(In this series, I write letters to myself at three different time periods: 1 month after Shawn died, 6 months after Shawn died, and a year after Shawn died. This is what I wish I could have known.)
Hi you. How’s it going? You hanging in there?
I know. The 1-year marker is terrible. The anticipation may have been worse than the actual day, but the actual day is pretty rough too. I know you’ve spent weeks re-living every moment of the year prior. Did you ease his pain sufficiently? Did you tell him you loved him with enough conviction? Did you make the last days of his life good ones?
You feel you failed in so many ways. The regret is palpable on a day like today.
But you cannot live like this. You can be sad right now, but you cannot think that you failed because Shawn died. It was no one’s fault that he got sick, and it was no one’s fault that he died.
And you cannot feel regret that you’re starting to forge a new path without him. That is what has to happen.
Do not listen to the many people who will say that the second year is worse than the first year. It’s not. What you just made it through was way, way worse than any challenges you’ll see in year two. I promise.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. You’ll have some really hard weeks (yes, I said “weeks”) during 2019. You will start to realize that some of your friendships have faded into something that is less than friendship. This will be hard on you because you always valued having a lot of friends, but for once in your life you’ll be able to let people go without any bitterness. Those were the friends that you had when you were with Shawn. Those were good years, but that time has passed and it’s okay to let go.
You will not always succeed professionally, and you may need to figure out a slightly new path to take with your career. You will have a number of parenting failures, especially as you try and figure out how to be a single mom to two boys. You’ll want to be able to show the world that you are a success story, and when things don’t go your way, it can be crushing.
I’m not even going to get into dating, but let me say this: there will be some low moments. Sorry.
And yes, there will be times when the intense grief comes back to bite you.
But that process you started a few months ago – the one where you began to experience joy in this world – it will become a more regular part of your life. You will have weeks at a time (yes, I said “weeks” again!) where you feel sustained joy each day. You will figure out how to re-imagine your family and you will finally see the four of you as a unit. You will become someone who is different, and at the same time you will rediscover the person you always were.
You will get to the end of year two and feel like you can do this widow thing without anyone rescuing you. Amazing to imagine, isn’t it? But you will get there. It won’t be perfect and you’ll still have hard days. But this year has an uphill trajectory.
You aren’t going to reach some peak and then say, “I got here! I’m perfectly happy!” But you do realize at some point this year that your life is going to be okay.
It’s a process. Go easy on yourself when you are having a hard time. But when you can, try and push yourself. That’s part of what the second year is about, at least for you.
I’m sure you wonder what the summer of 2020 is like. Let me say this – you seriously would not even be able to imagine the curveballs that have occurred in your life and in the world. But that’s life, right? You’ve survived massive life changes before, and you can do it again.
So here’s what I can tell you about the next 18 months: it won’t be smooth sailing all the time. But as you go forward, you’re going to figure out one thing: how to thrive.
Image Credit: Stefanie Harrington Photography.