There was a moment during my journey that stands out, what Oprah would call an “aha!” moment.
It came from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa on The Food Network.
For months I hadn’t been able to focus on a book, movie or tv show. I had no appetite nor interest in food or cooking which had been passions of mine.
I’d lost my mojo.
Enter The Barefoot Contessa. I’d tuned into her show out of a need to fill the silence with a familiar voice but then found myself engaging. Ina’s on-screen warmth drew me in and whatever she was cooking (though I can’t recall what it was) had my full attention. Her joy of cooking ignited a spark in me and at that moment I felt a shift as my inner foodie began reconnecting with my heart. It was a big step forward. Though she’ll never know, just by being herself, Ina Garten helped me on the path to healing myself.
Making yourself a priority is something everyone can benefit from. Whether dealing with loss, trauma, stress or life in general, it’s important to do something just for you, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Tune into what you need and take a self care break.
None of us knows how long we have, treat every day as a gift, make it count.
Roughly three months after my loss, I was exhausted from thinking about the life that Spence and I had shared and how nothing would ever be the same. I desperately missed our happy life together. I felt incredibly lonely, angry, resentful and hated the word “widow”.
Then I decided that I was going to be happy again. I wanted to lose the “sad Laura” cloak that I’d wrapped around myself. It was Spring 2017, the weather was warm, my garden was coming back to life and I felt the pull toward being in nature with my hands in the dirt, something that’s always brought me joy.
Not every choice I made was successful or well thought out. At times it felt like I was hurling myself forward in my pursuit of happiness without regards to where I was going to land – which accounted for some mental bruises. But I knew Spence would want me to live a full and happy life and on days that felt like a struggle to do it for me, I did it to honor him.
I’m not saying it was easy to change my mindset or imply that I didn’t backslide. Grief took pot-shots at me more than a few times however I was determined to outrun it. It’s like the old adage about how many times you have to repeat a behavior before it becomes a habit – so I behaved as though I was happy. Fake it till you make it, right? And as habits go, this is a good one to have.
There’s no clock on this process nor is it a competition. On the road back to embracing life, take one step at a time.
Even if you stumble, you will get there.
The Self Care series is my personal journey over my first year after losing my husband and reflects both my struggles and successes.
Getting through loss is a one step forward, one more step forward and five steps back process. Sometimes it’s more than five steps backward and it’s part of grief and recovery.
There is no road map that’s laid out for you. Every now and then you step on a land mine. It happens.
I found that the first few times I met friends or family at a restaurant, I’d think “I can handle this” and then suddenly, up bubbled the tears. I’ve always hated for anyone to see me cry (not a pretty crier) and they weren’t full on sob-fests, but I was embarrassed and felt bad for the person with me.
But this is what I learned.
These same people missed Spence and had memories of their own, many of which we shared. Speaking for myself, it’s often hard but inevitably healing to talk about him with those who loved him. He was funny, loving, smart, worldly and larger than life.
You are not alone in your loss and the loss is not yours alone. Share those memories.
Pets provide companionship and entertainment but also unconditional love. They sense when you need them to be close.
During those first months after losing Spence I chose to be alone while working through my pain. My cats, Tipper and Biscotti (aka “The Biscuit”) were a godsend. Already the most lovable cats, they snuggled with me for hours every day. They didn’t expect much beyond food, water and a clean litter box. Caring for them was self care and therapeutic for me; they too had lost Spence. Hospice had set up a bed for him in that last week and Tipper and Biscotti provided him comfort in those final days. Sensing the gravity and sadness, they calmly slept next to him for hours on end and were there when he drew his last breath.
Self care can take many forms; sharing our loss helped me to connect to the nurturing part of myself. It was small but it was a purpose.
Days and weeks went by when one day I caught myself singing and dancing to some song while making a snack. Food, music and dancing in my kitchen had been such a natural thing for me in the past. I don’t recall the song (but I remember the sun was shining brightly that day) and it struck me how long it had been yet how natural it felt. As time moved forward, those moments became more frequent and less noteworthy. The cats and I still had our snuggle time every day but they also returned to their cat tree, their “Cirque du Soleil” antics and play time.
Yesterday morning at 10:25 Spence passed away. I’m going to be away from my blog for awhile as I process this crushing loss. My life was forever changed when he came into it and again when he left it. Soulmates, we spent almost 26 years on the best adventure, handling every challenge that faced us together. He was the one true love of my life.
Tipper, when he wants attention from Spence, will sit in front of him, staring with intensity before dropping to the floor, having a big stretch while exposing his bright white tummy. No one, including Spence, can resist picking him up for some snuggles when he clearly wants some love.