Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.
I spent nearly two weeks in the UK with family and friends, and have returned feeling refreshed and relaxed. A break was just what I needed to face reality again. I am so glad that I went and if I’m honest, I really do wish I was there still. I can’t explain how amazing it was to be surrounded by people who are so very supportive. It was nice to be able to laugh without worrying that I was upsetting someone by not grieving “correctly” and it was nice to be able to laugh with people who would also allow me to cry.
I’ve read so many accounts of “nightmare in-laws” and truly feel lucky that I don’t have similar experiences. From the moment I arrived, I was welcomed and loved by Paul’s family – my family. They really made me feel as if I belonged, and were so amazingly kind and generous to me. There wasn’t a time when I was worried about how I would feel around them. And I was so pleased to feel at home with them.
It was my time in Scotland with Paul’s friends I was worried about. I feared that I would feel awkward spending time with his friends, but instead found that they were all welcoming and loving, too. I can truly see a time when I call them “my” friends. Their welcoming affections made my return to Scotland a peaceful and enjoyable trip.
Walking around the city where I met Paul – and fell in love with Paul – without him was difficult at first, but eventually I found a strange peace with it all. After all, I’d long fallen in love with the city before ever meeting Paul. It was a strange feeling of being happy and sad at the same time; but I knew in my heart that the happy feelings would eventually overshadow the sad.
At some point, I realised that I was enjoying myself completely. I had always thought that I would feel guilty for that, that I would feel like I was betraying Paul, even though I know more than anything that he wants me to be happy. But I didn’t feel guilty. What I found was that I can be happy and still miss Paul. I can enjoy life and be so full of joy even though on some level my heart aches for Paul, and will always ache for him. I don’t know if it was being in Edinburgh or being with friends, but I could really feel the best in myself coming out. And I liked that so very much.
Over the course of my trip, I realised that for more than seven months I’ve been afraid of the future. I’ve been afraid to really live my life, to make any changes, to think about a happy future. I was afraid that moving forward would mean that the past didn’t matter, that it meant that I didn’t need Paul to be happy. I’ve been afraid that moving forward without Paul would mean that I would spend the rest of my life sad and lonely. It’s strange, but I almost feel as if I’ve found permission from Paul’s family and friends to be happy. I know that they’ve wanted that for me from the start, but being with them and laughing with them really did help me see it fully for the first time.
I feel ready to face the future now. I know it will be scary, I know it will be sad and lonely at times, but I know that it is there and that I will survive it. I’ve returned home with a renewed focus and am finally ready to do the things I was afraid to do before. Or at least, I’ve told myself I’m ready. I’ve begun to look at the long list of things I’ve been avoiding until I felt I was ready, and will tackle them one at a time. I know that I am walking through this new future alone, but at the same time I know that there are others there to face the future with me.