Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mapping out the re-emergence

As the Christmas season passes and thoughts begin to turn to the new year ahead you might be wondering if this is the year you will begin to re-emerge?  Well the truth is that your re-emergence isn’t a big drum rolling Ta Da moment – it’s the path you find when the pre-widow path you were on no longer exists and you’re on it from day one.   The feeling of re-emerging only becomes apparent when the path starts to clear and ease a little and you begin to appreciate the beauty of the landscape around you again. 

Without wanting to sound too clich├ęd about the journey of life I’m a map person and can spend hours poring over an OS map particularly if it is of an area I know – finding features I didn’t know about, comparing the reality of the landscape  to what is on paper, and working out how each location relates to another.   I can easily visualize my life as a map, a path finding its way across the landscape.  I am possibly the only person to have visited the Vatican and spent so much time in the Upper Galleries of Maps  I was quite ‘fresco’d’ out by the time I reached  the Sistine Chapel and gave it little more than a passing glance.  (I really should have taken a Geography degree but then again I probably wouldn’t have met some of my best life-long friends if I had so no real regrets there!)

The end of the pre-widow path can cease in a sudden catastrophic way like an earthquake creating a huge chasm in the landscape over which you cannot cross, or maybe it peeters out after a long slow meandering or a climb up a mountain that just becomes too steep and impassable.   However your path ends one thing is certain it ends and somehow you must find another.  

How long you stay at that end point is unique to you, and only you can determine the length of your stay there.    My path ended after a long slow meandering illness.  I remember clearly waking the morning after my parents left following Bruce’s funeral, thinking this is now the rest of my life – like it or lump it I’ve got to get on with it.   I had to get back on track –  besides which, Bruce, with his big hearted generous spirit, had insisted I promise to him that I would continue to live my life after his had finished.   I had spent a lot of time in the knowledge that the path I was on would soon fade away but had been both unable and unwilling to re-trace my steps and get off it before it ended itself.   A friend once asked a few years into Bruce’s terminal diagnosis…how will you cope, what will you do when IT happens….I can’t remember my exact reply but it was something along the lines well I will deal with it, like I’m dealing with this illness he has, I have to – to survive.

So I didn’t linger long at the end of that path.   The path I took ran alongside a seemingly easy freewheeling highway, similar to the one I had been on originally before Bruce’s cancer.   Everyone else it seemed to me was rolling along nicely and from first glance it would seem I was on that road too, except when you looked a bit closer I was on the rough track alongside it, all around to one side was the vast empty plain on which my path had ended as a constant reminder of my emptiness, to the other side a huge great crash barrier stopping me from re-joining the main highway.    So there I was, frantically running to try and rejoin the main highway again, silently screaming for help to find the slip road to re-join.  So frantic I allowed myself no let up – physically or mentally.  I even bought a horse to help me along the way.   

Eventually my horse and I parted company and after I was catapulted into the air, somersaulting and thinking yikes this is going to hurt when I hit the ground (which it did) I was forced to stop and take stock of the path I was on.  I had been so frantic to rejoin the original path I believed I was intended for I hadn’t take time to grieve or to explore the other less obvious paths that had come along my way.  

With some informal coaching, counseling, a huge amount of reading and writing of journals and enforced hospital bed rest I was finally beginning to see that I would never rejoin that original path I had been on.   I had a new path to follow and actually although it was very different to that original one I was really truly honestly beginning to quite like it.  It had veered away from running alongside the highway I could never rejoin, and the vast empty plains had slowly evolved into a changing landscape full of interest and beauty.  What astounded me most was that it had taken me nearly FIVE years to reach this point!  

I can now look back on those frantic years, and appreciate both the sweetness and bitterness of the things that I did, events that happened and the ever evolving relationships with family and friends and men as both my life and theirs collided and bumped along their unique paths.  I see that there were other paths I could have taken, but as with all life’s paths we can only see ahead to the next corner and so I’m none the wiser as to whether they would have been a better path to take – just different.   And one thing is for sure I’m very happy with the path I’m on now.

There is no right or wrong time to start re-emerging, it is already happening but it takes time to see it.   

And it takes time to work it out and to appreciate it. 

And it’s a process that never stops.

Take your time :-)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thought provoking dentistry

I went to the dentist today for a check up.   I've been seeing my dentist for about 12 years - such a kind gentle man who restored my confidence in going for regular checkups.  I arrived and was told he had left to care for his wife and I would be seeing his replacement.   My heart sank, my stomach started churning and the old fears set back in. As it turned out it was ok, the same but different, not quite so personal as before but it certainly wasn't the horrific experience I had suddenly been envisaging in my mind as I sat in the waiting room.

It made me think about how I'd never contemplated a time when my regular dentist wouldn't be there for me, (I REALLY don't like going to the dentist!), he just always would which is of course ridiculous as he is probably 10 years older than me and hopefully would retire long before I stop going.  

We get used to the things in life that keep us within our comfort zone and when they're not there it can throw us off kilter and brings out new fears and old.  But just because something is a bit different it doesn't mean that its not as good, its just different and might just take a bit of getting used to.

When I got married I thought B would be around for ever, but he wasn't.  And now my life is different - not the life I ordered just a different model! And who can say if it is a better or worse life?  Its just different - I've travelled to places, met people, done things that I probably wouldn't have done with B, and I am sure there are many things I would have done if he had been still been well and alive today that I won't now do - but I don't know what most of them are so I can't miss them!   The point is that widowhood sends you off down an entirely different route than the one you had planned.  And you can choose whether to embrace that new life once you re-emerge from the dark numbness or spend the rest of your life hankering for what once was and can never be again.

Choose to embrace...

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon...

...is how it felt when slowly but surely the dark, numb days of grief following the death of my husband began changing into light and laughter, the numbness evolving into warmth and vitality.  Through the fog and fuzziness a realisation dawned that I now had the opportunity to do and be whatever I wanted - a new future, a new beginning.

It goes without saying that I would not have chosen to be given this opportunity but then who chooses to be a widow?  And certainly not at the age of 32.   For the 9 years we were married, we shared that marriage with cancer for 8 of them.  At times I felt like I was dying too, 5 years of a terminal diagnosis and whilst Bruce was incredibly positive about the hand that been dealt him, that diagnosis was always there in the background, lurking with intent. 

And so it was that one day I became a widow.   Life changing.   Numbing.   Terrified of being along, being lonely.  I had spent the last 5 years dreading this moment and now it had arrived.  This was now my life.   Sink or swim, I had to get on with it, just as Bruce had had to get on with living with cancer.    But I wasn't prepared to sink - that would be like letting the side down, squandering the depth of his strength and courage he had shown throughout his life, and of mine too over the years of being by his side.  So the autopilot switched back on and enabled me to pick up on life before cancer, but whilst outwardly showing the world I was coping, inside I was in turmoil, processing and analysing all that had happened, working out how I had come to be in this awful place.  This hadn't been in my master game plan.  

With time all that internal processing began to tease out the jumbled mess in my mind and 'like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon' the autopilot turned to conscious enlightened actions and I am now able to embrace my life with open arms and be happy with who I am and what I do.


There are many site and forums on the web I have found where widows can find advice and give and receive support - all of which are excellent whilst in the dark days of grief and bereavement.   But reading them I found myself being immersed back to those dark days and I don't want to return there.  Instead I want to focus on all the opportunities and positives that this terrible journey has given me, and find others who feel the same.  

So I hope this blog will be a collection of thoughts and links to other positive and uplifting widow blogs  - to inspire and empower other widows to re-emerge into their life after the loss of a partner.  And it's a life that can be full of love, laughter and passion if you WANT it to be!