To clarify, I want to say one thing: although the situation I’m in has definitely changed my life in more ways than one, it is what it is. My being a widow is a part of what I am, but it’s not who I am. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister. I am a writer, an amateur chef in my own kitchen, and a creative entrepreneur. I am a woman with a whole lot of life to live. The mere stigmatization of the word “widow” is enough to make my skin crawl. And you know why? It’s because the image I always had in my mind of a widow was an old woman. A sad, elderly lady. A widow, to me, is someone who lost her spouse after being married for years and years and having a lifetime of memories to share. I was not supposed to be one. I was girl who just turned 30. I had only been married for 4 years. And I had one child. Those were not enough to qualify me to “widow” status. I mean, come on. It just didn’t add up.
The reality is, though, that it did add up and I couldn’t continue denying it any longer.
It’s weird how I can remember every single detail of the first few days after everything happened. I remember the smell of my house when I walked in after coming home from the hospital. I remember how my daughter sighed just before falling asleep that night. I remember all of the “I’m so sorry”s and exasperated platitudes people gave me. But I don’t remember anything I said or did. I was in a total fog. Then, exactly one week after everything happened, a memorial took place. My friends and community really stepped it up. That is the biggest understatement of the decade. I can’t ever forget how everyone was just so willing to be there for me and for my daughter. It’s something that still feels surreal—how present everyone was. And after the memorial passed, life had to resume. Again, with an overwhelming amount of help, I was packed and moved out of the house I lived in. I remember standing in the shell of that house, alone for the first time in a couple of weeks, and I was paralyzed with a fear that I wouldn’t know how to go on. I let myself feel that fear, really feel it in my bones. And I locked the door and closed it behind me knowing I would never return to that place.
Then one morning, something happened: I woke up and could actually feel something. I was hungry. I didn’t remember the last time I felt hungry. But instead of getting out of bed to have breakfast, I just laid there savoring the moment of being self-aware. I was experiencing something other than sadness. My mind and body finally came around and said, “Hey, eat something.” After a few minutes of letting my stomach eat itself, I finally got up. When I did, everything felt different. The floor underneath my feet felt firmer. The sunlight was brighter; it wasn’t harsh. And the air felt purer. I let out a huge sigh and made the decision that day that it was the first day of starting my life over, not as a new person, but as a better version of myself.
I have to keep reminding myself that what may seem like baby steps are, in fact, milestones to me. I hate that they are, but, that’s what they are. I guess you could say I dusted myself off and took my first steps. It felt victorious. I knew then that there was absolutely no way I could compromise myself for anyone for any reason. There was no better time for me than in that moment to live.