When Steve died, I was inundated with the most beautiful and thoughtful words from all around – people who knew us, or knew one of us, or didn’t know us at all but had heard of Steve’s death and wanted to reach out. People opened up about their own personal experiences of loss (some compared his death to the loss of their cat – but I’ll save that for another day!) and tagged me in insightful and encouraging quotes from WordPorn and other pages on Facebook.
The power of words is astounding. I’ve always thought so – words have the ability to give you goosebumps or a shiver down your spine when you really connect with something. The feeling when you read something, or hear someone speak, and you feel as though the person is reading your mind and has somehow found the words to describe the indescribable or explain the unexplainable. It’s a strange relief to read or hear things and instantly feel less alone in the knowledge that somebody somewhere has felt or thought exactly the same as you at a particular moment in their life. Sometimes it can be bittersweet; feeling sad that they had to experience whatever it was that made them feel that way. Sometimes, it’s not necessarily making a connection with something you already feel, but instead, having a “lightbulb moment” when you’ve learned something or realised a different perspective when you thought yours was the only one.
Around the time that Steve died, I had an enlightening conversation with an older female relative who had been widowed suddenly at the age of 22 whilst on her honeymoon, less than a year after her wedding day. 33 years later, when I asked her frantically what she did next, desperately hoping she would have all the answers and make it easier for me, she simply told me “my husband was the one who had died. After weeks, and weeks, and weeks of crying, I realised what people meant when they tell you how precious life is and I decided to make the most of mine.”
It may sound obvious, but here’s what I took from that conversation in terms of my own loss: Yes, Steve had died. Regardless of how unbelievable it seemed, regardless of how many times I would shake my head, down a glass of ice cold water and squeeze my eyes shut hoping that when I opened them I’d realise it had all just been a terrifying daydream… I knew it was true because I had been with him when it happened. He had wanted so, so badly to live, and God knows we tried everything we could to make that happen. But sometimes awful things happen, without rhyme or reason, and we can’t control anything about those situations other than the ways in which we respond to them. I will grieve for my husband forever. I will miss him for the rest of my life. Some days I will miss him so much that it will feel debilitating. And I will allow myself those days because they are important part of this “process”. But I will live my life, because I am lucky enough to still have, and I will make the most of it – for him, because that’s how he lived and I owe it to him to live for both of us – and for our daughter and me, because we deserve it.
Sometimes, life will give us lemons. Sometimes it will hurl handful after handful of them at us so hard, and so relentlessly, they they knock us out, and we fall down, and when we eventually come around we don’t think we’ll ever stand again. However long it takes, stand again. How ever many times you get knocked down, get back up. Pick up the lemons. Make lemonade.