On the eve of the second anniversary of my late husband’s passing, today’s post seemed timely. It seemed fitting. It seemed like something I needed to remind myself of. I think it’s safe to say that everyone has a looming scenario in their minds that they are sure they will never survive. The death of a parent, the loss of a career, the divorce of a marriage, the uncomfortable and isolating move away from everything you know... Mine? The passing of my 25-year-old husband after his two-year battle with cancer.
There are no dramatics, exaggeration, or amplification when I say that I truly did not believe that I would live through January 12th, 2016. I had spent years praying for a different fate. I had spiralled into panic attacks just thinking of the possibility of losing Andrew. I was sure that the day his heart stopped beating, mine would as well. I laid atop his lifeless body for hours upon hours that day. I thought to myself, “Why leave this hospital bed when I am going to die of heartache? They are going to have to carry us out together.” But I kept breathing and my heart continued to beat.
I woke up the next day and the day after that and the day after that; each day believing that it would surely be my last. “I can’t survive this,” I would wake up and repeatedly think. For months, I would wake up reaching for Andrew, only to feel a cold pillow and an empty bed. I would sit in silence in our hollow home, waiting to hear the creaks of the old, hardwood floors underneath the weight of his seven-foot frame. I would walk into a room and expect to see his giant grin and hear his belly-aching laugh, only to be left with an unwelcomed stillness. It wasn’t just the day that Andrew died, it was every day after that I was certain my heart couldn’t handle. And even now, two years later, I still have days that I wake up and think that the day might overcome me and swallow me whole. But I keep breathing and my heart continues to beat.
My point is this, if you’ve woken up this morning with air in your lungs and blood pumping through your heart, you have survived 100% of the days you were sure you never would. Tomorrow might seem overwhelming. You might think you won’t make it through the next month, year, or twenty years, but handle the twenty-four hours ahead of you. When I first lost Andrew, I was constantly overwhelmed by, in theory, how many subsequent years I would have to survive without him by my side. It wasn’t until I was able to shift my mind to focus on twenty-four hours at a time that I started to find some growth and healing. When I learned to focus on what I had already survived instead of dwelling on what more I would have to walk through, my grief, perspective, and life began to change.
You get through it. You push forward. You survive. And sometimes, it’s ok to just survive and not thrive; some days you simply exist to get through that set of twenty-four hours. Until one day, perhaps two years later, you wake up and realize you can handle anything because you’ve survived everything you were sure you never would.