I knew I was going to be OK when the phrase “This cannot be my life” started to take on a new meaning.
In the first two years after Tyler’s death, I said it all the time. Because everything felt so wrong. I wasn’t where I was supposed to be in any way. I was in the wrong province, for starters. The wrong job. The wrong home. I had the wrong last name. The wrong marital status. I couldn’t reconcile the life I’d imagined for myself as we planned our wedding with the reality I was then facing.
I spent a lot of time trying to replicate what had made me happy before I knew Tyler, thinking that would make me feel better. That I would somehow be able to fit back in to what I wanted back then. But that felt just as wrong as anything else. I wasn’t that person anymore. Just like I was irrevocably altered by my loss, I was also changed by having loved Tyler.
So, I decided to start from scratch. I tore everything down. Left my work as a writer, my cool central apartment, my attempts to clutch at happiness. I gave up drinking to cope as I decided that I needed to actually feel what I was going through. And—most importantly—I moved back home to my family. And I started to figure out who I am now, in the After.
In those first few months of living at home, my counsellor and I spent a lot of time talking about how I felt I needed to work on getting back to the real world. It was something that terrified me. I was so afraid of life going back to normal and finding a way to navigate that without Tyler. She suggested, ever-so-gently, that there was no such thing as a ‘real world’ and that I had the opportunity to create a life that was safe for me, without him, with the things I need to be happy built right in.
I think I’ve managed to do that. To rebuild from the ground up a life that incorporates the things that are most important to me: my family, nature, exercise in the fresh air, water, yoga, writing, community, friendships, and—to my surprise as much as anyone’s—painting.
These days, I have this overwhelming sense that I really am exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m meant to do. It’s not what I ever imagined AND it’s perfect.
I’m still grieving and healing, but that’s part of my life now. Part of who I am. I’m vulnerable and strong, introverted and people-y, mourning and excited about what life still has to offer.
And when I look around and think “This cannot be my life”, it’s not out of dismay or lack of recognition. It’s out of sheer disbelief that I can possibly be this lucky, have it this good, feel this fulfilled and content.
Now, I say it out of gratitude for the life I am living: messy and imperfect, filled with love and loss, and joyful beyond anything I ever dreamed I would get to experience again.