Day 17: Highs and lows of the past year
A year ago today, I was in the very beginning stages of allowing myself to heal. I was just about a year into my “new life” as a widow and solo parent to three kids, I was about nine months into being totally, and completely on my own. I was finally starting to take deep breaths, and dig into the pile of dung that grief is: processing everything that had happened over the course of the previous five and a half years, realizing the incredible weight of being an only parent, and allowing myself grace.
It all kicked off with one really rough week; my brand new van died, my kids were sick, and I had a really sobering doctor appointment. I sat alone with a high risk breast cancer doctor who told me I had an exceptionally high risk for developing the disease (about 41%, whereas the risk for an average woman is about 11%- I wrote about it here: https://www.mom-entum.co/blog/2018/2/4/when-tough-cookies-crumble). That week sent me over the grief deep end. I didn’t realize it, in the moment. In fact, it took me months of not feeling like I was coming up for air before it dawned on me that I was in the weeds of it all. I grappled with guilt; for being alive, for being only one parent, for the desire to move forward. I wallowed in it, and it wasn’t pretty. That’s probably the only notable thing I can tell you of all the months from February to June of last year. It was agonizingly difficult work, to deal with my complicated grief, but I knew if I didn’t, I could feel that awful forever; a fate worse than if I’d died along with my husband. It was a really strange period; I felt like I was in an almost constant haze, spending more time inside my head, arguing with myself about staying stuck or moving forward, than actually talking to people.
Come late, spring, though, the haze began to lift more often. The arguments with myself were shorter, and less frequent, and I was finally feeling some level of direction for my future. Once the kids were out of school, I knew I would spend the summer reevaluating life. We began with a three week road trip to New Jersey and Cape Cod; which was, in a word, amazing. I spent the rest of the summer just enjoying my kids, enjoying my home, my friends, and making peace with life (and myself).
I thought we were on the perfect path to recovery, until the fall kicked up a whole other ball of wax. I’d accepted a job at a local gym, working a few days a week on the fitness floor. One of my best friends had put our little crew up for the job with the manager, who hired us on the spot on her recommendation. I was so excited! It was the first time, in a long time, it felt like things were clicking for me. Being in the gym most days really set my focus on working in the fitness field more in the future; it’s a passion for me, and I believe in it’s power to help people, so I knew it was the right way to go for me. Then…things got dodgy.
Our schedule, between my coaching, working and the kids with their activities, got hectic (to say the least). We all became stressed out, but no one more than my six year old son, Ben. He began to act out, he’d become emotional at the drop of a hat, and I could tell he was really struggling. Just when I thought I could really have it all, I realized that as proud of my kids as I am for their resilience, their needs are different than other kids. They suffered an incredible loss at an early age, and at the end of the day, being their only parent is my most important job, and they needed me. So I cut back drastically on my work hours, I stepped back from things I’d been working on, and refocused my energies. It was a tough time, for me, because after spending so long giving 100% of my energy to others, I was really excited about having some of it, for me; but that’s mom life. We all do for our kids whatever we can.
I’d spent so much of the year figuring myself out, figuring life out, learning how to be an only parent, finding my place in the world again. By the time I hit my second wedding anniversary without him in November, it’s safe to say my soul was a bit tired. I think the first year of grief, your heart is still catching up with reality. Logically, I knew he wasn’t coming back; my heart, however, hadn’t quite given up hope yet. I’d been fighting for him for so long, that even after he passed, some part of me was still waging a war that was already lost. Through the year, through all of that hard work, I’d finally put down my proverbial sword; and in doing so, it changed the game for me.
It made some things harder (anniversaries/milestones hit me like a mack truck), but I’m at peace with that. I know that every time something approaches, I’ll feel sucky…but, I’d rather feel sucky than feel nothing at all. Feeling, in general, has become such a privilege for me, that I don’t want to take it for granted. I spent so long feeling numb, feeling out of touch with life, with people, with reality, that I’ll take the pain; because I also get all of the good stuff. I get happiness and joy, I get love, I get connection. It’s scary for me, but I’ll take it. Every time one of those things passes, I also feel stronger. That anniversary (what would have been our twelfth), was no different.
I drove my kids to New Jersey the next day, to spend Thanksgiving with family. On that ride I had ten hours to think; and that’s when it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it was time to go home….permanently. I couldn’t be sure, at first, I needed time to think it over, I needed to see how I’d feel past the milestones of the holidays and all that. One of my kids had to use the bathroom right as we were getting to the exit for our college campus. It was hard not to feel like Kenny was guiding us there that day, knowing how we were evolving (I wrote about it https://www.mom-entum.co/blog/2018/11/22/yk3xg9szhnltgvcur646kkzcbtxlkn ) . I can’t be sure, obviously, but I like to think that he was telling me I didn’t have to be either Megan now or Megan then, that maybe I could be a little bit of both women.
I spent that week in New Jersey disconnecting, reconnecting, and just really letting myself think about where I want to go in this life. It was a really great week; emotionally charged, for sure, but wonderful. I left feeling torn, and stayed that way for months. I began to clear out my house, “just in case,” thinking I didn’t really have an answer…but my actions should have told me what my heart, again, wasn’t ready to hear: it’s time. It’s time to move forward, it’s time to allow myself to live my absolute fullest potential, it’s time to be the best Mom, and live the best existence I can. For all of that, my kids need family, I need help (gasp! That four letter word), and I need to stop hiding from myself. “Myself” is someone who wants big things, and I want to earn them. I want to go exotic places, and achieve big goals, and still get my kids off the bus and make them dinner.
I am in love with my safety net in North Carolina. It’s all the things I needed desperately; including space to grieve my own way, on my own time. It’s been more invaluable than I could ever, ever say. It’s not because I’m “here” that I “can’t” do what I want, it’s because of here that I can even fathom doing any of it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to express enough gratitude to the friends and community that have looked after my kids and I the past two years. Who’ve encouraged our growth, and helped me find both myself, and my strength again.
And now…now comes the hardest part. Not just the prep work, the packing, the finding a new home…that’s all logistics. The hard part is leaving a place we all feel comfortable; but we all know my motto, “Nothing great was ever built in a comfort zone.” Wish me luck!!!