This is the story of when I received the call that my husband had died. To date, these are the darkest moments of my life. Here I will speak of not only the agonizing first few moments, but also the hope and beauty that I have found through the journey of grief.
It was a Tuesday night.
Search and rescue had already placed a call to inform me that there was an emergency called in but that they had not made it to their location yet. I was anxiously awaiting the phone call.
The phone was handed to me with a downward glance and the most solemn expression I had ever seen.
I frantically grabbed for the phone and wildly called out into the receiver..
'Baby!?' over and over and over, waiting for his reply but not hearing the familiar voice on the other end.
Expecting to hear him while simultaneously entertaining the sinking feeling that was gnawing at my heart, I eventually allowed the voice on the other end to say something.
"Melissa.. Melissa.. Melissa.." his best friend shouted, over and over, attempting to break my trance.
"He died on the river today."
As I sat there on the floor, no words would come out, only vague sounds that made up a word, whispered so softly that he couldn't hear me on the other line.
I was saying his name, Brett, over and over, hoping he would change the words that he had just said.
"Words so matter of fact, so final, but I just knew he must be mistaken. "
If he were there in front of me I would have beat my fists into his chest, made him say something different, say my sweet husband was just hurt, only hurt.
But he wasn't in my hallway, he was on the side of the river weeping for his best friend that lie beside him and weeping for the wife who was on the other line.
The call dropped and my body crumpled; I began to wail.
I didn't recognize the sounds that came out of my body in the moments to follow. Visceral groans of pure agony filled the solemn, silence filled room.
I don't know how long I sat there, I don't know how long I wailed. I felt my heart stopped that day too, only I was in our hallway and he was in the water.
As soon as I stopped wailing, my mind began to race to keep up.
I had to call our family, I knew I had to think, but it was all so foggy and I couldn't think straight.
Normalcy was replaced by the oddest feeling of disconnection. I just kept thinking, this cannot be happening, I will die without him, I want to die too.
I don't know how I did it, how I picked myself up off the floor, but eventually I did. First to my knees, and then to my feet. This was my first act of bravery in the war that had just begun.
I could recount next the struggles that began after I picked myself up off the ground that day, but, those moments are meant for another time. What I do want to leave you with, is this..
I write this because I didn't think I would survive the loss of my husband. Months before he died I was overheard saying that I loved him so much that there was no way I could ever live without him.
We completed each other's hearts and sentences. I loved him so deeply that I was convinced that if the day ever came, the day we were separated, I would never survive the pain of that magnitude.
"But I am here to share that I survived. Slowly, minute by minute, I clawed my way out of the depths of grief. I slowly started to feel alive again, I started to once again, sing and dance, laugh and smile."
Along with the idea of surviving, there is an even more seemingly absurd notion, that we can actually find beauty within the process of the pain.
A beauty of truth that must be sought after or it will fade away without knowledge of it's existence.
As I share about those first few hours, and think about the dark months to follow, I am shaken again by the enormity of the anguish I endured. But, I also recall and am so thankful for, being instantly and constantly surrounded by the most genuine love and support I had ever encountered in my whole life.
That is pure beauty within the pain.
In addition to this outpouring of love; the strength, courage and qualities I have found within myself through the process of grief is unparalleled to what I ever even knew existed. An outcome that I would never have sought after but find beauty within its findings.
I am thankful for the woman I have become because of the journey of grief I have walked through.
Finding this beauty and strength was a heartbreaking process that required intentionality. An exercise of being committed to searching for this beauty within the journey of desolation and allowing walls that I didn't even know existed, to be broken down.
Being grateful for the new found strength and courage found through the process of grief was undoubtedly encompassed with mixed emotions of fear, guilt and anger.
Although I would give back all that I have learned if it meant I got to kiss my husband once again, I am eternally grateful for the knowledge that I now possess until the end of my time on this earth.
There is a light, ever so dimly, waiting to be uncovered within the darkness. It is in this singular hope that I will continue to search for the beauty within the pain, even in the darkest hours.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.