I didn't ask to be in this war. I didn't sign up for it, I wasn't drafted, and certainly wasn't trained for it. Let me backtrack and explain to you how I got here. I met Keith in 2013. He was the epitome of all I had ever searched for in a partner. We were soul mates and we couldn't wait to start our lives together! I was 34 and he was 35 and we embarked upon a beautiful life together. He had some heart issues but was on medication and was doing fine until about a month or two before we were planned to get married. An Emergency Room trip and consequent stay in the hospital showed that his heart was indeed not doing well. They actually let him out of the hospital for 4 hours just so we could get married! Inevitably he had to get a heart pump installed and was placed on the Heart Transplant list. Still we were blissfully happy to have each other and I was convinced that he would be the miracle and would get his heart and live a long and splendid life with me where we would have children and grow old together. Unfortunately on January 28th, 2016 my life changed forever, my world shattered into pieces. He complained of a headache and knowing he was on blood thinners I did exactly as the doctors had told me to do and rushed him to the hospital. Not an hour after arriving he passed away from a severe stroke. There was nothing they could do. I watched him take his last breath and in that moment, and rather unceremoniously I might add, I found myself dropped into a warzone the likes of which I had never seen. And only now, a full two years later to the day am I able to truly articulate what it was like.
All at once, the beautiful, peaceful, planned out world I had lived in was transformed into a living nightmare. I equate it to a warzone because I felt as if there was yelling, confusion, and bullets flying at me from all directions and there I was, irrevocably alone in the midst of all of it and far away from the nearest trench to provide cover. Each bullet had a name, and each struck at the core of me. There was anxiety, anger, sadness, despair, misery, and hopelessness just to name a few. And each one seemed to strike harder and truer than the last. And at the time I had no weapon to fight back. I didn't have Wonder Woman's armbands to deflect the bullets and I surely wasn't fast enough to dodge them. And so slowly but surely I crawled forward, breath by breath, step by step and simply was. I simply survived. And along the way I would find a trench where I could slip down and rest. And in the trenches I found weapons finally that I could use to fight back. I started going to therapy where I learned that not only did I have severe anxiety, but also PTSD which of course explained the flashbacks and such. What I learned at Therapy became weapons that I used to fight back. My friends and family and the significant support they provided, became my shield and helped me move forward from one trench, back onto the field, to another trench and on and on and on again. You see it got better, but the war doesn't stop for us does it? The widow becomes a lifelong soldier in the battle for self. But the good news is that the bullets slow down. They aren't as many over time. Some you will dodge, some you will still take at full force, but many you will be able to breath through and move past. Breathing. It became my greatest weapon and companion. Just keep breathing till you get to the next trench.
So now two years later where am I? What have I learned? Through tears and anxiety today I learned that I'm better. Yes I'm better. No its not gone because grief doesn't go away. But, I am still here. I am still here and I am better. I have more joy than sadness and less fear than before. But I also have a healthy respect for the process and a knowledge that I still fight this war even though I have more times of peace now. I have taken this experience and I have turned it into positive. How? Well now I stand tall to try to be a shield of support for others that are deeply entrenched in the Grief War. So keep your heads up and know that even in the darkest throes of battle, you are not alone on the field. You are -never- alone.