Saturday, October 11, 2014

Healing with Pride

Photo © Sarah Treanor / Ceramic Wounded Heart © Beverly Mangham

I've been thinking a lot lately about accomplishment, and just how important it has been in helping me to heal and learn to live again. I'm a few months into my third year of being widowed now. Since he died, there have been dozens and dozens of leaps into the unknown. Like most of you, a lot of what I have accomplished I did not have a choice in; planning his funeral, making it through all of the "first"s of year one, or even just getting out of bed on the days when I had only about one cell left in me that was strong enough to do so.

It can be so easy to forget to look back at all the things we've accomplished, especially when we're in pain. Even though these past few years are full of things I never wanted to accomplish - things I never wanted to be able to say I have done - each one of them still makes me feel incredibly proud. It's a kind of pride unlike any other. Because his death did break me… it completely broke me. And for a long time, I was terrified I might not survive. Yet here I am, somehow, learning to live a beautiful life once more and discovering that he is still an integral part of that. And I am proud - not because it didn't break me - because it broke me and I am still here. 

There are also the other things I'm proud myself for since he died… the ones I did get to choose. I have done things I never imagined I'd do because they are things he never got to do - like open-cockpit aerobatics in a WWII era biplane (I am still astounded that I did this!). I've achieved lifelong dreams that he and I talked of often - like having my first solo art show, selling my photography for the first time and visiting my first national park. I've even achieved a few new goals that the old me NEVER would have set for herself - like taking up Crossfit and, just recently, doing competitions (a big deal for a woman who hasn't done anything athletic since the age of twelve! No, seriously).

When we're talking about building our broken selves back up - pride in who we are and what we can do is a vital part of it. Because that pride - along with trust - breeds hope. A hope that "maybe, just maybe… I can survive this." which turns into "Maybe I actually can have a happy life again" and becomes "I am building a happy life again, no matter what".

Whether it's the things we never imagined having to do, or the things we never imagined we could do - it's really all about one thing: surprising ourselves and never forgetting it. There is so much healing in sitting down each day to allow yourself to feel pride in all you've accomplished. Going hand-in-hand with that is continuing to give yourself new things to accomplish each day that you can feel proud of. Things that allow you to surprise yourself. Even if that something seems very small, we all know - in grief - no accomplishment is small.

There is also, I've begun to realize, another aspect of accomplishment which I didn't expect to have after my fiancé died; him. He is interwoven into every single thing I achieve. Not only because his death has changed everything about my life, but because I still feel his pride in all I do. Death has not changed that. Sure, it still really sucks that I cannot call him or see his face light up when I tell him. That will always suck. But I still feel how proud he is and I decide to focus on that.

At first, accomplishing things was just survival… a thing I had to do. But over time, I'm discovering it to be one of the most important parts of building a meaningful and happy new life that includes him in it. With every moment that we surprise ourselves, we come to know, love and appreciate ourselves more fully and see our partner's place in our lives more clearly. Each accomplishment becomes a gift from their afterlife to our after life - ensuring they never really leave our side.

I challenge you to get out there and surprise yourself (and your partner) today. Big, small, doesn't matter. Spend ten minutes (or all day!) allowing yourself to feel proud for all you have accomplished up to this point of your journey... And feel how proud your partner is too. A little pride can go a long way.


  1. Replies
    1. Trying is HUGE Susan, and not easy. I'm proud of you today. Xoxo

  2. dear Sarah,

    I am going to hold these words very close to my heart: "each accomplishment becomes a gift from their after life to our after life - ensuring they never leave our side.". I feel Hugh's presence, and it makes me more aware of what I need to work towards to be the woman I know he knows I can be. when I am confused and can't seem to find my way, I do "writing for my life" segments, scattered amongst the letters I write to him. it may all be stream of consciousness in the beginning - I struggle to continue writing - it's bloody hard work! - but I can feel him willing me to forge ahead to keep my head in the game, and usually a pattern emerges and it's like my fingers begin to fly, tippy-tapping on the keyboard, as those patterns become something I can recognize and resurrect from the depths of being so discombobulated. I know I've hit pay-dirt - sometimes I begin to cry with relief, or maybe I simply feel the horrible weight of the anvil pressed hard upon my heart is lifting because I needed to give voice to what I feel, and that is enough to help center myself once again. I never give up - how could I when I am blessed to have my Beloved right here with me, knowing he wants the best for me?

    I once spoke of what I imagine it would be like if I had died first. I know I would want him to know that I would be ever-present and would do all I was able to prove that I would find him, that I would try hard to guide him through all the unspeakables of grieving. he lived his life alongside mine, and we achieved such us-ness, such mutually gorgeous and delicious love. and both of us knew, we just KNEW that our love would never die. so believing and trusting that who we really are - pure love, our souls - makes it a sacred promise; whoever is left behind, weighted down still with our being human, must try, then try more, then try even harder to assure we give credence to our truth, and by any signs devised, we demonstrate that truth. it puts us into a lovely syncopation, so comforting, that knowing beyond any doubt, he is here for me, and I must be worthy and grateful that though I cannot see my Beloved, I can still feel and hear him loving and guiding me to my new after life.

    thank you, dear Sarah for such a beautiful post. I am happy and I am grateful for your eloquence, for such stunning insights, and for the impetus to continue on and to believe there is hope and, yes, even a promise if we look hard enough, and empty our hearts and minds of the detritus so we can fully listen, that we are not alone.

    much love,

    Karen OOxxOO

    1. Wow Karen, thank you so much for this beautiful letter. I am so honored you shared this. You are a beautiful writer and I am so glad you ARE writing and expressing - because you obviously have a gift with words. The way you describe your love with Hugh sounds almost like reading words of my own - I have always felt so strongly that we are still in this together, and that each step down this path is a team effort - just VERY long-distance!

      Thank you again, brave sister <3 You inspire me today

  3. Sarah,
    Your words are powerful and ones I need to hear. I'm very much in survival mode since Chuck died and I'm doing what I'm doing because it must be done. Others remind me of the huge things I've accomplished and how far I've stepped outside my comfort zones and I acknowledge it but don't take it in because none of what I've done really means anything to me.

    Your words remind me that I need to really honestly look at my life since he died and absorb into my heart how proud he would be of me.

    May you be blessed as you walk this path of widowhood with all of us~
    alison (Wednesday's writer)

    1. Thank you Alison for writing. I'm so glad it resonated with you. I sure know that I am always needing reminders to be proud of myself, like each of us, i'm my own worst enemy at times! So i figured I'd give a reminder to others this week. Be proud. You deserve to feel that. Keep on keeping on sister! xoxo

  4. Sarah,
    Everyday I write a my journal at least three things that I am thankful for. I also have a section I call Ta-Dah. It is there so that I recognize the accomplishments that I have made each day.

    Thanks for encouraging us to recognize the things that we have done no matter how big or how small. Progress is progress and it all counts.

    Maria O.