5 years ago today I laid my husband to rest. At the age of 32 I had to plan a funeral. I had to pick out clothes for him to wear. I had to pick out a casket. Who would perform the ceremony. Flower, no flowers. Constantly asking myself, what would he want?
I thought my world was over. The day Patrick died, I had had my heart ripped out of my chest, and I didn’t think I would ever be able to feel anything but pain again.
Everything made me cry. The radio. TV. Smells. Buildings. I hated leaving my house because I knew that no matter how quick of a trip it was, I was going to end up sobbing at some point.
I had to focus on helping my kids through their grief. I knew how to help them, I’d lost my father when I was 14, just a year older than my son was. I knew what they needed.
I had no idea how to help myself. I physically hurt because of my grief. It took everything I had to get up out of bed and move among the living.
People would tell me that it would get easier, that the pain would lessen. It took about a year before I finally believed them.
It still hurt, but at some point, that hole in my chest started to heal. I was able to laugh and not feel guilty. I was able to think of him and smile. I started focusing on honoring who Patrick was instead being so focused on him not being here.
The kids and I started volunteering with Donate Life again. We started telling Patrick’s story. How he lived to be 36 with a severe heart defect. His wait for a heart transplant. His transplant. And how he died. Our transplant journey wasn’t the fairytale that we had hoped and prayed for, but it was our journey.
In some ways, this last 5 years seems like so much longer. And in other ways it doesn’t seem like its possible that its been 5 years.
I still think about him every day, and I still miss him so much. But I love my life. I am who I am because he was and always will be a huge part of it. I’ve watched my kids grow to be amazing young people. I’ve seen them take what they’ve been through and learn from it and help others.
I’ve found an amazing man that loves me and my kids, grief, memories, and all. He understands that Patrick may not be here but he’s still their dad and he will always be my husband. Well, my first husband.
Certain things still make me cry, and I have movies that I can no longer watch. Ghost, Steel Magnolias, and Return To Me are a few. There are still certain smells that make me tear up, but they also bring so many great memories with them, and with those memories are smiles.
We moved 3000 miles away. We aren’t surrounded by memories of different places. No one here sees us as the grieving widow or the kids that lost their dad. Here we are normal people. We aren’t surrounded by constant memories. In a way I miss this, but at the same time, it helped us heal. It helped us begin to move forward, and figure out who we wanted to be now.
Patrick will always be a part of our lives, but letting the memories, the smiles, and the laughs be much more powerful than the grief will keep him alive.