Happiness, After Your Life Changes

It’s an entirely new life.  Enjoy it, what else?

Some years ago, a friend asked me to write about how ‘people like me’ survive the deaths of those close to you and then able to go on and lead happy lives. At first I pretended to be puzzled, and asked what she meant, for I eat, sleep, work, play, worship. What else is there?

But, truly, I knew what she meant. She was saying, “Ethel, in the time of only one short year, you lost your husband, your Gram, and your children grown and living their own lives, so what did you do…what do you do…to be as happy as you are?”

So I figured it was time to look back at the Ethel I was, and the Ethel I suddenly became the startling moment when I sat at my desk and received a sad phone call telling me that AW was dead. And no matter how it’s worded, there are no ‘right’ ones.

So I took time and compared ‘the two Ethels’  and Lordy, Lordy what a lot of difference there is.

At first there was absolute trauma. Paralysis. It was an event so new, so unexpected, so out of context to my life,  that I lived through the immediate events as if hypnotized. The awful arrangements of cemetery, funeral, casket, what clothes for him to wear, should I take off his rings or not?  And horror of horrors, questions were very carefully asked, what about all that gold in the teeth ?  Yeah, that, too. Terrible questions.

And then…there were so many people (thank heaven’s) helping and telling me what had to be done, that I had to be careful to make sure my husband’s funeral was what I wanted, and not what others wanted it to be. Hard.

But after the excitement (yes, there is excitement) was over, came the long haul. And it is a long haul, and I can speak only for myself.

I was scared. Scared as I never had been before in my life. Could I survive? Emotionally? Mentally? Financially? Spiritually? I felt utter terror, absolute isolation, and it was only the established routine of work, eat and sleep that saved my life.

Emotionally I didn’t think or feel, and almost became a robot and taking each day, hour and minute as it came. Not looking ahead. Not even for a day.

Mentally? Well, again, a demanding job kept me balanced and busy and I still thank God for it.

Financially, I did not spend one dime that I didn’t absolutely have to, until I found out that I could ‘make it’ on my own, but I must admit, there were many times of worry and fear. And over and over I asked myself, ‘Has anyone else ever, ever, ever  been left as alone as I was?’

Spiritually? Oh, there is the saving grace that saw me through and remains my foundation. It saw me through the anger that came. Anger to think that I could be left alone. Anger at AW for dying (Oh yes, don’t be surprised, there is that, too.) Anger at the world that it could laugh, play, travel, visit and love, while I walked around wounded and bleeding.

It saw me through the despair of lonely days and nights and gave me the wisdom not to join clubs “guaranteed to find a companion.” It gave me courage not to cling to my sons for emotional support. You see, I’d seen young people crippled by a sorrowing parent and swore not to do likewise to mine.

It saw me through the fear of changing my life style from the one I had known into an unknown one.  What else?  My life had changed and it saw me through finding new friends who, first, did not replace those who had died; second, do not take the place of children, and third; did not become crutches for me to lean and weep upon.

No, but it brought me friends and activities that were new. But, you can’t be in a hurry, for it takes time. Took a long time for me not be feel guilty when I found myself laughing and happy  with people, and in situations that neither my husband, sons, or dear Gram had heard of or known.  I can tell you,  it’s a weird feeling, for it truly becomes a new life.

Yes, the spiritual life brought me through the guilts that clung to me as I carved out a new life filled with people I hadn’t even heard of while Brad lived. They, of course, now know my grown sons and all is well and good.

For me it is the only way. For me, that of  sorrowfully clinging to the old life, after it was irrevocably gone, would have not only crippled me but crippled all close to me.

So I chose to survive and be happy. It’s not knocking the old one bit, it’s just ultimately being able to say “That life is over. Now, Dear God, what ever comes next, bring it to me, for I’m ready.”

And that’s how ‘people like me’ again become happy and able to live a full and good life.  None of those I lost that terrible year would know those who now make up my life now, but that’s okay.

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