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The Journey That Comes With Losing a Spouse Cannot Be Measured

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I remember standing in the foyer of the church, standing in the realization that this day was not for me. It was for everyone else because by now, after all of these years, I must have expected this. I must be somewhat “OK.” So I greeted them, smiled and said hello until the church overflowed with people sitting in every pew. There were even people standing next to every wall. I imagine these people spoke to me and said kind words at some point, but I don’t remember most of it.

I only remember one conversation I had that day. A friend, a father, a man who had abruptly lost his wife not long before this day, looked at me and said something like, “It doesn’t matter if your spouse is taken from you when you least expect it, or if the road is long. The pain is the same. The shock is the same. I am so sorry and I understand.” All I could think in that moment was:

“No. You just went through the worst nightmare. It was shocking! It was unexpected. It was not the same. Your loss was so much worse!”

Yet I believe I muttered a quick “thank you” and proceeded to the pew where I sat not hearing a word of what was spoken from that moment on. At the end of the service, I remember receiving hundreds of well wishes, but I was overwhelmingly more concerned about everyone else’s well-being. Were they OK? Would they survive this? They must be grief stricken. This loss was hard… for them.

I can’t recall when I finally woke up to the truth of that day. When I realized the shock I was in. When I admitted to myself that maybe his words held some truth. Yes, the road was long. But did I not have hope during that time? And even more so, was I not alone in that journey? Not near as alone as I came to be that dark December night when the weight of truth hit me. I was allowed to be shocked by the inevitable. Although my loss may have occurred slowly on the outside looking in, my path would continue on without the one person who had guided each step for the past five years. And that, that happened in a moment’s time.

In that moment I had to face a new normal — an overwhelming truth that my life was not over. The winding road I had been on would continue, looking quite different than before, but continue nonetheless. This time the road would continue without the clear direction of a march toward the end. No. This time it would be a dense fog of the unknown. A journey that did not include the title of wife, the occupation of caregiver, or the strength of being an advocate for someone else. This journey would place me in the forefront, rethinking and rerouting every line I’d thought I’d drawn on my map of this lifetime. It was shocking.

It was not just a loss of a spouse, but a loss of everything I had come to know about who I was and what my purpose was for such a long time. The loss of hope for life transforming into a hope much greater than that. A hope for faith, for believing that even when we do not understand we are still called to live and love.

But for a moment, I needed grace for myself to allow my heart to break just enough to fill those cracks with hope once again. No matter how different that hope would appear. It was in that realization, that moment of grace, that I took my first step in healing. And looking back, I can’t help but see the clarity of those words spoken to me.

No one can measure loss. It’s a journey no matter how long you’ve been on the road. It opens up the door to a club of people who know beyond a shadow of a doubt that loss is not the end for those of us still living. It is the beginning of a jolt in your journey.

No matter where you are on this journey or when the journey began, I believe that peace will come to you and I hope will find you.

Photo submitted by contributor.

Originally published: October 19, 2018
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