I wish I could tell you that I was brave and strong when my husband, Tim, died after I had just beaten ovarian cancer. The truth is I nearly took my own life, a product of going slightly mad. As Joan Didion captures so well after the sudden death of her husband in her iconic memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, you don’t think logically when impacted by so much loss.
That despair didn’t last long. How did I turn this around? I don’t know, but a little voice in my head said, “Wait. You were happy once, let’s see what happens.”
I’m glad I waited to see what happened. I took one step at a time, day by day, and slowly my spirit began to recover. I went to the gym; I went for walks. I consoled my stepdaughter and I worked happily on my husband’s memorial service because it was all about honoring him. I continued to work with my clients, I saw friends, I had little appetite, but I kept to healthy food choices. That gave me physical energy I could draw on when my emotional energy could find a way to surface again.
And then in the most unusual context possible, I found new love. David was the only person at my husband’s memorial service I didn’t know. He was there on his wife Alice’s behalf, a woman who was Tim’s high school sweetheart and who was leaving David after 34 years of marriage.
After the service, he told me a sweet story about how Tim had been grounded by his strict Quaker parents, but had climbed out his second-story window to keep a senior prom date with Alice. The story made my sad heart smile.
He called me four months later for a date. I accepted, but as we began seeing each other I struggled with guilt and with my still grieving state of mind. It was too soon, but I didn’t want to miss this almost miraculous opportunity to remake my life. It comforted me that the thread that ran through our meeting was Tim.