I had this whole entry planned out, wanting to say something profound and wise for the 10 year anniversary of my husband’s untimely death.

To be honest, this is has been the hardest season I’ve had in a long time. My mind is not exactly where it has been, on these days in the past.

I’ve had ten of them, and it seems that this one is particularly difficult. I can’t put my finger on why, but it’s been really hard this year.

I guess there’s a measure of strange detachment and some disappointment. I was supposed to be remarried, with a new story to talk about. I was supposed to have triumphed over my broken past, bringing hope to all the other widows who come after me, looking for a light in the dark.

Unfortunately for me, things have never been quite been the same. I raised our oldest and saw her graduate high school, enter university and become the adult I always hoped she would be. I watched my youngest turn age after age, coming to milestone after milestone, from her first day of kindergarten to her last day of fifth grade. She’s in middle school now, without a real memory of who her father was, and how much he loved her. I did my best to let her know. I remember sitting with her on my lap, looking at pictures on the computer, asking her “who’s that?” She would always answer “Daddy!” until eventually, she only knew from what I told her, and not her own memory. One day he was there in her life every day, and the next, he was just gone. I guess it’s ok that it hurts me more than it hurts her, but I’ve learned that children grieve in their own way, and his loss has affected my children in ways I never saw coming.

I did what I could to maintain stability within our tiny family, while trying to battle the rest of what life had to offer. It hasn’t been easy. I lost both my parents in since he died, and there have been countless times I have wished only for his companionship, just to help me get through everything. What I’ve learned is that while his memory is comforting, his absence is as obvious as ever. He’s not here, anymore. It’s a simple and real as that.

It stopped hurting to miss him so much, sometime around 7 years. Suddenly, he wasn’t the first thing I thought of in the morning, or the last lingering thought if I happen to fall asleep at night. I still dream of him sometimes. Not in the same devastating way, but I entertain myself with the thought that he comes to see how I’m doing, and lets me know in my dreams. Sometimes, those dreams are nice. Sometimes, those dreams are ridiculous. All of them are ways my subconscious is trying to process and cope with my own loss.

It’s been an interesting ride, to say the least. There was a time when I wanted to grieve perfectly, to make sure I did everything right, in order to somehow win back some of the happiness I once had and prove to everyone that I was a strong and powerful as they kept telling me I was. Now, I don’t care about what people think of my process or how my life has ended up. There are things I wish they would stop doing or saying, but for the most part, most smile when I bring up his name and then we let it go. If that’s all I’m going to get out of the past decade, I’m ok with that. I have the respect of my real friends, who have seen me through this process. What more can I ask for, really?

I don’t have any real advice for widows, the way I used to. When you’re in the thick of it, every day feels like a triumph, even when it hurts the worst. It makes you think that you have a duty to help guide people through one of the worst parts of their life. Indeed, that’s probably one of the greatest things about grief: we have a need to find our fellow grievers in the dark, and we’re all helping each other, in our own little ways. It’s been a GREAT comfort to find other widows and learn from some of them. Especially from the ones who were years out, and way ahead of my own timeline. They had less to say, aside from just reminding me it would be ok, someday. I totally understand where they’re coming from now. Someone else’s “ok” will look different from mine, but eventually, the grief process stops. When that happens, there isn’t much more to explain. Life continues. It’s the most frustrating and comforting thing. You go from disbelief that the world can keep spinning while your entire universe has halted into chaos, to finally realizing that your universe is part of a much larger system, and it’s ok to join it again.

I am making my way back to the real world, from the land of the dead. I’ve spent WAY too long there, even after my worst grief had stopped. I’ve had some delays, dealing with the deaths of my parents. Everything has hurt for far too long, and I can’t really function from that place anymore. I’m in a huge season of letting go of things and people who are no longer a part of my life. I am who I am because of who they were. That’s something that cannot be taken away. But I am also who I am because of who I was supposed to be. I’m learning that widowhood and grief is just one part of my life. It’s not the whole thing.

This time of year will always be difficult. Too many losses within weeks of each other, date-wise. I’m probably always going to need to be extra kind to myself during this part of the year. That’s ok. That’s something I can do, while I live the rest of my life.

And I have to live the rest of my life. My girls are becoming young women, making decisions for the direction of their respective futures. Eventually, (sooner than I might like), I’ll have just myself, and I need to figure out what that looks like. I’m tentatively excited about the prospect. It’s natural for me to be apprehensive, but I won’t let that stop me. I want my long night to be over. Whatever days are ahead, I want them to be mine, and I want to live them fully. Here’s to hoping that I do just that.

Dear Jon,
It’s been way too long since I’ve heard your voice, (which I think is rather unfair, since I believe you’ve heard mine ad nauseam). Either way, I will always love who you were, as my husband and father of my babies. We had a wonderful life when you were in it. I was a happy wife, and I felt like anything was possible when you were with me. Our girls will never forget who you were, and the impact you made when you were here. Your youngest daughter is so much like you. She’s currently excelling in her computer design class. She has your affinity for technical systems and design engineering. She understands binary, and is interested in networking, even though she wants to design video games for a career. She’s very creative. She writes her own stories and goes through sketch books like they’re going out of style. She draws, sings and writes all the time. She can’t stop herself, and it’s my favorite thing. And your oldest daughter understands people with immense amounts of compassion, she could only get that from you. She dances and sings and plays the piano. She speaks japanese, and has an incredible work ethic. She never gives up, no matter how hard it gets. And she misses you. Every day, she misses you.

We are ok. We are living and not giving up. I hope that’s enough, when you look in on us. I hope you see us continuing, and thriving, in the midst of all the stupidity that the world can throw at us. And I hope you tell God that I am trying my very best. I hope you remind Him that I don’t always have the right answers, and a little help now and then would be AWESOME. I’m only bringing this up because I happen to believe you’re in close proximity. I totally ask my parents and grandparents to advocate, too.

I miss who you were. I miss who we were, together. Mostly, I am glad we were together. I’m glad for what we had, even if it was incredibly short. I know the difference, and because of that, I can never settle for anything less than magic. I guess that’s why I’m still here, on my own. 😛

I can’t say what the next ten years will bring, but I hope I’ll still be writing you letters in ten years, telling you about your grandchildren, and graduations. I hope I’ll still be writing you in 20.

I said it when you were dying in front of me, ten years ago, and I will say it again: Thank you. You made my life the best that it ever was. I am forever grateful. I wouldn’t change a thing. Except, of course, I’d rather be telling you this face to face, than writing to you on a blog that I’ve all but abandoned. 

I miss you always. I love you, still.