Earlier today, I was checking Facebook and noticed a post from my brother-in-law Chris announcing he had gotten engaged. It was a bit surprising to me, but I was overjoyed for him. You see, Chris lost his wife Debbie unexpectedly last year to complications from heart surgery. I attended Chris and Debbie’s wedding almost six years ago. In fact, Ed was his best man. Chris and Debbie shared a love that I have described as “lightning in a bottle”. Their love of each other was so evident just by being in their presence. The way they looked at each other, interacted with each other, and just their simple “being”. It oozed not just love, but a connection that comes around so rarely in life. And when it does, treasure it and cherish it. They did. Ed and I did. And we still do and always will.
No one could have ever predicted that both of Chris and I would have lost the loves of our lives less than five years after that special day that they took their vows. That Chris and I would become members of a club that no one wants to join. A club that I hope to never welcome anyone else into ever.
Very typical of Facebook, I went to post a congratulatory comment and was shocked to read such comments of hatred spewing the most awful of sentiments. These included goodies like “how dare you so soon” to “I’m glad someone so selfish is out of Debbie’s life”. I felt the knife go through my heart. I can’t even imagine how it felt to Chris. For anyone who is not part of the club, I promise you have no idea how hurtful this can be. Hatred on any given day is painful. This type of loathing for someone who has lost the love of their life and has found life and love again, is beyond anything you can comprehend because you have not lived it. You cannot judge. You see what I know that these haters don’t is this; it’s easier to NOT live life than it is to fully live it after loss. Existing after losing your partner is not easy but possible. Its day in and day out, the mundane, the grief, the loneliness. That one can actually do, and while not pleasant, it is do-able. The harder option is putting yourself out there to actually live again. To love again, to be bold, take chances and experience life for all it has to offer. THAT is what is actually downright hard.
Here’s what you don’t know that might help you to understand what your condemnation of my brother-in-law feels like:
- The pain that comes from losing your “person”. Your partner. Your team and often times, your better half. Facing a “new normal” that you didn’t ask for and trying to survive it sometimes one hour at a time, celebrating making it through one fucking day, because that can be an achievement. But make sure you add to that pain by calling him selfish for finding a way and a person to make it through the day with once again at a time when he wasn’t sure he was even going to live let alone love again.
- While you might have lost someone you love, you cannot compare the loss of your spouse with any other loss. The loneliness that comes from not getting that daily phone call or text, that kiss goodbye in the morning and welcome home in the evening. And most of all, coming home to an empty house on any given occasion. Because you see, after the funeral, you went back to your life of these “normal” activities leaving him to watch and yearn for it to come back, hoping to wake up from this nightmare and just go back to the way it was. Is it so wrong to find that type of happiness of life again? Because according to your Facebook responses to his engagement, how dare he do such a thing. And btw – you know exactly how long it should take him to even think about it, because you know better.
- How about guilt? The guilt from still being here while they are gone. The hindsight of medical decisions that were made and if they were the right ones. What if he or I had chosen differently? And is it our fault they died? But you see, here’s what I know, and I am sure Chris would agree with me. I would never wish this pain that I carry around every single day trying to figure out life on my worst enemy let alone the love of my life. I’ll take this pain for them because I would never want them to experience it. I’ll let them go because staying and experiencing such heartbreak is way more painful than staying. But go ahead and say hateful things to pile onto this guilt. I can assure you, nothing you can spew on Facebook can make either of us feel guiltier about living life without them questioning all of our life decisions then we already do.
- And speaking of guilt, how about going on a date? The guilt that comes from “cheating”. And forget about thinking about enjoying yourself on said date. What will everyone think? How can I possibly betray the love of my life? Oh right, they are not here any longer. I fulfilled my vows, but yet I still feel guilt. And other’s opinions add to that guilt. When does that pain go away? Let’s not even go down the path of sex at this point. Again, go ahead and condemn either Chris or myself for loving and feeling again. Nothing you can say is anything we haven’t told ourselves. Haven’t felt the pain of guilt ourselves. Questioned it along the way ourselves. Nothing you can say can make me feel more pain than I already to daily.
- Our hearts are designed for love and connection, and the beautiful thing that you learn when losing the love of your life is that love never ends. There is room in our hearts to love so very much and in so many different ways. We never not love those we lost. We learn to place new love right alongside our old love. No one is better or stronger than the other. They exist together. This is easier said than done, but once it’s figured out, the depths of our love can transcend just about anything. I truly believe this. I feel badly for those of you who spew hatred at this and think its not possible condemning those who have figured this out. I’m sorry it’s not on your acceptable timeline or done in the way you think matters. Your shallowness shows clearly, and I hope you do not have to learn this lesson in life through a life altering experience such as death.
I think the unkind sentiments share with my brother-in-law today have more to do with those being sad, angry and still grieving the loss of Debbie, and not the fact that Chris has found happiness again. Who would actually wish sadness, pain, loneliness and a life of heartbreak upon another person, especially one that was so loved by someone like Debbie? I have to believe this, and I feel deeply saddened for everyone’s loss. Debbie is a wife, mother, aunt, daughter, cousin, sister, friend etc. etc. Her loss is huge amongst us all and the pain for everyone goes deep. I am compassionate to everyone’s feelings right now, but I will not hesitate to protect Chris. I am one of the few that “gets it” having lost my husband, his brother, a few short years ago.
To Debbie’s daughters – I commend you on how you responded to this publicly on Facebook. Not that my opinion matters, but to share so openly your continued grieving of your mom along with your feelings of how this was shared with you. Your kindness and compassion, while sharing your discontentment of the “how” it was shared was eloquently stated. Others should take pause and learn from you all. I feel so deeply for the loss of your wonderful mother that you all are still experiencing. I wish you all peace in the time ahead.
My final thoughts are as follows….Our choices in this life are our own to make without judgement or criticism from anyone else. Your decisions are yours to make without judgement from anyone else. Before you stop and make judgement upon anyone else’s decisions, take a good hard look in the mirror and make sure you remember this. Act with kindness, love and compassion.
Wishing everyone continued strength, courage, wisdom…faith, love and hope.