The title of this post is a quote from one of my favorite television shows, “This Is Us.” Yes, the show about the family that learns how to survive after the father dies from a heart attack. Just like my family learned how to survive when my husband died from a heart attack three years ago. So, in some ways, watching that show is like self-imposed torture, as if I’m purposely reliving the worst moments of my life. But, in more important ways, the show is validating and comforting. The writers really get it. They’re spot on. All of the time.
One main theme of the show is about how grieving doesn’t end. It’s not as if one day we wake up and say, “okay, I’m finished with grieving and it’s time to move on.” Instead, the loved one who we’ve lost becomes sewn into the very fabric of our daily existence.
My husband is a part of everything I do, and I feel that I am honoring his life and my memory of him by making sure that he is never forgotten. My 5 year-old daughter was just about to turn 2 when he died – so all of her “memories” of him are memories that my family and I have shared with her. She knows not to crash her scooter into the living room wall because Daddy and her brother built this beautiful house for us. When I ask her if she knows who was really good with tools, or who made the best french toast in the world, or whose feet she has, she knows the answer. It’s Daddy.
So, back to the quote that tops this post, since my husband is woven into the fabric of my life going forward, the happiest moments of my life will also be a little sad. This past weekend, my husband’s oldest daughter became engaged to be married. And her father, my husband was painfully absent from this important milestone. So, reverting to the only coping mechanism that’s consistently worked for me, I made a point to acknowledge the elephant not in the room. (I can literally hear him saying, “did you just call me an elephant? You got jokes?!”) I made sure to tell my stepdaughter how proud he would be of her, and how he would have definitely approved of the man she chose to be her husband.
We cried about it, but I’d say we were better off for acknowledging that the happiest moments are also a little sad. It felt better to air that truth, rather than pretending that it wasn’t happening. And, then, I sat down in an Adirondack chair in the shade of a big tree at the engagement party, enjoyed the surprisingly cool summer breeze, watched as a butterfly flew by, and enjoyed a strong cocktail and large slice of cake with family and friends as my stepdaughter smiled her way through the day.