Saturday, June 14, 2014

Life: Where’s the color?

Most are going to expect me to post about Father’s Day.  It’s not going to happen this time.  It’s rough, difficult, flat out sucks…blah!  I don’t want to talk about it, so I’m not going to.  But, I do have something that’s been on my mind a lot lately…life after loss.  It’s still there, so what do you do with it?

I’ll start out by saying this, every single person who has lost, even if it’s the exact same person that you lost, will grieve and choose to live life completely differently and on their own terms.  There is no right or wrong way, there is just your way.  There are no steps to grief.  I don’t care what anyone says about that, or how many degrees in counseling or psychology you have, or how many books there are on it, THERE ARE NO STEPS OR STAGES TO GRIEF!  I feel what I feel when I feel it.  My girls feel what they feel when they feel it.  Abigail has never been through “denial.”  Joanna has never gone through “depression.”  I have never gone through “bargaining.”  There is not a specific method, rhyme, or reason to grieving.  If you think there are stages that every person who grieves goes through, then we can agree to disagree.  The end.  (Ok, end of that rant.)

Also, please know that I can only write and explain my own process of grief.  I have a window into my daughters’ grief, and see it lived out in them daily, but in all actuality I don’t know how they feel or what their grief is to them.  One day, they can articulate that if they choose to.  I can see it, see their struggles, hear their words, empathize with their emotions, but their grief is their own, and one that I will never fully understand, just as they will never fully understand mine.

Rhea’s death affected each of our lives differently.  My girls lost their Daddy.  Their entire life of how it was “planned” was altered in that one moment.  I do not know what that is like for them.  I do not know what it is like to be 6 and listen to all of my friends talk about what their daddy does, and then when the conversation turns to them have to say, “my daddy died and is in heaven,” or to say nothing at all.  I do not know what it is like to be a 4-year-old on the playground and have your friends tell you that they think your lying and that your daddy really didn’t die.  I do not know what that is like.  Can I empathize and be there for them?  Yes, but that is really all I can do. 

My girls are resilient and choose to live life and to live in a world full of color, despite all of their struggles.  They love to laugh, try new things, play with their friends, watch movies, go places, and just have fun.  They are living their life! I will always encourage them to do so.  They have life, it was given to them, they should enjoy it.  Do they still grieve? Absolutely.  Regularly.  Daily. 

First you might say, well yeah, they’re just being kids.  But, you’re missing the point.  They choose to live life.  I have seen and met kids their age who have been through similar loss.  Some are scared to live, scared to walk away from their living parent’s side, refuse to talk, internalize all emotion, reject socialization of any kind, and more.   My girls choose to live.  Some days are easier than others, and they each still have their own fears.  Abigail has a huge fear of me dying and struggles when people leave after visiting for fear it’s their last time, and Joanna wants to know every detail of what will happen to her and Abby if I die, every which way a person can die, what age people die, if kids die, and why people die. They have major things that they work through, but they still choose to live.  They grieve, and they live.

So what about me?  The day that I was notified of Rhea’s death was different for me than it was for my girls, or anyone else who found out and started grieving him.  That day I didn’t just lose Trent.  He was more than just my husband.  I can only speak for my own marriage now, but when we were married we had plans.  We had plans for our future life, for our children, for possible future children, for our careers, for our home.  We had vacation plans, dream trips, retirement thoughts.  We had restaurants we wanted to go to, food we wanted to try, parks we wanted to go to, TV shows to catch up on.  We had life planned to live.  The day I lost Rhea, I lost all of those things.  I lost every single hope, plan, dream, and possibility I ever had for my life.  I’m not trying to over exaggerate.   This is the truth.  Think of your life.  Now picture it without the person you share it with.  You can’t, can you?  You wouldn’t even know where to begin, because, your life would be completely altered.  It would not be the same life.

So, about a month after Rhea’s death, I decided I wanted to live my life, but I didn’t know how or what exactly “life” was any more.  I searched for help and found our counselor.  She has helped guide me to essentially start life over again.  It is a hard, a very, very hard decision to choose to build and live life again.  I know you might not understand that, but it is hard.  I would say that it is just as hard, if not harder than losing life.  By choosing to rebuild your life and truly live again, that means that you may very well lose it all again.  I know what it is to lose it all, and I do not want to do it again.  But, I refuse to not live the life that I was given, and to live it my way.  Please don’t think that me living life means that I do not grieve.  In fact, right now, I would say that I live life in between the gaps of grief. It is hard, and sometimes I fight it.  Hard days pull me backwards, and I distance myself from the world and those around me.  I then have to fight my way back to living again.  But, it’s worth the fight.

Just as my girls have, I have chosen to live life, too.  I will not stay home, wear black, and watch the world pass me by.  I will live.  I will wear color.  I will see the world.  I will make new hopes.  I will make new plans and dream new dreams.  And, I will grieve.  It is not one thing or the other.  I will do it all.  But, for some reason, being a widow has a stigma.  In some eyes, and in history, it is not “okay” for me to live life yet, as if there is a timetable out there somewhere that specifies the amount of time I’m supposed to be in full black, inside the walls of my house. I’m being serious; trust me, it is judged.  My laughter, my tears, my fun, my sadness is judged by some. If I have sad days, people worry that I’m depressed or that I need to be medicated.  If I have happy days, people will say “Didn’t she just lose her husband?” or “Don’t forget to show your daughters how to properly grieve, too.” I don’t understand why it is okay for my girls to live life, for no one would fault them, but not okay for me to live life, too.  I know I’m speaking of a small amount of people, but it is really concerning that this “stigma” is even out there.  I’m learning to deal with it.  It’s not okay for people to judge, but it is what it is, and people can feel however they feel.  And, I can feel how I want to feel.  I feel like living.  I have traveled, I have laughed, I have gone to concerts, I have played on the swings at the park, I have had fun, I have lived life, and I will continue to do so.  That does not mean that I do not grieve.   I have wept, I have cried in almost every restaurant in Liberty, I have sat knee deep in tissue with swollen red eyes, I have smelled a person’s cologne and had full out panic attacks in stores, I have curled up on the couch with his patrol cap just so I can remember his smell, I can't talk about Father's Day.  I grieve, and I choose to live life, too.  Rhea would want me to live life.  But, even more importantly, I want to live life.

So, my girls and I have all three individually chosen to live in a world of color.  I say, “Good for us!”  We know all too well that life can be unexpectedly short.  We will love life and live it to the fullest.  Right now, we may be living life in between the gaps of grief, but we will slowly change and instead grieve in between the gaps of life. 

No matter where you are at in your life or what you have gone through, I encourage you to live life fully in a world of color.  We get one shot at this life, and we don’t know how long it is.  Take every chance you get to live it.  Play with your children, take trips, surprise your loved one, chase butterflies, have a piece of cake, say your sorry, say I love you, smell the roses, get a puppy, sing loudly at concerts, dance in the middle of the grocery store isle, skip down the hallway at work, tell someone you appreciate them, ride a roller-coaster, be yourself, be kind to others always, and live life fully.  Live life in color!

Note:  If you disagree with some of my blog post today, that's okay.  I will tell you though, that I'm not really interested in hearing any negative thoughts on the topic.  I was simply sharing my viewpoint of my current grief process, as I feel it is helpful to me and to others who may be experiencing similar situations.  Thank you for staying positive with any and all comments.


  1. Love this and am so proud of you! You are an inspiration!

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  3. Loved what you had to say. Know one knows how they would feel or what they would do until they have been there. So proud of you and what your are doing for yourself and your girls.

  4. Leah this is Debbie not Claire. For some reason it keeps posting her name, but I do happen to know her and the other girls totally agree with me. Bless you.

  5. This was so, so important to read. For all people. Grieving or not. Thank you, Leah, for sharing this. I am pretty clueless when it comes to grief. I appreciate that it is a unique experiences for each individual person. Also, it makes me really mad that people are saying or even just thinking hurtful things about you or widows or anyone grieving. I'm sure I'm guilty of that, too, though. It's a good reminder and eye-opener. Thanks, Leah.