Guest post by Jan McDaniel
This article first appeared April 2019: mindfulnessandgrief.com/what-do-i-do-now/.
After my husband died, I was not even sure I existed anymore. We had been married for thirty-three years, and my identity was tied closely to his. After some time spent in shock and later feeling numb and disconnected from everything around me, I asked myself what I was supposed to do now.
For a while, I could not bear to watch a sunrise or sunset or look at clouds or the stars because he had loved these things so much, and we had enjoyed them together. But one day I saw a most beautiful cloud that stretched across the sky in the shape of an angel, with wings outspread. That was the first moment I really looked up and felt close to him instead of stricken with sorrow.
I learned how to appreciate the beauty of nature on my own. I would see something extraordinary and think it might be sent by him. Whether it was or not, I still felt close to him. And now I look for beauty, for messages.
Depending on the day, I might also feel the pain of missing him in a bittersweet moment. But as I healed, I began to wonder what I could do with my life. It wasn’t hard to see that I needed to live for my children. And myself. And I felt the call to do something to help others. At first, it started with an attack on suicide itself. Take that, Suicide, I would think as I wrote about compassion and hope.
Since I have always been a writer, that became my primary direction though I was teaching English classes at a local technical college as well. I was afraid I could no longer write because my husband was so much a part of my writing. He was my muse. I wrote about him a lot. But as time went on and I met more and more survivors, I reached out with words. It was all I had.
After he died, after grieving a loss by suicide and finding those tiny healing moments, like angel clouds and kind words from other people, I found the light of his love returning. What I learned through this journey is love never dies.
I made another decision, a promise. What he could not do, I would do for him. Living like this keeps thoughts of him close and gives me purpose and a way to reach out to the world. As I go about my day, I enjoy the ordinary things in life and try to take care of myself. You can do this, too, as you grow and surround yourself with the good that is left.
Maybe you will write a book. Maybe not. But something out there will call you. And, when you’re ready, you will answer. You will find yourself and your purpose within growth and change. And you will feel the love and gratitude still there.
My name is Jan McDaniel. I speak grief. I also speak peace and healing. I started A Way for Hope blog and website to house projects I create that might help others who are grieving. The blog has expanded to include guest posts by my dear friends and fellow survivors who wanted to speak hope for others, too.