Thursday was our first Thanksgiving without Lindsay and last Saturday (11/20) would have been 19 years together (dating) for Lindsay and me (next month would have been our 14th wedding anniversary). It is still impossible to believe that Lindsay is gone, but I’ve started to recognize and understand in the past couple of months how much of Lindsay is part of me.
For Thanksgiving I made deviled eggs. Lindsay was always known for her deviled eggs but she never used a recipe - rather, she used only a few ingredients and made everything by taste. Fortunately, I was the lucky taste tester with her and together we always decided when the mix was perfect. Knowing the (simple) ingredients (mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, and paprika) and method, I put my palate to the test - success! They were great and Lindsay’s family agreed - most importantly, her uncle Bob. Thanksgiving felt different without Lindsay, the glue who held so much of the family together, but we all seemed to know that Lindsay would have wanted us to continue the tradition of having fun and laughing during the holidays, and that we did.
I recently completed a 12-week grief program called moveTHRU grief through which I connected with nine other incredible widows. We shared our stories and deeply connected with each other over our emotional losses while also learning and developing the tools to moveTHRU grief. Perhaps the greatest takeaway was understanding there is no right or wrong way to grieve - we all have different personalities, relationships, backgrounds, and experiences that play a role in our ability to process grief.
For me, I experienced severe anticipatory grief following Lindsay’s diagnosis as a means of self preservation. I was always hopeful that Lindsay would have a positive outcome and I always supported and cared for Lindsay with all of my being, but deep down I always assumed/planned for the worst. For example, there was one particular evening where I had worked all day, needed to make dinner, was dealing with the kids being challenging (just typical two and four-year-old stuff), and caring for Lindsay after a rough round of chemotherapy. I was exhausted and frustrated, but I told myself that things were only going to get more difficult. I still had Lindsay by my side - I was able to feel her presence, love, and support - but deep down I needed to find strength in knowing it wasn’t going to be forever like we had always planned.
Although heartbreaking, this process allowed me to get out of bed in the days immediately following Lindsay’s death, despite wanting to do nothing, because I knew the kids needed me and this is what I anticipated. It was truly awful, but it would have been exponentially more awful for the kids and me if I never expected Lindsay to pass. I never could have imagined how quickly things would turn and I will forever feel the pain of that last week with Lindsay and her eventual passing, but all I knew in those moments was to continue loving, supporting, and comforting my best friend.
I’ve learned over the past few months how nothing was the same immediately following Lindsay’s diagnosis. Even as I approached the situation with a sense of realism and fear, Lindsay and I worked hard to keep some semblance of normalcy. We attempted to continue doing things with the kids and manage the house as we always had, but in hindsight it was different. There was the ever looming black cloud of cancer and the reality of chemo side effects. Conversely, the silver lining was having an appreciation for life that (fortunately) most will never understand, and an understanding of what a privilege it is to be alive.
I share all of this because through my grief group I’ve been able to better understand and apply this mindset that everyday is a privilege. I had previously felt so much guilt if I were to be happy because I couldn’t reconcile the feeling of happiness with the loss of Lindsay. In other words, I was stuck in grief. I also felt that finding happiness was taking a step away from or even forgetting Lindsay. Although that remains a fear of mine, I’ve come to realize how much of Lindsay is part of me and the kids. I carry many of her same mannerisms and sense of humor. Perhaps I am a bit more quiet than she was, but my being today is shaped by the 18+ years we spent together. I learned from her as my partner and am raising the kids as I know she would have.
I am now living in the middle - I still experience intense emotions of grief and sadness, but I appreciate the opportunity for life. I will forever be unexpectedly triggered, such as when I drive through Bellevue and see where Arya and Ellis were born, or recently I was in Auburn (for Arya’s first Covid vaccine!) and triggered by all the places Lindsay and I would frequent when she lived there for a year with her mom. However, I embrace these emotions because they are a reminder of the life I lived with Lindsay and this life I continue to live for her. I want to share with new people these memories and the parts of me where Lindsay shines through because it furthers her legacy and the impact she had on me.
It’s difficult to say this, but today I believe I am the best version of myself that I have ever been. I continue to have my own curiosity about the world and those around me, but now it’s coupled with confidence and an appreciation for life. I am confident in the steps I have taken to address my grief and am no longer worried about whether I am grieving correctly. I know I am grieving the way that I need to grieve and I have sought out support and resources to re-discover myself.
With all of this in mind, I took a huge step a couple of months ago and (for the first time in my adult life) dipped my toe in the dating pool. To be sure, Lindsay and I had a very honest conversation about this topic and she made it clear she wanted me to pursue new love, including having a child (or children) if it felt right. Of course, this also meant finding someone who understands I have two amazing kids and a marriage that tragically ended - it’s a package deal. I opted to use a couple of dating apps since that’s how the kids are doing it these days, and admittedly, conversing (mostly via text) with new people was overwhelming. However, it wasn’t overwhelming because I didn’t feel ready or that I felt Lindsay would disapprove (see above); rather, it took a lot of time and energy to communicate with various women and attempt to make meaningful connections. Also, it’s difficult to find real and genuine people. Anyways, this is not my TED talk on online dating as a 37 year-old widow--maybe another time.
I have a weekly conversation with my sister, Stacie, and it is one of the highlights of my week. We usually talk for an hour or so about work, life, and dating (just her up until recently). It is so great to connect with Stacie and we have learned how similar we are in how we approach life. Stacie has been my support and insight into the world of dating (my wingwoman, so to speak), which is amusing to both of us since she’s nine years younger than me, the baby of the family, and I’m the oldest. Regardless, she provided me with so much guidance, and she joked that I would probably find my second person before she finds her first….
She was right 💙