Lose someone you love unexpectedly. Someone close. Someone you can’t do life without.
If he/she dies young, tragically, and were destined for greatness, even better.
Vacillate every few minutes between Irish keening rituals, obliterating numbness, the desire to die -- really die, and a volcanic rage that seeps through your skin and becomes a part of your cellular makeup.
Keep trying to make your life work the way it did before THE TRAGEDY. Feel further away from yourself than you’ve ever felt before.
Panic that you won’t ever be able to get back to yourself which means you won’t ever be able to make your life work the way it used to work. This is problematic as you don’t know how to do it any other way.
Feel miserable. Really miserable.
Become miserable to be around.
Justify all of your shitty behavior.
Remember, you are becoming someone else, a person you don’t yet know and don’t particularly like.
In fact, just go ahead and hate yourself and the world and all the shitty things that have victimized you and only you. Wade around in that toxic waste for a while.
Have the desire to make every possible change a person can make because none of the things you used to do/say/think/feel are relevant anymore and the person who used to anchor you to the earth is dead.
Hear people you trusted in your former life tell you not to make any sudden moves for a year.
Understand that this makes sense.
Hold off on getting that tattoo on your forearm but spend a few days searching the Internet for the perfect font.
Isolate yourself from your husband. Write about your sorrow for four, sometimes five, hours a night. Do this in your pajamas in bed.
Eat lots of spaghetti. Feel your pants get tighter.
Cry in the shower.
Cry in the car.
Cry in the bathroom at work.
Go to therapy once a week (two or three times a week in the beginning.)
Get on meds that don’t work.
Get on different meds.
Feel time pass. Feel a weight start to lift. Be scared of what this means. Be scared that if you get better, you will forget him.
Keep writing it down.
Make a joke.
Remember how awesome you used to be before the change on the cellular level.
Find comfort in the giggle of your child and a cloud shaped like a fish.
Get drunk with friends and impulsively buy $330 Beyonce concert tickets online.
Don’t bat an eye or give a fuck because you now feel a genuine sense of “who gives a shit we only live once and nothing matters.”
Let that marinate for a spell until the sentiment morphs into an empowering sense of freedom and courage you’ve never felt before -- even before THE TRAGEDY -- to make the most of the time you do have. Crave a life you never tried to live because you made smart and practical choices like adults are supposed to do.
Realize it makes no sense to be smart and practical if you’re miserable.
Decide you want to be happy again. Somehow.
You want to spend more time with your family.
You want to pick your kid up from school every afternoon after snack time.
You want to cook dishes that have vegetables in them.
You want to have muscles in the places in your body that are soft.
You want to do something with your time that makes you feel inspired and inspires others.
Tap into a little garden inside of you. Tend to it. Water it. Visit it often. When it starts to bloom, really look at it. Look at the colors. Look at what’s coming up.
Start to address all of the things that were weighing on you before THE TRAGEDY, sitting in that part of your brain/heart/gut that you were too tired and scared to acknowledge.
Slowly piece together a new identity, one that doesn’t include the one who died but is happening as a direct result of his absence. He has inspired you to live.
Quit your job.
For the first time in your life, don’t second guess your decision. Know it was the right one. Look forward, not back.
Inch back over to your husband. Remember how good he feels. Cherish him even more for picking up all the slack while you were a goddamn fruit loop. Understand love like you never did before.
Eat a salad.
Eat another one.
Watch your toddler enjoy simple pleasures like drinking milk out of a sippy cup and collecting rocks in a metal lunch box in her room.
Step inside a gym. Sweat. See that your body still works. Feel surprised.
Put on eyeliner.
Embrace some cliches.
Life is short.
There is no time like the present.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Throw your husband a surprise birthday party.
Watch your kid devour a cupcake.
Donate money to every Gofundme page in your newsfeed that makes you feel feelings.
Partner up. Collaborate. Start a new business even though you have no idea how to start a new business. Understand that it could be a disaster but don’t give a shit. What’s the worse thing that could happen? It fails? So what. That’s not the worst thing that could happen. You survived the worst thing that could happen. You can survive anything. You’re a fucking champion.
Get a part time job helping families in need.
Finish your book.
Start a podcast.
Go on vacation.
Watch your daughter lose her mind with delight as the plane takes off.
Drive through the mountains with the windows rolled down. Smell the pine-scented air. Think of the one who is gone. Hold him in your cells. Hope he is happy now. Feel the vulnerability of the altitude and the winding road and the walls of rocks towering above you. Note how small you are compared to the sky. See that the world is beautiful. Hear your daughter say, “Wow.”
And, feel grateful.
This post originally appeared on Medium, where you can find more of Stephanie's work.