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It’s Okay To Not Be Okay


“You’re allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously” 

It’s a fair statement to say that I’ve navigated the storms of widowhood and finally gotten to a place of joy. It’s not been an easy road though. I’ve shed many a tears, wished for the death angel to reunite us, and even questioned my faith in God. Like many widows, I also struggled with guilt. I replayed every moment, each conversation over and over to figure out what I could have done to stop such a senseless outcome.

It’s been almost five years since my husband’s death. I’ve made peace with the fact that grief waves will continue to show up, often times without notice. I also realize I’ll have to accept they may always be a part of my life though I must try to not let them suck me under.

What I wasn’t expecting was that guilt would continue to haunt me despite my knowing with 100% certainty that there was nothing I could have done differently to save my spouse. My mind had come to that conclusion sooner than my heart. At this point—4 years, 10 months, and 16 days in—I thought both were at last on the same page and the guilt had all but vanished.

A couple days ago, I realized guilt hadn’t gone far. It was just quietly lurking in the background, waiting to hop aboard the latest rounds of grief waves as they washed ashore.

I was talking to a friend who witnessed a horrific accident. He shared how refreshing it was that there was a stranger there on the scene to hold the injured motorcyclist’s hand as he took his last breath.

It was there, in that very moment, that my mind wandered to my own spouse. How I wasn’t there on his final day on earth. There was no hand-holding or whispering of comforting words. And, though I’m grateful his brother was in the room, he wasn’t there helping him transition to the next life. Why? Because no one saw death coming.

I remember back when we were dating and he asked me to fly out to see him. I jokingly said, “You know I’ll always get to you regardless of where you are in the world.”

And on the day he probably needed me the most, I wasn’t there. He was in South America and I chose to delay my flight by a few days. I wonder had I not made that decision, simply because of my cycle, if I would I have known how sick he really was. Would I have demanded the hospital run more tests and not simply chalk it up to the flu? Would I have suggested we fly out to a more developed country to get medical advice?

You have to know that there isn’t anything you could have done.

I repeat those words to myself over and over. I know my husband holds me blameless for not being there as I doubt he himself knew how close he was to meeting his Maker. But I can’t help but to feel weighted down by the guilt brought on through the relaying of yet another person whose life ended much too soon.

I tend to get upset at myself for allowing my heart to take me down this road of guilt. My mind knows better but the pull on my heart often drowns out common sense and logic.

It’s been 1,783 days. Why am I still A) feeling guilty and B) beating myself up for even allowing the guilt to get the better of me?

Then I remember, “You’re allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously”.

I have to acknowledge my grief waves and each pang of guilt but not fall into the dreaded widow’s funk. I can’t second guess my progress or think one bad day means I get to throw in the towel and allow death to win. These feelings aren’t a sign of weakness or an inability to move through my grief in a healthy manner. They don’t get to tell me that I didn’t do right by my husband.

If the length of his life was solely determined by the love I have for him, he’d be here now, right next to me. We’d have a thousand more tomorrows.

I just have to face it. Some days you win and some days you lose. What’s most important is that you keep fighting!

Mom to a feisty preschooler, Kerry Phillips became widowed at age 32. She runs an online support group for young widows and widowers venturing back into the world of dating and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.

Click here to buy Kerry's book, The One Thing: 100 Widows Share Lessons On Love, Loss, And Life.