3. My wife, who I had been with for 15 years died of breast cancer 10 years ago. I am since remarried (6 yrs) with two wonderful little girls. As had been said, it takes years to rebuild yourself and your life.
Initially you are surrounded by friends and family. Their concern and support allow you to grieve in the immediate aftermath. Eventually of course, they all return to their lives and you to yours. You wake up that first morning in a new world. You have to live with the quiet of the house, the vastness of the couch, the coldness of the bed, the embarrassment of purchasing of a single pork chop at the butcher. It is profound how alone and lost you feel. How many people look at you with pity when they see you. Your prior future plans are scrapped, of course. I still owned a house and it required just as much work as it did before, but now I had to do my late wife's share of the work. Things that I had learned to be helpless with. Cooking? Awful. Things that you relied on your spouse to remember (birthdays, that place we ate at, your friend's wife's name) are gone forever and not coming back.
Your perspective on life changes. For me, it was unexpectedly empowering. I was there for my wife during her illness. I was proud of how I stepped up to support her. In fact, supporting my terminally ill wife as they faced death is the proudest thing I have ever done. Having gone through such an awful experience, the little dramas of life that derail us in normal times, seemed easy to deal with. You learn, or at least I learned, to make peace with things I could not control. Why should I worry if I could not affect the issue. I learned to let go and focus on what I could control. My health, physically and mentally. My relationships with my friends and family improved likely due to more attention, but just as likely due to my newfound self-confidence and lack of drama. "You want to decide where we go and what we do?" "Sure, I'm just happy to spend time with you and do something fun." I no longer cared that a friend always wanted to control the agenda or for what reason. Seemed like such a small thing to worry about.
While this new, hard-earned, perspective on life helped in many circumstances, it does pose challenges as most of the world does not have the similar perspective. I used to be far more career driven and ambitious. I no longer live to work. I do my job well, certainly, but I don't worry about office drama or politics. Naturally, folks at work noticed and missed my "old version". As my life priorities changes, others didn't necessarily approve. How could I not apply for that promotion? Was I checking out? I heard these and similar for years. But my new perspective, in my mind, allowed me to focus on what I now deemed far far more important to me. My life. I was now aware of what an empty promise tomorrow is; that today is the only guarantee. Don't get me wrong, I fortunately didn't do anything stupid or short-sighted that would jeopardize my future. But I refused to put off to tomorrow, something I could just as easily do today. Travel, calling an old friend, smelling the roses, as it were. I appreciated life and it was indeed, a gift.
In many ways I was given the chance to "know then what I know now". That is, I had a new emotional maturity, courageousness, and perspective of someone who had lived 80 years, rather than 34. I was fortunate. I had a fantastic marriage with a wonderful woman. Some people never get that. Ever. Now I have a new wife and kids. They are wonderful and I appreciate them with a vigor that I would not have, nor could have, previously. I am living the life I have and living it the best way I can for me. I am not a victim. I consider myself embarrassingly fortunate.
I could go on as it really has been interesting to live through. How was dating again after years? How did I handle my late-wife's ghost in the context of my new marriage? How is my relationship with in-laws? But I'll leave it there, I suppose.