Advice to the me of 4 years ago

Brad Paisley has a song called, “Letter to Me” where his adult self writes a letter to his younger high school aged self.  Hearing it on the radio today got me to thinking about what I’d say to the me of four years ago, fresh off the unexpected death of my husband.

At the time I was blessed to receive a letter from a friend who gave me advice on how to get through and what to expect. It was helpful, but there are still things I would tell the me of then, from the me of now.

  1. Ignore people who say everything happens for a reason.  Sometimes there is no reason. Sometimes free will comes into play and you don’t have to understand everything, especially not how free will affects God’s will.  Leave that to one of your favorite priests and have that conversation with him over a beer a few years down the road.
  2. It’s true what they say. Don’t make any major decisions in the first year. The fog of grief is real, and while you think you’re doing the right thing, you may regret it even years later.  No….major…decisions.  Don’t move away, don’t change jobs, don’t get rid of everything.
  3. Let yourself feel. Even the most painful pain. Feel it. Own it. Scream. Cry. (But don’t punch a wall.  You know what happens when you punch walls.) Don’t try to stuff it down inside. It will find its way out, some way, some how. Numbness gives way to pain, and you have to feel it to fully grieve.
  4. Fear is okay.  Much of grief is fear. Fear of the future. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what life will be like without him. Fear of how to take care of your son. Just remember to feel the fear and do it anyway. Fear can be crippling. It’s one of the feelings you must feel, but you don’t have to live there.
  5. Don’t listen to others who try to give you advice about your son. You know him. You love him. You know what’s best for him. Listen to your inner mama bear and protect him above all costs. He’s grieving, too, and needs to move at his own pace, not yours or anyone else’s.
  6. It’s okay to explore your options. Life is not stagnant.  There will be days you wish you could just stop time and wallow, but the rest of the world is still moving.  Life will never be the same again, and you have decisions to make. Take your time, pray, consider options, but make decisions and trust yourself.
  7. It’s okay to love again. If you’re blessed enough to find love again, you don’t have to let go of your past or stop missing him, or even stop grieving him. And the right man will understand that and care for your heart in tough times, too. (This happens, by the way, when you least expect it, and, wow, is he amazing.)

The 4 year anniversary of his unexpected death is Monday. A part of me died that day, too. But a new part of me has come to life in recent months, and a new life awaits.   As tough as the journey has been, it has shaped me into who I am today. His love formed me, the love of God and friends sustains me, and new love gives me hope; something I thought died with him.

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