Embracing The Now After Losing My Spouse

I was talking to my daughter. She was upset.

I validated her problem and her feelings. Then she got lost. She could not focus on the now. She dwelled on a past situation instead of facing the now situation. She has a habit of doing this. I continue to explain to her the importance of living in the now, because it's a great gift! I asked her, "How can you live a full life today when you are living yesterday's life, dear daughter of mine?" "I know mom, I know you are right. I will try." We said goodbye, which is always followed with an "I love you."

Hanging up with Jenny, I had a flashback. Twenty-five years ago, to the day, both my daughter's and my world came crashing down with one phone call.

It was my brother-in-law calling from Colorado.

"Hi Suz. It's Rog."

"I am so happy to hear your voice! How are you?"

"Michael had a heart attack."

"I will get on the next plane." (My husband was on a business trip.)

"He died, Susan."

"Oh no! Oh no! Oh no," I screamed unable to stop. I screamed, "Oh no," for such a long time that my neighbor next door called the police thinking someone may have entered our home and was attacking me. Two policemen came and tried to calm me.

I lost my husband and my daughters lost their devoted father in a short two-minute telephone conversation. The next few days were a blur. I remember our entire family flying in from the Mainland to Honolulu. I remember the poignant words spoken to me by one of my closest girlfriends, Emily: "There are no words. I will always be here to listen to you." I remember being given a little book that helped me through the rain, How to Survive the Loss of a Love. That is all I remember.

My story today is two-fold. A lesson in grieving and a lesson on living.

The next year of my life I spent alone, "by choice." For one year I walked every day four miles in the morning with "my Ben." In the afternoon, I walked along the sea another four miles with my dog, Mahalo. I took "my time" to think about my life and grieve -- alone. I read that one book over and over again, How to Survive the Loss of a Love. I could not concentrate on any other reading. I did not watch television. I could not concentrate. I purposefully surrounded myself with peace. And all I did was walk and think and cry. I let myself grieve.

I moved from our home of love and family memories to a charming apartment on the sea, next door to the Kahala Hilton, with palm trees coming up to my balcony. I could hear the sound of the sea and I could smell the salt air. I flooded my apartment and balcony with orchids. Koi fish swimming in a pond below added to my peaceful setting. I knew my surroundings would be my anchor because I knew myself.

Living in my apartment and near the sea was very healing. I took advantage of my time alone. I allowed myself to feel utter sadness. I allowed myself to feel fear of the unknown. I was a devastated young woman. The mind plays all kinds of tricks and only positive memories flooded my mind, which was a blessing.

As the months went by I was able to make two decisions. First, I would move to Chicago with my children in order to be near my family. Second, I would not move on for one year and one day, from my date of loss out of respect to Michael, my children and myself.

The primary tools I used to make my transition into the now was to mourn and to grieve. Tools I learned from How to Survive the Loss of a Love. I was in my early forties. I had never lost anyone. My first face with death was my husband, the father of my children, my childhood love.

Thank goodness the mind does have a memory system. All those happy memories to remember. I will love Michael forever.

During the eleventh month of grieving I knew in my heart and then my mind it was time to move into the now. Not letting my past go but realizing the gift, the ever lasting present -- today.

I leave you with this: When you go backward in thought, gently move yourself and those you love forward in message.

Have a now day!

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