In one day, my world fell apart and I was forever changed.
I found out that life can change in an instant, and it is impossible to be prepared for it. Six years ago – mine did. There is no right or wrong way to react to something that turns your world upside down, but this is my story:
I remember one summer morning eight years ago my husband Howie came running into the kitchen holding his laptop. This was before iPhones, and he had been reading an email that was so upsetting he wanted me to see it ASAP.
The email was our daughters’ summer camp, informing us that a father of two camp girls drowned. Howie and I were both so upset. That poor family. That poor wife. Those poor little girls. How could they get through something like that?
As sad as we were for this family, we did not know them. They were “other people”. I always thought tragedy happened to other people –an acquaintance, the relative of a friend, someone you would see around town. You feel bad. You may run into that person at the mall, give them a hug and say how sorry you were, before going on with your day.
I believed that something like that could never happen to my family.
Two years after that email, it happened to my family. My girls and I suddenly became those ‘other people.’ I was the woman whom people were staring at the mall. I was the one they felt sorry for. How did that happen?
It happened on an ordinary Sunday afternoon in October 2011. We had returned home from our daughter Lily’s soccer game. Howie decided to go out for run while I made dinner.
It’s funny, whenever I tell this story, people automatically assume that Howie was a runner. He was not. He went running once-in-a-while, and I am not sure what made him decide to do so that day.
He came home feeling ill and went upstairs to lay down. It turned out that the “feeling ill” was a heart attack. He passed away that night. He was 48 and I was 45. Our daughters were 10 and 12 years-old.
Devastated barely describes it. Suddenly I was a grieving single mom with two grieving adolescent daughters. What on earth was I supposed to do? I did not think the three of us would survive without him. I did NOT think I could do this.
Looking back at that time, those who knew me would say that I seemed to handle this horrible situation well. I know I appeared to handle it well but the truth is I did not. I found about that I am a wonderful actress. I think there was a period of time when I even fooled myself.
I looked like I was doing well because: I did not stay in bed all day; I did not walk around town crying. I did not hide from the world or curl up in a ball and become non-functioning.
The truth is I had to. I did not have a choice in the matter. If I didn’t get up, my girls didn’t get up. If I didn’t survive, they didn’t survive.
My daughters were the only things that mattered to me, so I did what I had to do for them. All that I wanted was to raise them as well as I possibly could without Howie.
That thought kept me going for years.
On a personal level I felt differently. I wanted my old life back. Logically, I knew that this was impossible, but it did not stop me from constantly wishing it.
So, life went on like that for a very long time, for years. I took care of my girls and prayed for my husband and my old life would come back while I pretended to be OK.
Eventually it caught up with me.
I couldn’t do it anymore. I was mentally and physically drained. Something had to change. Faking it wasn’t working.
Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to realize you need to change. I could choose to let losing my husband ruin the rest of my life, or I could change the way I was reacting to it.
I had to rescue myself. It was time.
I made some changes and most importantly I got help. I realize that as much as I wanted it to, my old life was not coming back. I started to let go and began to feel better. I didn’t miss Howie any less, but accepted that he was gone.
I started to become a happy person again. I began to enjoy spending time with friends and family, especially my daughters. I started a happy, healthy relationship with someone who had stuck around for a long time while I wasn’t ready. I even began to look like the old me again.
So that could have been my happy ending, but it’s not. Without consciously knowing, I needed more.
As I felt better, I though a lot about what my girls and I had been through. All the stories were swirling around in my head.
I thought that maybe I should start to write them down. My first thought was a journal but then I thought I should start a blog. So, I did. Without even thinking about it. I literally googled “how to start a blog” and followed the instructions. I called it “The Widow Wears Pink”.
I wrote my first post and hit “publish” before I had the chance to change my mind.
I shared it on Facebook and people actually read it. It was mostly my friends and family but it was a start.
I kept writing and I got more readers. The words came pouring out. People were interested.
Soon after, what I wanted to happen did happen; my blog started reaching other widows and it brought tears to my eyes. Helping others gave me an incredible feeling. Besides raising my daughters, I don’t believe I ever had that before. I found myself. The best part is that my girls bore witness to my joy. I transformed into a happy, busy, independent woman.
People say that things happen for a reason. I do not believe that and never will. There is no reason that a 48-year-old husband, father, and son dies. I would gladly give away all my success to bring Howie back. But I can’t. It took me a long time, but I eventually found a way to turn the worst thing that ever happened to me into something positive.
I realized that I needed to live, and that is what Howie would want me to do. Not just exist, but live. So, I found myself, a new myself, and I found a way to be happy.