Conflicted

Things can be replaced. 

People can’t. 

I was happily married for eight and a half years to an amazing man. I was completely in love with him. I still am. 

Our marriage wasn’t perfect all of the time, we had ups, and downs like all marriages do. We experienced some of the best days of our lives together, and held on through the hard times. A happy marriage takes a lot of work and mutual effort, and we put in a lot of time learning how to communicate effectively. We experienced so many of life’s major milestones as a team. 

And we were a GREAT team. 

It is safe to say that there was a huge portion of my heart that could have been labeled as belonging to RJ. He was my everything, and I was his. 

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As we had children, my love for him didn’t have to shrink to make room for our new arrivals. It simply grew to include a new tiny, beautiful human. That is the amazing thing about a person’s capacity to love.

Making space in your heart for someone new, never takes away from the ability to love those who were there before. There is always room for more.

When Ryan died, I felt like that part…the part that was all HIS was left a gaping festering wound, a hurt that could never be soothed. The worst kind of heartbreak.

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It it is still there. Aching, longing, and never feeling quite whole. 

I miss us. I miss HIM every. single. day. 

When I met my new husband, my chapter two, I grew to love him as well. It is strange to love two men at once. I love them in different ways, but equally. Because people aren’t replaceable. 

A new man in my life didn’t fill the hole that was left. He didn’t fix the ache, but he did stake out a new area in my heart, all his. He brought new happiness into my life, joy that wasn’t there before. 

And can we just acknowledge the fact that he deserves some kind of medal or award  for loving my conflicted heart? A heart that, while I fully give it to him, still has love for another? He is compassionate and understanding. He allows me to cry, vent, talk, and to grieve. He is my person, my safest place.

I love him fiercely. I can’t imagine life without him. 

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I get a lot of questions about this part of widowhood. And I get it. Even I am confused when I try to make sense of it all. 😉 

“Are you still sad?” Absolutely. 

“Are you happy again?” Yes I really am.

“Are you in love with two people?” Completely.

But how are these conflicting feelings able to coexist at the same time?

Many people assume that if I’m happy, and if I am finding joy in my life again, then I must not be sad anymore. Or if I am grieving, sad, or missing my husband, that I must not be very happy with my life today. Neither are true. 

Feelings aren’t always so black and white, the way I used to understand them. So much grey exists that I didn’t see before. My heart is constantly torn between missing the life I used to have, and the life I have fought to create over the past few years. I love both.  I also still feel a longing for the life that I never got to live as well. For dreams that will go unfulfilled, and for time I didn’t get to spend, time that I thought I had so much of.  

Sometimes, I stress about how things will be after this life. When I die, I cannot wait to be reunited with my RJ. I have imagined that moment hundreds of times in my head. I also cannot imagine a life without Ryan. I love him so much, and he truly has become a father to my children. They all are HIS children, even if his DNA is only in the makeup of 1/4. 🙂

Thankfully, I can leave figuring out any complications  to a perfect, merciful God.  As for now, I just find comfort in knowing that all will be made right one day.

I can be truly happy.

I can be incredibly sad.

And I can be in love with Ryan Bell and with Ryan Little without either of them replacing or competing for space in my heart.  (Seriously God has the best sense of humor 😉)

Both are perfect for me. 

And after becoming a widow three years ago now, I still am just taking it a day at a time. Life is messy and beautiful. And heartbreaking and wonderful. And that is what makes it such an amazing adventure. 🖤

A Little Update…(see what I did there?)

“It is very tempting to want to ‘hate’ grief,
to see it as the enemy, the unwelcome guest.
Instead, try opening yourself to grief…
ask it what it has to teach you.
Ask it what it is training you to do, to be.
Ask this uninvited teacher into your life
and notice how things begin to shift.
Remember that grief never asks you to let go of love.”

— Ashley Davis Prend

Grief, at times, has been debilitating painful for me. It has also been one of the greatest teachers.

It has taught me to never take a moment for granted.

It has taught me to love with my whole heart.

It has taught me to reevaluate the way I spend my time.

It has taught me that THINGS don’t matter. Like at all. But people DO.

It has taught me to not procrastinate…to take the vacation, to say all of the things, and to forgive without reservation.

This is not to say that I am perfect. I still struggle with all of these things to an extent. But when you experience a profound loss as I, and many others, have, your priorities really do shift.  I try so much harder now that I ever did before to live without regret.

That being said, we (The Little-Bell Fam) are doing something a little bit crazy–something that I would NEVER have been open to before loss.

We sold our house in Las Vegas. (insert happy dance here! it closed this week!)

My husband is working remotely.

We are homeschooling our preschooler, first grader, and fourth grader.

And…we are taking the kids on a pretty big adventure.

Our itinerary so far looks like this: Maui, Oahu, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii’s Big Island…then depending on how homeschooling is going we will either settle down in Montana, or just keep going! Either way, we will be gone for at least three months.

So right now we are homeless, homeschooling, staying in a hotel in Montana, and living out of 5 carry-on bags. Things are more than a little cramped, we are running low on clean underwear, and all of our things are packed into a storage unit. And I haven’t lost my mind YET! 😉

I told you. CRAZY.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a huge homebody, an introvert (not shy, but I need my space), and a worrywart. Like I worry about ALL the things. So this is an experience that will definitely take me far out of my comfort zone.

But we are going to take full advantage of this time together to become closer as a family, to have FUN, to be brave, to explore new places and ideas, and to just be. Without any distractions or obligations or responsibilites.

It is exactly what we need.

Memories are invaluable. I have learned that in the hardest way. But I am so grateful that I learned it early enough at the same time. So that I an make the most of the time I have with my kids while they are young. Because the days are long, but the years are short right?

We will mostly be posting about our adventures on the instagram page @destination_family if you want to follow along. ❤

Also, since I am posting an update, I thought I should include some updated pictures of Addie, Gracie, Hudson, and Bryson. They are all growing so fast…it’s hard to believe!

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The Illusion of Control

I feel my heart start to race.

My mouth gets dry.

My palms are clammy.

My chest is heavy, and breathing hurts.

I look around at my house, the piles of toys and laundry, and feel a level of overwhelm that I know isn’t normal. These are just normal “kid messes”…the result of actually LIVING in our home. (A crazy concept I know). And I know it really won’t take long to clean up, but the disorganization of it effects me immensely.

I am angry at myself for not being in control of my house.

I am more angry myself for not being in control of my emotions. Once again I am allowing myself to be consumed by anxiety.

But I am not “allowing” it. It just happens. And as hard as I try to change my methods of fighting it off, relaxing, or changing my mindset, it comes back whenever I feel a lack of control.

I have struggled with anxiety for my entire life.

It has taken different forms over the years. As a teen it flared up often resulting in a decrease of appetite, weight loss, intense nausea, ulcers, and a nervous feeling in my chest and stomach. Few people knew about my symptoms, and when I went to the doctor for help, he told me that I had an eating disorder. It was embarrassing, and untrue, and I just tried to pretend that I was ok after that. I would throw up in the school bathrooms, and would refuse to eat until dinner time, because the nausea was so debilitating.

After I got married and started having kids, my anxiety shifted from physically feeling ill all of the time, to perfectionism. I cleaned my house from top to bottom several times a week. I had a laminated page of chores that I gave myself, and I completed each on in order and crossed them off with a dry erase marker. At the end of the day, I felt like the marks on that page were a reflection of myself. If my house was a mess, I was a mess inside.

However, as more children came into our family, I realized that perfectionism was becoming increasingly impossible. I couldn’t be a good mother to my children and also have a perfect home. So I ripped up my meticulously planned to-do’s and tried to take on a more relaxed approach to housekeeping. I was successful for a while. And then Hudson was born.

A few months after my third child was born, I was a mess. I was crying every day. I felt empty, and exhausted. I was waking up in cold sweats in the night with my fingers tingling. I was obsessing over non existent threats to my children. I resented my husband for having, “a life” while I was trapped in our home completing the same seemingly insignificant tasks day in and day out. I felt like I wasn’t living up to my own expectations as a wife, home maker, or especially as a mother.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was dealing with Postpartum anxiety and depression.

Finally after months of feeling off, I called my doctor, and began using essential oils religiously. I started exercising, and I started making time for myself. My husband was so sweet and understanding, although I am sure I was not the most fun person to be married to at the time. Finally, when my son was 7 or 8 months old, the feeling faded, and I was able to feel more like myself again.

And then when my son was only fourteen months old, my husband passed away.

And anxiety and fear was all that I could feel.

I was so perfectly aware that life was anything but predictable or something that I could control. I had just helplessly watched my husband die, and I had to try to comfort my devastated little children. There was nothing I could do to take away their pain.

I was terrified about our future. I didn’t know how to be a mom and a dad, or how to provide for my family. I had been uninvolved financially, and had no way of asking my husband for the help I so desperately needed from him.

I couldn’t control anything as far as my own emotions went either.

I was angry at myself in the weeks after Ryan died, because no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t cry. I was in so much shock that I would sit on the floor of my shower and just stare into space, begging the tears to come so I could find some kind of release, and hating myself for not being able to get a single one to fall from my eyes. And then when the tears DID come, they were unstoppable. I cried at the grocery store, I cried at church, I cried in front of my children, I cried ALL OF THE TIME. I lost my appetite completely, was vomiting regularly again, and sleep was irregular and difficult to relax into.

I remember coming home from Ryan’s funeral, and furiously organizing and cleaning out drawers and baskets in my house. And then, when I was on my own as a single mom I was no where near functioning as normal, and my house was a disaster too.

I have never felt such a lack of control over every aspect of my life. For me, it was completely terrifying. My methods of dealing with my anxiety were obsolete.

For the next few months, my fingers would go numb, my arms and legs would ache, and felt like a constant weight was on my chest. I had so many anxiety attacks that I felt exhausted. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I was grieving, and my mental health had never suffered more. During those first few months, I tried a few medications for my anxiety, but then decided that I didn’t like the way I felt on those either. I went to grief therapy for a short time, but wasn’t ready to truly open up. I hadn’t even begun to process the horrific things that I had seen and experienced.

It was intense, and truly effected my over-all health.

Thankfully, as time has passed, the anxiety has lessened. Now two and a half years later, I rarely wake up with numb fingers and achy arms. I never have full blown panic attacks anymore.

But today, a messy house was all that it took to spark the symptoms that I have come to know so well. That intense feeling of overwhelm and lack of control. And now, when I feel those symptoms, I also feel so much grief. My anxiety has become a grief trigger. I have nightmares all of the time. I am SO afraid another bad thing is going to happen to my family. And often when I am consumed by anxiety, I find myself sobbing and reliving the trauma associated with my husband’s death.

Anxiety has taught me many things about myself.

I am SO imperfect.

But, it has also taught me where to turn when I need peace and to feel safe.

I have come to understand that fear and faith truly cannot exist at the same time.

So now, when I feel that familiar ache and tightness in my chest, I pray.

Well, I stress clean, AND I pray. 😉

And I know that although I really can’t control much, there is someone who IS in control.

And he is perfect.

And he loves me no matter how imperfect or weak I am.

HE is my new way of coping. ❤

Baby

My plan was three babies, all two years apart.

There were a few bumps in the road on my path to motherhood, and my timeline was a bit off, but eventually I had two darling little girls, and one beautiful baby boy. He was the final piece of our family, I thought at the time. Our family was complete.

And then, when he was about a year old, I had that familiar nagging. That feeling that a mother gets when there is another little one waiting to be born… but I wasn’t ready.

Pregnancy is difficult for me. I am forever grateful for the blessing of motherhood, and for the opportunity I have had to grow my little children inside of me, especially when I know that so many women struggle with infertility. But the process of bringing a new life into the world has been, in my experience, a lot of stress and pain. I have miscarried three times, I have pretty intense nausea that lasts the entire nine months, I have to get injections weekly to prevent preterm labor, I have been on bedrest for two of my pregnancies, and I get contractions for months that I constantly have to monitor and stop with medication and rest so as not to have a preterm baby.

I remember telling my sister in law in the fall of 2015…”I think I’m supposed to have another baby, but I don’t want to tell RJ. I just can’t physically or emotionally do it yet.”

I didn’t ever get the courage to express my feelings to him. I never told him that I felt like there was another baby waiting to join our family. I probably would have eventually, but shortly after that conversation with my sister in law, my husband had a massive stroke, and passed away.

After he died, I convinced myself that I had been wrong.

Why would I be prompted to have another baby, if God knew that my husband was going to be leaving us? It was impossible, and it didn’t make sense, so I talked myself into believing that I was done having children, and that I had been mistaken. I gave away my crib, change table, and many of my big baby essentials. I grieved the loss of my husband, and a small part of me also grieved the child that would never be.

And then life changed again for our little family. I met and married my current husband, an amazing man who had been waiting for so long for a family of his own. When we married, we talked and both knew that we wanted to have a baby together.

But I was terrified.

After you experience profound loss, it is hard to imagine good things happening sometimes. I had trained myself to expect the worst, and to hope for the best. My body had been under a significant amount of stress, and I physically was unsure how long it would take for me to get pregnant.

But what scared me even more, was the thought of enduring yet another miscarriage. Each loss had been difficult in it’s own way, and each had left me hurting and aching. I didn’t know if I could emotionally handle any more than I was already facing.

I didn’t think I could deal with yet another loss.

As scared as I was however, I knew that it was meant to be. I had already had it confirmed to me. Before all of the trauma in the hospital, or dating as a widow, or before I even knew what my future was to hold, God knew. He had been preparing me all along. I knew that the prompting that I’d had earlier wasn’t a mistake. I knew that I had to rely on faith instead of fear.

7 months later, I took an at home pregnancy test. The answer was loud and clear, “PREGNANT.”

Since that day, it hasn’t been easy. We had a couple of scares in the beginning, where the Doctor wasn’t sure that this pregnancy would be viable. I have struggled with all of the same preterm labor symptoms and other conditions that I had in previous pregnancies.

But man do I feel like the luckiest girl ever.

The luckiest.

This baby feels like a ray of sunshine after a very long storm.

And although a few years ago, I never could have imagined the trauma and change that our family would be experiencing, to me, this baby represents everything good that has come from such indescribable pain.

This baby is proof that hope exists after loss.

This baby is proof that God knows me, and hears me.

This baby is proof that love makes a family.

Baby boy is already so loved. By family in heaven, and by our family here on Earth. I have no doubt that just as Ryan has loved and has taken my children on as his own, RJ loves and knows this baby too.

We are a family. Perhaps a bit of a complicated blended family, but a family that loves fiercely, and a family that was always meant to be together.

Baby boy, I can’t wait to meet you. ❤

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How we announced to the world that we were expecting…”It’s time to ‘spill the beans!’ Baby little is due April 2018″
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12 Weeks
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14 1/2 Weeks
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15 1/2 Weeks
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18 1/2 Weeks
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20 Weeks
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Gender Reveal…it’s a boy!
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21 Weeks
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22 Weeks
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26 Weeks
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27 Weeks
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This picture was taken at 32 Weeks… today I am 33 Weeks. 🙂 Not long now.

xoxo

-Monica

 

Growing

There is no stopping time.

I’ve seen how babies grow into toddlers, toddlers become preschoolers, and preschoolers somehow morph into little people who can read, write, and make their own lunches.

You really don’t notice the changes when you are with them. A tooth falls out, a pair of shoes suddenly are too tight, or the hair that was once chopped way too short by an older sibling, somehow fits into pigtails again. 😉

The changes happen so quickly, and yet so gradually that it surprises me every time that I realize one of my children has outgrown their wardrobe. Today was one of those days where Gracie got dressed for school, and I noticed that those sneaky 4-5T tops were a bit too short.

I pulled a basket of Addie’s hand-me-downs down from the top of her closet. I emptied the closet full of clothing that Gracelyn could no longer wear. I filled her cubbies with a new variety of tops, jeans, dresses, and sweaters.

And I cried.

Like the ugly, shoulders shaking,  tears streaming kind of sobbing.

Moms. You will get me on this one: you know that feeling you get when you fold up your baby’s little newborn clothes for the last time, knowing that he or she will never quite be that small again? That feeling that tugs at your heartstrings, and reminds you that babies don’t keep?

It was like that.

Kind of.

But so much worse.

Gracelyn is the same age that Addison was, when her Dad passed away.

She is six and a half years old.

As I pulled out and looked at each item of clothing, all I could see was little six year old Addie.

I could see her cuddled up on the couch with her Dad.

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I could see her laughing at the aquarium on our last family vacation together.

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I could see her running home from school to show us the pumpkin she had picked herself on a field trip.

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I could see myself curling her pretty red hair and helping her get dressed for family pictures..the ones that were taken only days before Ryan got sick.

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And I could see her crawling into my bed in her pink nightgown. Sobbing, because she missed her Daddy who had gone to heaven only days before. Then finally falling asleep, while she hugged the teddy bear “Daddy” gave her when he had to say goodbye.

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When I saw each item of clothing, memories flooded through my mind, and my heart broke again for the little girl that had worn them last.

It hurt to remember.

And it hurt to see another physical reminder of just how much has changed since that difficult time.

Years have passed.

Teeth have fallen out.

Shoes have gotten too tight.

Shirts have gotten too short for little tummies.

My babies have grown, and he has missed so much. We have missed HIM so much.

And yet time moves forward. And so do we.

Gracie will wear those same clothes, and she will make new memories. And THOSE memories will be happy ones.

And I will think of her Daddy while she wears them. ❤

 

 

 

Dream

I had a dream last night.

I was with my RJ, driving along a country road.

He liked expensive cars, and we were riding in one that went especially fast. The farther we went, the faster he drove. I began getting anxious, nagging him to slow down, and telling him that it wasn’t safe to be going at such a high speed. Suddenly, a large ravine blocked our way on the road. Without hesitation, he sped up even faster and told me that he was going to jump the gap. We crashed and rolled in slow motion, and the car was completely totaled as we came to a stop on the other side of the ravine.

We were unharmed, but I was furious.

I screamed, ranted, and yelled at him. RJ stood there calmly, which exasperated me even further. I told him that he should have listened to me, and that his recklessness would end badly one day. I told him I would never ride in another car with him again.

And then he grinned.

It was the sheepish, boyish grin that I have MISSED so much. That smile was one he had used often on me. All of my frustration fell away, and somehow I was hugging him.

I started crying, and through my sobs told him how I miss him every day.  I told him that I would always love him, even though I am sometimes angry with him for leaving.

When the hug ended, I playfully punched him in the stomach and smiled back at him.

And then I woke up. My new husband was grimacing, and I realized that I had unknowingly punched him in my sleep.

This morning we laughed as I told him about my dream, and I apologized for hitting him. “Oops…wrong Ryan.” I said. And he laughed and kissed me on his way out to work.

Not many men would willingly choose a situation like ours.

Loving me means loving the scars and the wounds that come along with me…and I have plenty of those to show from the past couple of years.

Loving me means adopting my three little ones. Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that I have the best little babies in the world, but three kids at once is just a lot for anyone to take on. And he has done it so beautifully.

Loving me means showing compassion, understanding, and patience. It means consoling a wife who is still grieving for her husband. It means trips to the cemetery, and countless prayers for “Daddy in Heaven” to be successful in his work on the other side. It means celebrating the birthday of the man that was before him, and being involved in helping my children to remember him daily.

Loving me means accepting the fact that I still dream about another man who I miss desperately, while understanding that my love for RJ takes nothing away from our current relationship.

It means putting aside jealousy or pride. It means selflessness. I honestly don’t know how he does it some days. Complicated doesn’t even begin to describe our situation, yet he insists that HE is the lucky one.

I love him so much for being the one who holds me when I cry, for bringing so much happiness and adventure into my life again, and for laughing with me when I punch the “wrong Ryan” in my sleep.

I love you Ryan. ❤

 

 

 

Ordinary.

The Vegas heat has kept us inside or in our pool most of the summer. This week has been unseasonably cool, and we have been taking advantage of some much needed time outdoors. I snapped a few pictures during our walk today, and as I look through them now, I  just feel incredibly grateful.

I feel blessed to be here with my family. I soak up every regular old day, knowing that life can turn upside down in a moment. Knowing that every day is a gift.

Today we are happy (even with the bit of bickering in the back seat).

Today we are healthy.

Today, we are together.

Ordinary days are the ones I live for now. ❤

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Sun

I haven’t been crying much lately.

The invasive memories and flashbacks that used to haunt me constantly, have faded into the back of my mind.

My anxiety has calmed, and I haven’t had to wake with numb fingers and a pounding chest in months.

I haven’t felt the overwhelming need to write out my feelings, to give them a home anywhere but inside of myself.

I miss my RJ every day, but somehow lately, I can look at pictures of him without completely breaking down.

I can see him in my children, Hudson’s little profile when we sit in church, in Gracie’s stubborn frown, or in Addison’s smile and crinkle of her eyes. I can look at beautiful parts of him within my kids, without my heart breaking into a million pieces.

I know that healing will most likely take a lifetime, and I know that I have many days ahead where waves of grief will knock me to the ground. With triggers like October around the corner, Gracelyn’s birthday, and the holidays soon approaching, I fully expect to be a sobbing mess again soon. But today I am thankful for a break in the clouds, even if it is just for a time. It is a welcome relief to my tired mind and aching heart.

I see progress. I see hope. I see brighter days ahead.

I see the sun again. ❤

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Hindsight

There are moments in each of our lives that change everything.

Pivotal points that make us who we are. I can look back and pinpoint each monumental milestone in my life:

The day that I met a certain blond haired returned missionary on a blind date.

A cold February day when I happily promised to be his forever.

The birth of a beautiful red haired little girl–the day I became a mother.

A phone conversation with a friend that lived in Las Vegas.

I look back on these moments with fondness and appreciation. I know that each decision and twist of fate helped to create a life that I treasure.

But there are other moments. Moments of indescribable heartache:

A damaged relationship or loss of trust.

An ultrasound that confirmed that two little hearts had stopped beating.

A final rise of his chest, and then silence. And then slowly taking the blanket that I had used to cover him, and walking out of the hospital wrapped in it’s warmth.

It is interesting just how God uses trials and joy to mold us into the people that he wants us to be. And often, the hard times have changed my outlook so much more than the pleasant ones. I truly believe that we knew and agreed to the trials that we would face in this life. Although sometimes I wish I could jump back into pre-mortal life and shake myself, I know that my individual challenges were hand picked for me by the being who knows me better than I could ever know myself.

During painful times, I beg for relief. I focus all of my energy on “feeling better,” but looking back I don’t regret any of it. Each silent tear, and shaky breath, and shattered dream has shaped me into the person who I am today. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Hindsight is always twenty/twenty right? But that doesn’t mean that future trials aren’t just as difficult to accept as previous ones. Hard is hard, no matter what you believe. This life wasn’t meant to be comfortable, for it is in the moments of discomfort and stretching beyond what we thought was possible, that we grow the most.

What I have found however, is that if we let it, grief can be so much more than pain and suffering. It can be the ultimate teacher of what truly matters. Our hearts can grow. And pain, although still vivid and real, can be used to find a deeper appreciation, a new perspective, unshakable faith, and a strong desire to live an intentional life.

One of my favorite quotes, one that I review when I need a little pick-me-up on dark days is by Orson F. Whitney:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”

The choice really is up to us, whether we allow the darkness of grief to keep us stuck in a dark place, and to take our hope, or whether we use our pain to become stronger and better versions of our past selves.

Trust God first. Understand later.

He knows what he is doing.

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The face of a widow.

It has been almost twenty two months since my husband passed away. Today, as I was driving home with my kids from the grocery store, a song came on the radio that reminded me of him. I took a deep breath as I tried to fight back the inevitable tears that were soon flowing down my face. My kids were laughing  in the back and asked me to look at something. I quickly wiped my face, and smiled as I turned, knowing they could worry if they saw me crying.

This is something I do often.

Hurry and hide the tears.

Smile.

Everything will be ok.

Except in that moment, I felt anything but fine. I felt so indescribably sad.

I have become an expert at faking it until I make it.

So I am here to tell you, that grief has so many different expressions. The face of a widow has much to tell.

It’s a look of pleading and desperation as she begs God to save the person she loves more than her own life.

It is kissing her husband for the last time, as silent tears stream down her cheeks.

It’s a blank stare as her world moves in slow motion, while the rest of the world remains seemingly unaware that everything is somehow less vibrant than before.

It’s the look of disbelief as she lays in her bed. Alone, for the first time, she stares into the darkness waiting to hear soft snoring beside her. In the silence, she hugs the pillow that still smells like him.

It’s in the tears that are unseen, washed away by drops of water as her shoulders shake and she sobs violently on the shower floor. She doesn’t want her children to have to watch her fall completely apart.

It’s in the look of longing as she stands in her closet, touching each item of clothing and smelling a half used bottle of cologne.

It’s an angry outburst. She is well beyond her breaking point.

It’s a forced smile at her children as they call their Daddy’s phone to hear his voice the only way that they can now…on an old voicemail recording. Then, after enduring all she can, finding an excuse to leave the room so she can scream into her pillow.

It’s holding the most precious parts of what are left of her husband in her arms as they beg and cry for their Daddy who is in Heaven. Though she tries, her own tears are impossible to contain, because she feels so discouraged, helpless, and broken herself.

It’s a clenched jaw and an understanding smile when someone mentions a fight with their spouse.

It’s the moment, when after kneeling in sincere prayer, her heart is full of peace and her eyes close while she just absorbs the moment.

It’s the look of determination, as she drags herself out of bed to start yet another day.

It is the tears of overwhelming gratitude as she realizes just how much good is in the world. She know she will never be able to repay all of the kindness, but she vows to herself that she will do her best to pass it forward when she is able.

It is the face of pure exhaustion. Pale, with dark circles hovering under her eyes.

It’s the smile that masks all of the pain, and that reassures others that she is doing ok.

And then, one day, it is the smile that surprises her. It feels foreign, but it is genuine.

It’s red eyes and smeared makeup. Or sometimes immaculate makeup and a smile. She doesn’t remember him any less in either moment.

It is a look of hope as she moves forward.

My tears are more managable these days, and smiles come more easily. But oh how my heart still misses my RJ. Grief is exhausting, and at times I feel so very alone. So many of my battles are fought within my own heart and mind.

But with so much divine help, I have made it through six hundred and fifty five of the hardest days of my life.

So I will wipe my tears, and think of all of the reasons that I have to truly smile.

It really is all going to be ok.

Monica&Ryan00284