Days after my husband was killed I remember sitting down with the only other young widow I knew and asking her if I would ever want to be alive again. She assured me that, despite how impossible it was to believe at that moment that I would one day hope to live another day and not just want to join my husband in death. She assured me that life would be worth living again.
Every major life change comes with the challenge of figuring out the best way to live your life. What will your new rhythm be? I am hesitant to say rhythm of life, because the first person who introduced me to the concept was a person who thrived on routine. I thrive on variety and lack of routine. I like to be very aware and purposeful with my time, but I will never have an ideal daily schedule. One thing I am grateful for is that in the months before my husband died I was reading books about being purposeful about the way we spend our days and weekends, and we were implementing what I read. We had no idea that these were his last days, but we were still living in a way that left me with no regrets about the way we used our short time together.
With every life change, we have to adjust our rhythm to live a balanced life. When I was a 30 something single person, a good rhythm was pouring myself into engaging work and almost nightly dinners with friends. Later, as a married person, eating at home and no more than one social event per week was the right balance of life for us.
When I was home on maternity leave with our first child, it took a while to figure out the best rhythm. In the beginning I was either tired or bored, exhausted and overdoing it, or going stir crazy. I finally realized my best life during that season was spending a day out of the house, spending a day at home working on a home organization project, and then spending a day on the couch. That three day routine was our best way to live.
It has now been two years since my husband died and it is time to learn to live life as a widowed mother of a three year old.
I have been on a sabbatical of sorts since June. I say “of sorts” because it is a break from employment in general, and I will not return to the same job. I knew I needed rest, time with Zoya, time to heal, and time to reset. I planned to take one to three months, but was prepared to rest for longer if it took longer.
The purpose of this time was to learn to love living our life again. It would have been tempting spend the time traveling, but I know how to be happy with life while traveling. The goal of this time was to learn to how live life where we are.
We are slowly settling in to a rhythm that is sustainable, and even life giving. The first weeks, thanks in part to the World Cup, we were meeting up with friends 2-4 times a day. Yes you read that right – a day. We were also eating out a ton and always on the go. That was energizing after months of nothing but work and home, but it wasn’t sustainable. Now we are figuring out how to live again. Our best life includes more eating out than my married life, but less than my single life. It includes easy food, but special treats. We can eat cereal at home almost every morning, but a trip out for gourmet ice cream in the evening can change the feeling of the entire day. I feel like we have to be even more purposeful, but also more flexible with our schedule than we were when my husband was alive. Sometimes I still need a very hard cry and that cannot always be scheduled. Planning time with a friend or in nature or playing at the Y is vital, but letting myself cancel when I just need to go home (which means not telling Zoya ahead of time) is often just as important as spending a few hours at the lake.
What is your best rhythm in your season of life? If you are married, what is your family’s best rhythm? There is no reason waste time thinking about how you would best thrive on your own, if you are married. Just as it is of no value for me to stick to the life that was best for me and Shah, when my reality is as a widow with a three year old. I have to figure out the best rhythm for me and Zoya.
Do you do best with variety or a strict schedule? Do you like daily activities or weekly activities? Do play-dates help you get through life or zap your energy? Does exercise help you be the best parent you can be or take time from you family? Does public school or home school work best for you? Separate work life from home life or work from home? Nightly hot meals or popcorn and apples? Organized closets and messy counters, or a spotless looking house with crazy drawers and cabinets? Parties or one-on-one activities?
When have you realized you had to adjust your life? Was it gradual or sudden? Sudden unexpected changes are the hardest to navigate. Getting married saw a big change for us since most of our dating was spent on different continents, but it was still gradual as we started spending more time at home as we learned that gave us both the most shared energy. Married to widow was huge and unexpected. Other things can lead to needing to adjust your rhythm to purposefully live your best life. Healthy to sick? Toddler to teenager? Job changes? If suddenly, the nightly dinners that you always treasured start to feel like a maddening obligation, maybe there is another or even better way to preserve what you loved about the dinners – time together, slowing down or healthy eating – that fits better with your schedule.
A traumatic change is different than an expected change. When a traumatic change hits, a death, serious illness, loss of a job, etc, your first mode is survival. The more serious the event, the more energy is consumed just figuring out how to survive. It has taken two years for me to be able to begin to consistently live life with any purpose other than survival. Six months ago, I was only beginning to realize how much I was still operating in a foggy survival mode. I have been blessed with much healing in the last two months, and I am grateful to be entering this stage where I can again see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
If you are still in the dark foggy place, even if you are coming out just enough to realize how foggy you are, I don’t know that there is anything you can do to rush through that stage. I have never felt like I had any control over my grief timeline. So my prayer for you is that God will hold you in the season you are in, but have hope that in time you will again see light.