Six years ago today I’m sure was a typical day. I was pregnant with Sam, and raising two girls. It was just a speck in time that has slipped my mind. Five years ago today is undoubtedly the worst day of my entire life. How does one day go from being just another date on a calendar to marking your soul for eternity?
Sometimes I think I remember every single detail perfectly. My aunt and baby cousin were staying with me during a particularly hard time in their lives. We had dinner, likely drank a beer and put the kids to bed the night before. We went to bed thinking July 24th would be another day on the calendar. I remember around 1:24 am my aunt coming in my room to show me an extremely long text. The only words I remember from that message are “I will not live divorced, I will make you a widow instead.” Immediately my mind spun back to earlier in the day when he brought me the baby. He said goodbye like it was the last time I’d ever see him. I leaped out of bed and called 911. I remember throwing on clothes and flying out the door. The drive across town was a long one. I stayed on the line with dispatch and ended up passing the ambulance coming in the opposite direction. I was flooded with relief because they must’ve gotten there before we did and realized it wasn’t an emergency. We pulled in the drive way and Greenville County was on the scene. They wouldn’t go inside until we got there. They searched the house and found it empty. I was so sick, but sure it was a false alarm. I wasn’t worried a bit. I was mentally planning out the next steps….therapy, medication, watching him closely. EMS arrived. They’d gone up the road and waited to hear back from the police. They carried their stretcher to the back yard where the garage was located and returned shortly after with the same stretcher empty. What in the world is going on? Finally she (the paramedic) made eye contact and everything collapsed. They were calling the coroner. The rest of the day was a blur. A lot of screaming. Crying. Feeling like the world was ending. In that moment, it would’ve been nice for the world to end.
Each year, I’ve dealt with this tragic loss in a new way. Year one, I was sick with guilt. I couldn’t shake the fact that I knew something was going to happen. He said goodbye and it was so final. I went through the things he’d left with the baby that last day and couldn’t find a clue. I was in the middle of painting and moving, so I was easily distracted. Turns out, the picture frame I was holding and about to take apart held the note. My mom and aunt had returned home and a baby was crying, so I set the major clue down and got distracted. I held on to that guilt for so long. One night I found myself in a puddle of tears and beating myself up over it when the voice of God rang loudly in my ears. “This is NOT your fault. I have my hands in this and you have to let it go.” And it literally felt like I was laying in His arms while I sobbed. It was the most surreal feeling in the world. But it was very real. Year two I pretended the day didn’t exist and stayed busy. Year three, I cried all day long. The tears wouldn’t stop. It wasn’t angry or guilty tears anymore. It was sadness that he gave up and felt that was the only way to overcome it. Year 4, spent at the lake with my new family. Thinking of how much I wished he’d gotten to meet them all.
Now we are here in year 5. The pain is more tolerable. I’m excited to see my sister and have a shot of wild turkey and a Bud Light in his memory. I cried today, but they were happy tears. I was overwhelmed by the love and support of my amazing husband. He came home and just held me, reassuring me that this day he will always be there to make it easier to get through.
I’ve read about the stages of grief, and now I’ve lived them. My best advice if you’re grieving someone, take the time you need. In the beginning, my ex husband just picked himself up and moved on. I couldn’t. I tried. I didn’t want to feel like it was my fault. I didn’t want to feel like I was coming apart from the inside out. We had so many fights with him yelling “you need to get over it already”. There’s no time limit on grief. You have to experience all of it to be able to move on.
Once you get through the grieving process, you find a new normal. First holidays are tough. Everything changes. Then you settle into your new routine. The sadness never goes away. You’ll always wish that loved one was around for one more second to see one more thing. But for me, the sadness has changed. I’m sad he can’t meet my amazing baby boy and his amazing father. I’m sad that when I talk about him, my kids don’t remember who he is.
Today I’ve been reflecting on how much this death has changed me. It made me stronger. It helped me to appreciate life so much more. It’s helped me understand depression on a different level. It’s helped me learn to be empathetic and less judgmental. It’s taught me to love with my whole heart. It taught me it’s ok to change your life if you’re miserable. You only get one. Most importantly, it brought me closer to God. I’ve never had a more spiritual experience than the day I came undone. I know He’s real and here and watching me.
If you’re struggling with loss and grief, I encourage you to cry and go through the motions. But then pick yourself up and carry on. Find the good in the loss. Don’t get caught up in the guilt of it. Know that God is here and He has you.
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
18 The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.