Learning to Love Again

Author: Amy Dozier

We are all here because we have suffered a similar loss; the loss of a loved one in military service. Throughout the years we've had to endure the challenging task of creating our new normal. It has been exhausting, both physically and emotionally. We're strong because we've had to be. Amid the leaps forward come feelings of falling backwards with no soft landing in sight. All it takes is a song on the radio or the smell of an old shirt to remind us of our "happily never after."

Amy Dozier

Perhaps one of the most prominent triggers for many of us is the holidays. Holidays are typically synonymous with family, love, togetherness, smiles, and traditions. Many of us are still decompressing and maybe even debriefing from the most recent holiday rush just two months ago. And here comes Valentine's Day - a day meant solely for lovers. This is especially hard on surviving spouses and significant others.

I can remember vividly my first Valentine's Day after my husband died. It was five weeks after he was killed. I was still very much in shock, but also incredibly sad. I vacillated between two very different feelings of loss - the physical loss of my partner and child's father, and loss of this idea that I would always have my happily ever after. As I sat in a restaurant with my girlfriends that first Valentine's Day, I realized there was yet another grief reaction that no one ever seems to talk about. Envy.

There were couples everywhere. They looked blissfully in love.  The dim lights and sparkle of red and pink everywhere set the mood just for them. Not for me. Just them. For the next two years on the days surrounding Valentine's Day, the feeling of extreme envy crept up on me uninvited. I couldn't help but notice those who had the happiness I once had; the ones who actually got to keep it. I tried to be happy for my friends but deep down I just wanted what they had. While still processing my own grief, I now had to conquer this evil thing called envy.

I stood on a stage of envy for far too long. I robbed myself of my own happiness. This is when I truly started my quest to find love after loss. It was very difficult but I began tearing down the walls of my heart little by little. I allowed myself to feel real feelings of joy again. With the help of family, friends, and TAPS, I began to dive into some creative outlets from my past: music, photography, and writing. These things make my soul happy. I have also been encouraged to try new things - even things that scare me. I'm so blessed to have such empowering people in my life. You have suffered great loss and I'm sure you've taken lots of time trying to find meaning in it. Keep doing that. It's good for you. You've also been given an opportunity to rewrite your story. This is where you can start finding your new purpose, your new love. Incorporate memories from your past while redirecting your passions and watch how the love is orchestrated in your future.

This Valentine's Day, my wish for you is love. Love your past. Love your story-the parts you hate and wished never happened, and the parts you're in the process of writing. Love the idea of things that are new and different. Love today. Love tomorrow. Love what's yet to come. Love yourself most. 

"Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal." ~ Irish headstone