It’s taken a long time—and a lot of therapy, journalling, and processing—to get to the point where I feel comfortable claiming ownership of my story. To even be able to call it that.
For months—years—after Tyler died, I struggled to tell other people about it. Because I could see the slap of the impact of my words on their face. My parents and I talk about it being like an assault, telling anyone for the first time all of the pieces of the puzzle.
I would say I’d lost my partner. Or that I was widowed (a term that I still have trouble associating with because we didn’t, actually, get married). I might tell someone Tyler had died suddenly, or that it was unexpected. But I wouldn’t talk about the heart attack. Or the fact it was five days before our wedding. Or that I was there when it happened and couldn’t do anything to save him.
It just seemed like too much to burden other people with.
It was too much to be burdened with.
Typing this now my kneecaps are shaking. My hands are trembling. I’m sweating. My heart is beating hard and fast. It’s probably going to be hard to talk or write about this for the rest of my life.
But it’s worth it. Because exposing myself to my story is helpful. I feel more and more comfortable every time I share it. Every person who tells me that it helps to read about the reality of grief encourages me to keep going. Every time someone reminds me that I’m not alone, I feel a little bit better.
I’ve always loved the opportunity to talk about Tyler. He was wonderful. Stubborn and generous. Musical and handy. Kind and funny. My best friend.
Talking about his passing, and how it affected me, has been hard. And it has been the most helpful thing I have done for myself since I got sober and moved back home.
Painting has also been incredible therapy. It’s been a way to connect with nature and the beauty of the world around me. It’s helped me get grounded in gratitude and given me a purpose again.
When I painted the “Letter to You” collection, I had no idea what I would do with the finished pieces. If it would even be possible to let them go. I held on to them, not knowing how to do the next part.
But then I got them framed and that helped me see how they could be a way to share not only my grief but also my path to healing. I saw that letting them go could be part of that healing.
I also decided to share the stories of the paintings. It’s part exposure therapy, part explanation of how each piece came to be. With every story I’ve shared, I feel like I’ve shed a layer of armour. I feel lighter with every touch of the “share” button.
Now that it’s all out there, I feel ready to live in the After. To live in the OK.
There will continue to be hard days. There will always be a gaping whole where Tyler belongs in my life. But I feel ready to make room for new joy, new experience, maybe even new love. Some day.
I wanted to thank you all for reading along and for your support as I’ve shared my story. It’s meant more to me than I can find the words for. And for me, that really is saying something.