Recently I received the gift of a significant breakthrough in my life. But first, a little background. Fifty-two months ago, on a cold February morning, I was driving to the hospital, suitcase in tow to bring my wife home from another incident avoided. You see, I was very used to adjusting our routine with a possibly new or differing dose of medication and the signing of discharge papers. But this day would turn out different than the rest. The phone would ring in the car, and five hours later, I would leave the hospital with everything except my wife. It was over! Or was it really? In my book The First 365, I say that it was the end of one thing, but the beginning of everything else. Over the fifty-two months since that day, I have navigated many of the stages outlined by the legendary psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and enhanced by David Kessler. I have gone through, three of the five stages of grief that have become the cornerstone of the understanding of grief over the years.
Let me start out by saying that I was never in denial. From the time I walked in the room and did not see my wife turn toward me and the corner of her mouth turn up in the smile that always shone through the most difficult days, I knew she was gone.
I never bargained with God, as we were far too busy fighting to bargain. I was far too determined to win to tap out and bargain. No, I never cheapened the adversary of illness to bargain for a compromise.
I must admit that I was angry. Not at God for taking my wife, but at the blur of time, that I didn’t respect enough to demand that we take more vacations or the two hundred and fifty thousand more times that I failed to tell her how much I loved her. That is what I was angry about.
I even admit to depression. I often look back at the malaise that I operated in, a hollowed-out shell of my former self, searching to find a reason to give a damn again. I remember wondering if life would just be a series of stolen moments of happiness and never a constant in my life anymore.
But recently, I received the gift of moving into the realm of acceptance. Acceptance has long been a long time coming. I had some mourning to do, some growing up to do as well. Let me be very clear, I still miss my wife tremendously. I still haven’t completely closed the door on sharing my life with another person. But that relationship will not heal me, it will enhance me if it occurs. I will mourn the loss of my wife as long as I live. However, the space it takes up in my existence has settled into a healthy resting place. It has become vital to me that I emotionally allow my wife to rest in peace truly. Not that I determine that in any way but honor her by really being dedicated to living the quality life we came to know together.
This newly discovered maturity has a much more forward focused point of view than I have experienced in years. My life now consists of sharing my thoughts with my fellow widowed brothers. Starting to formulate thoughts for another book, looking forward to my son’s wedding next year, giving speeches, planning conferences, meeting new people, and discovering new ventures. I really feel relevant in a whole new way. Also, in my book, I encourage my readers to ‘do the work, it’s worth it.’ I really feel that I may be at the beginning stages of reaping the benefits of doing the work.
The wonderful thing about the Widowers Support Network * is that we are at many different stages of this journey. As I read the many posts and heartfelt welcomes and advice we extend to our brothers, I am often inspired by the sense of caring and concern shown. I am as well grieved by the pain I feel in the despair of others. For many, these words are premature, but I encourage you to believe. We will be here for you in any way we reasonably and responsibly can be. We care! If we could expedite the process, we would! Because we care that much. It is always my pleasure to share my thoughts with you all. I hope this gives hope to some and inspires others. I genuinely have rediscovered that I still love my life. It has been a life of many twists and turns, but as I said during a recent speaking engagement, ‘It’s just life.’
(* WSN also offers a FBook page just for men at Widowers Support Network – Members Only.)
Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at [email protected], LinkedIn @terrellwhitener or through the Widow Support Network.