Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Going Back To My "Before" ......

       "Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take        
        control of what you do have power over instead of craving control 
over what you don’t."
-Steve Maraboli

...... and explaining my "After".

This past weekend I went back to my home town for a party.  It was a mini-reunion of sorts.  Several people from our high school class came, as well as others from a couple of other years ...... and several spouses.

I loved high school ...... most of it anyway..  I don't know any teenager who loves all of it.  But I enjoyed it.
And I really looked forward to attending this party.  There were going to be friends there whom I hadn't seen in years.
Or maybe decades.

I had a fabulous time.  Sometimes when friends meet up after not seeing each other for a very long time, it seems like no time has passed.  That's how it seemed Saturday night.  We just picked up where we'd left off.

You see, the place where we all left off was, of course, still in my "Before".  We all knew who had children and who'd married who.
Most of us just had to catch up on where our children are now and who's changed careers.

It didn't really occur to me that there would be friends there who didn't know about my "After" ...... who didn't know that Jim died.
I'm not sure why that didn't occur to me ...... I guess that after 5 1/2 years I assume that it's just a fact ...... for others as well as for my family.

I'm not sure who was more surprised when the first person asked me about Jim.  Of course, I tried to hide my surprise because I knew how badly she felt.  I tried to treat the subject lightly, but how does one really accomplish that?
Each time the subject came up (I think there were at least 4 or 5 people who had no idea) I acted the same way ...... I swallowed my surprise and tried to assure them that it was OK that they unknowingly stepped on that land mine.

I think that I did ok, overall.
But there were several close calls.
I truly hate thinking a lot about those early days ...... the long months when I didn't know if I'd survive the pain ...... or if I wanted to.
I can't think about them for more than a few seconds before the tears form.
And I really didn't want to cry Saturday night.  I didn't want my friends to feel any worse than they already did ...... just because they didn't know.
I don't enjoy having the power to ruin someone's day ...... or evening at a party.

I think we all had a very, very good time.  And I'm thankful for my friend who planned the evening.  It was so nice to see everyone and to catch up.
Even if some of the catching up was a little painful.

By the end of the evening I was struggling to say good bye ...... and not sob.
I felt a mixture of joy with seeing and connecting with everyone ...... and sadness with leaving them ...... along with the usual sadness that Jim wasn't there to share this with me.
He would have had a great time.

I look forward to our next mini-reunion.
Even if there might be some pain involved.
Because I am thankfully at a point in my life where the chance to experience joy ...... outweighs the pain more and more.
So even if it makes me cry (and it probably will) ...... I'll choose joy.


  1. Looks like a fun night from the picture, Janine. I'm so glad that you had a fun time. I recently had a slew of weddings, family and otherwise, to attend. My husband would have had so much fun, especially at our niece's and nephew's weddings. I was dreading going but I also gave in and ended up having a wonderful time at both in spite of "that mixture of joy and sadness". I think that we have to make a conscious decision to allow the joy to overcome the sadness on these occasions- even if it does make us cry, by ourselves, at the end of the night. Thanks for this post!

  2. I recently attended an end of the choir season party, spouses invited. I've only been with this choir for a little less than a year and Laura died 15 months ago. I think I shocked a couple of the ladies when visiting with me and they'd say something like, "I thought I'd get to finally put a face to who your wife is." I'd explain that Laura had died last year. One lady actually stumbled after my statement and the other looked like she was ready to cry. There isn't an easy way of explaining death.

    Our society assumes that a 50+ year old male will have a wife. Especially in the church environment. I think it was probably more of a shock to those who knew you as a couple to find out that your Jim had died.

  3. Thank you for this post. Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in our upstairs game room, laughing at funny pictures with my 16 year old daughter and her friend. For just a a few minutes, I was in my "Before". Then my phone rang and it was someone asking me for more financial information. I cried.

    And now I'm in my "After" - remembering again that my husband passed away suddenly 14 months ago from an undiagnosed Pulmonary Embolism, still dealing with legal and financial issues and now a single mom to two daughters (ages 20 & 16) struggling with juggling work, kids, pets, a house, bills and everything else that comes with losing your partner.

    I also know what you mean by some people you haven't seen in a while not knowing. For 25 years my husband and I have received a "Happy Anniversary" card from a friend I worked with at another company out of state many years ago. In fact, I actually saw her and her daughter just a few weeks before my husband died passed away on May 10, 2012. But we don't have any mutual friends, she's not on Facebook, and I didn't know how to tell her that Stewart died. Sure enough, this past fall I received a "Happy Anniversary' card from her and her family. I emailed her on November 10, 2012 (6 months after he died) and explained what happened. It took a few days for her to respond but she was very understanding and said something that others had not: she grieved for us as a couple, she grieved for our two daughters who lost their father, and she grieved for him, because he was gone too soon.

  4. Oh, that first Christmas when the cards came and I had to write that he had passed away...I felt so, so badly for myself and maybe more for them...

    This weekend I went to graduation party for the son of a friend. It was a big family event and several times I overheard people saying -- yes, you know her, she was married to Bill - whisper - he passed away you know...

    I'm glad there was wine.

  5. I've avoided as many weddings and gatherings as I can, just can't say "Doug died" over and over again without taking me down. The sadness still overwhelms the joy of the day...when does it shift? How do you focus on the joy more than the sadness always creeping in? I want to move on and be a part of these celebrations, but I still dread each invitation, even after 3+ years.

    And now my daughter is planning her wedding, I'm trying to get enthused, but I can't imagine the forced smile I'm going to have to put on. At least I have months yet to keep psyching myself into being happy on her day, for her, even tho I'll be crying inside that her Dad can't walk her down the aisle.

  6. Janine, I can so relate to this post. I recently went to a wedding and ran into two couples who I hadn't seen in about 10 years. We knew them well as our children were involved in sports together. I thought it odd that after exchanging pleasantries and catching up on the statuses of the children, they never asked about my husband. I felt awkward but I never want anyone to think that we are divorced so I just blurted it out. They looked at me with pained faces and ackowledged that they had heard about his death. I guess they were fearful to bring it up to me expecting a meltdown. The tears were ready to roll and I had to excuse myself.

    Sometimes I just hate going to the "before" because it makes it that much more difficult to handle this "after".

    Thank you Janine!