Learning to Live Again

Author: Linda Ambard

I am at a Tragedy Assistance Program (TAPS) retreat this weekend.  A woman said something to me that hit really close to home.  She is a year and a half out from her husband’s death.  She told me she feels like she is going through the motions and keeps wondering if she will feel happiness in her life again.  She pondered enjoying life and looking forward to the next events unfolding.  Four and a half years later, I wonder the same thing.  I wrap myself in business so I do not have to figure out how to fill the waking hours.  I work full time, go to school full time, and I run marathons.  When any one of those activities drops off, I spin like a broken top—off kilter and with a stuttering step.

Retreat Women

I have to be on at work every day.  There is no room for me to consider having an off -day because I feel (the word feel is the key word) like people look at me as a fragile person who is going to break if something is said or done wrong.  Where normal people do have off days, I feel I must put on the mask to prove how all right I am all of the time.  I teach resiliency and positive coping, thus breaking and hurting publicly negates what I am doing.  I don’t feel like I can talk about how I feel because I am the only widow I know with my story at my age.  While my work is very meaningful and helpful to make something positive come out of the worst day of my life, it isn’t a place where I can be transparent.

I leave work to go to school all evening.  I wrap myself in my studies of how to help people dealing with loss.  It gives me skills, confidence, and on some levels, it allows me to consider my own way forward.  It is another area where my eyes are set on something higher than me leaving very little time for introspection or alone time.

Running is the place where I do allow myself to feel and to ponder the life I have now.  Running is a small portion of my day.  After four and a half years almost, I am at that point of looking at removing school and learning to enjoy life again.  Until now, it has been survival shrouded in business.  I do not know how to thrive versus survive to face another day.  The laughter is long gone and I do not remember a time since Phil’s death when I got excited for something coming.  It feels foreign and unwelcome to want to look at how to fill my empty school hours with something I can be excited about.  I do not even know what would make me excited.

This weekend with other military widows brought me clarity.  It is the place where I could see how far I have come and where I need to dare myself to go.  My shattered heart is knitting together.  Like a broken bone, it is stronger than it once was, but it will always bear the scars of being broken.  My heart aches sometimes.  It aches now.  I do not want to have to figure out how to enjoy my life or how to anticipate my life, but I know that it is what comes next.  I haven’t ever learned to navigate how to have fun alone and living in this mode of total immersion into business isn’t about thriving or enjoying life.  I think the day has come to stop waiting and to start going.  Perhaps I will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Maybe I will try out for Survivor again.  Maybe I will join a running group.  Maybe I will even go to a singles church group.  The possibilities loom and I am poised to take the first tenuous step .