Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oh the difference a year makes...

Or really, the difference 6 years makes.

If you would have asked me right after the accident how I would cope in the future, I would have told you I had no f'ing idea. But here I am, 6 years later and I can honestly say I never thought this is where I'd be.

If you look at a post I made on this date last year, you can feel the sadness written between the lines. The longing for the past, the overwhelming grief. It's hard for me to describe the way I felt at this time last year. I was holding on with every ounce of my being. To the memories, the feelings, the hopes and dreams. The what if’s. I didn't want to let go. For so long he was my comfort, the one happy thing I had. Even after he was gone...I held on. It was easier to remember the good times and reminisce than move forward and let go. Things between us weren't perfect, but no relationship ever is.  Last year, I wasn't ready to let go. I needed to feel connected to someone, some thing. Holding on allowed me to feel that connection.

Fast forward 6 months to June 2011. I knew at that point it was time to make some changes. I couldn’t live with the constant sadness and the pit in my stomach. I contacted BFO and everything started falling in to place. I was put in touch with a wonderful, wonderful woman who talked me through my fears, concerns and answered the million questions I had about explaining the situation to the boy. She was amazing. Chalk full of knowledge and more supportive than anyone I had ever met. Know why? Because she's been there. She was in my shoes, or a pair very similar and she made it through. With her guidance and a encouragement from friends,  I took a step that I never thought I'd take. I agreed to go to a support group for widows and widowers with dependant children. Now, I know what you're thinking. We weren't married, so therefore I'm not technically a widow but these people didn't care. We shared something more than the title thrust upon us. We shared love, and loss. We shared hopes, dreams, fears and concerns. Walking in to that room, filled with people who understood was like walking through the door to a safe place. The 10 people I met in this group were connected by something no one should ever have to experience. Instantly it became a safe haven for all of us. Somewhere we could let our guard down and share. Regardless of the circumstances, we were bonded together by our experience, our loss.

In the beginning, I was unsure. I was worried I wouldn't fit in. Because who are we essence a "widow" at 23? Where DO I fit in? But week by week, my guard came down and I found myself sharing things I had never shared before. We cried, we laughed, we shared and supported. Above all, we learned that we could shed the mask of day to day life and really be ourselves.

We talked about a lot in those 9 weeks. It started with sharing our stories, which were the most emotionally draining days of I've had in a long time. Whether it was sudden or a long process, reliving these stories with each other was like experiencing the emotions over and over again. From there, discussions blossomed and the one thing I can honestly say was present each and every week, was the undeniable support we all offered one another. It makes no difference whether we were 6 years or 6 months in to our journey we all had something to offer…hope.

When I sent the first e-mail to BFO, I was looking for guidance in speaking to my DS about his father. What I got, was an instant family. People I can count on to be there by phone, email or in person whenever I need. A support group who is in it for the long run. I made friends. I found a family.

When I say what a difference a year can make, I really truly mean it. One email changed the tune for my future. I was holding on too tightly to something that will never be back. Memories of the past and what should have been, could have been. Group opened my eyes to things I hadn't acknowledged before, and for that I'm truly thankful. Death doesn't end a relationship, it ends a life. The relationship simply changes because the other person is no longer present. Learning how to process this change, how to adapt a new "norm" and what the relationship looks like now is what was holding me back.  He may be gone, but he will always be Jacob's father, my first love and my best friend.

As I moved through grief, and group, I realized that not only was I processing this loss as a widow, but also as a teenager. I was 17 when he died. A 17 year old does not possess coping mechanisms to deal with a loss so enormous and life changing. For the last 6 years, I've struggled to process it, to move through the grief and reconcile the loss. It may have taken me 6 years, but I did it. Majority of it on my own, with a little push past the finish line.

In no way do I ever expect the grief to go away, but now I know how to deal with it. I can allow myself the "grief burst" but I know that it'll be manageable. I know what to expect, how to predict them and how to process it in a healthy way that allows me to honor the grief and his memory, without allowing it to take hold and pull me down. I've grown, and so has my grief. We've matured together and I'm proud of how far we've come.

This year just feels different. Here we are, January 11th 2012 and I can honestly say that for the first time I feel proud. Proud of my progress, proud of my son. Proud of the woman I've become and I have him to thank. He was my biggest supporter when he was here, and even now I know he's proud of the job I've done. So this year instead of being sad about the circumstances, I'm going to remember him, cherish his memory and know that above all, he would be proud of me for coming so far.