Three years ago, my husband lost his battle with cancer. That day, I lost my spouse, my best friend, my confidante, the father to our three children, and the love of my life. Mr. Style was all those things to me and so much more. You can never prepare for the death of a loved one. In the blink of an eye, your world changes. And you are forevermore changed.
Looking back, I know the first year was so damn hard. I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with grief but also overwhelmed with how to move forward without my husband and carve a new life. Instead of we, it was only me. Ugh! My biggest cheerleader and my helpmate were now removed from the scene. It was a challenge to run my household and business all alone.
That first year I was running behind on both fronts. For a person who was always on time and organized, I found myself woefully late for everything, and my daytime routines were a mixed-up mish-mosh. I just couldn’t seem to catch up with anything. Then I decided to take it one day at a time. It’s the small things in life that have the biggest impact. Every morning, waking up at the same time, making a cup of coffee, feeding Oscar and Ollie, heading off to Pilates, Peloton, or Orange Theory, answering emails, checking in on social media, photoshoots, watering the plants, and even something as simple as taking out the garbage because that task hadn't been on my to-do list for years. Putting structure in your life is key because grief affects our mind, body, and spirit. Structure helps us to weather the pain. Take time to exercise, get a good night's sleep, and pay attention to a healthy diet.
Grief is hard work, and it’s also painful. But allowing ourselves to feel the pain is how we heal. It’s sad but true that in the 21st century, we are socialized to avoid grief and loss or repress lingering feelings of sadness. Grief works beneath the surface. There are no milestones to tick off. On the outside, we might look perfectly fine. But on the inside, we’re changing and transforming and hopefully healing. Grief doesn’t have a timeline, isn’t linear, and is personal. If you have just suffered the loss of a loved one, give yourself grace and space to heal.
Lean on your friends and family or find a good support group. Our mental health is key because it’s all too easy to slip down a slippery slope into depression or hopelessness. And we have to guard against being frozen in time. Many of us get stuck in a pattern of looking backward and can’t seem to move past the pain and suffering. You may even find yourself not wanting to go forward with life regardless of any hope for the future. Picking up the pieces of your life is hard. Grief isn’t about moving on, but it has everything to do with moving forward. If your sorrow becomes chronic and disabling, reach out for help.
After the first year, I decided to redecorate my bedroom. It was a bold move at the time, but it was a key step for me. The master bedroom went from a masculine Ralph Laurenish room to something decidedly feminine. Honestly, I loved the room before I had it painted and purchased new furniture. But the transformation was an important step for me as I now claimed the room as my own. It was symbolic of my life, and I absolutely love the space.
Two years after losing Mr. Style, I took baby steps to travel independently. I head to the beach several times a year on my own and zipped down to Amelia Island, Mexico, and a lovely resort at Lake Oconee. I struggle with dining alone, but I’m improving with each trip. And there’s always room service!
Three years after losing my husband, I honestly say I’m in a healthy and happy place. Mr. Style will forever live on in my heart because he was one of the most important people in my life and always will be. Most days, when I think of him, it is with a joyful heart. Although I know all too well there will still be days when missing him seems almost unbearable.
I love the jar graphic that shows grief doesn’t shrink with time. What really happens when we move forward with our lives is that we grow around our grief.
To all of us who have suffered the loss of a loved one, move forward at your own pace, and don’t be afraid to feel the pain. Spend time with your grief and allow yourself to heal.
It is well with my soul. xo