.