February 28th will mark the fourth anniversary of the passing of my wife, Robyn. In so many ways it seems like much longer than four years. I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on a few of the things that I have learned during this period. I have often referred to this time as earning my bachelor’s degree in Widowhood.
Recently I experienced what could only be described as most monumental day. It was Valentine’s Day which can be a stressful day for widowed men. My experiences ranged from a bit of melancholy, to warm thoughts, to an unexpected encounter with a new friend, to watching a movie that brought tears to my eyes and ending with great news from a family member. By the end of this day, I was utterly exhausted. But more importantly, I finally felt that I had been set free.
We often hear the expression ‘rest in peace’. It has been my experience that few things look more peaceful than the release that the finality of death brought to my loved ones when I view them after they die. The strain and struggle that I personally witnessed many of these individuals go through seem to have washed away. While this in most cases is a time of great sadness, it can at times take on a fleeting feeling of relief.
One of the feelings that I found myself experiencing on this most exhausting day was a feeling of release. I finally had the revelation that is was time to move forward with my life. I essentially found the courage necessary to let Robyn go. I realized that I was spending far too much time ruminating on the past when there was so much life left to experience. I was helped in coming to this conclusion by a phone call asking my assistance in helping another widowed person with a book project that would honor their recently deceased husband. As we talked, we found ourselves stating repeatedly “that’s it exactly” and “ you are one of the only people that I have talked to that truly understands.” It was one of the most refreshing conversations that I had experienced in quite a while. I came away from that conversation with a genuine desire to move forward and feeling a sense of value that I hadn’t felt in some time.
As the day went on, I began to think about love. With it being Valentine’s day, this was not hard to do. Gary Chapman in his renown book The 5 Love Languages, teaches us about the importance of discovering the way an individual needs to experience love. After reading this book, I found that my two love languages were quality time and words of affirmation. Upon reflecting on this fact, I realized the feeling of receiving love in this manner was among many voids my wife’s death caused me to experience. I am missing the quality time and words of affirmation from someone that I am deeply connected to. This is the sadness that I am unable to get my arms around to this day. This is what I miss about not being in love.
Finally, I came to the realization that it is indeed time to move forward emotionally in my life. In my book The First 365, I discuss my 10 Tenants of Grief. One of the tenants, states that “moving forward is not an act of disloyalty, it is an act of love.” The time has come for me to put this tenant to use in my life. It is time for me to endeavor to feel the same peace here on earth that my wife is experiencing in the heavenly realm. Because I loved her, the time has come for me to honor her by loving myself. Then I can truly begin the process of resting in peace. The emotional bondage that I have wrapped myself in is so opposed to what she would want for me. It is time for a change in my focus, it is time for me to move forward.
I will always miss my wife. Just as I am sure, all of you who are reading this article do as well. This is a revelation 4 years in the making. For many, it will not take as long, yet for others, it will take longer if it ever comes at all. But it is my sincere wish that for whatever decision that you make concerning the future direction of your life, it will be a choice that brings you peace.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, LinkedIn @terrellwhitener, Instagram @ or through the Widow Support Network.
(Note: A few Moments with Terrell Whitener if published every other Tuesday. This week’s column’s delay was due to staff travel.)