64: Finding Hope after Despair

64: Finding Hope after Despair

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

Finding Hope after Despair

There is no such cozy combination as man and wife.


I was a lucky woman. I found the man, companion, friend, soul mate, nurturer and buddy whose mission in life was to make me happy. He pampered me, lavished me with affection, cheered me on, and tried to make the world a little brighter.

We were together twenty-two years. We thrived being together. We shopped, cooked, laughed, traveled, argued, embraced, loved, and planned for the future with our six-year-old son, a miracle child born after years of fertility issues.

After a near-fatal car accident and subsequent medical problems that tortured him for three years, Harry died in the hospital. He was fifty-seven.

These months since, I have felt more alone, more terrified and more devastated then I could ever have imagined. The sadness of our shattered dreams has been enough to make me double over in physical and emotional pain.

So where does the hope come in? I’ve tried to create a support system to help me through the darkest days and nights. While I do not have family members living nearby, and my husband was an only child whose parents died many years ago, I do have several amazing friends. They helped me plan the funeral and opened their hearts to my son and me.

When tragedy strikes, it is easy to see all of the ways that life doesn’t make sense. I asked myself hard questions: Are my son and I really a family? Where do we fit in? How did I end up as a single mom? Will I ever be happy again and laugh aloud with that deep down belly laugh that comes out of you when life feels really great?

I honestly do not have the answers to all of these questions. But I do know that small kindnesses go a long way when life feels hopeless. There have been children and adults who have reached out to my son and me, invited us to join their families, made sure we were safe during the recent hurricane, and repeatedly told us they were there for us. They say that in times of crises, you find out who your true friends are. And I believe this is true.

I have discovered that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I have spoken to rabbis, hospital chaplains and other clergy members, grief counselors and psychologists, as well as recent widows and widowers. The theme is the same — do what feels right for you.

Some people plaster the house with photos to remember their loved one. Others remove the photos. Some pack away the clothes, shoes and other personal items and give them to charity or to relatives or sell them on eBay. Others leave the rooms exactly the way they were.

Some people look for smells, sights, sounds, any traces of the ones they loved and lost, like sleeping in an old sweatshirt or smelling their cologne. Others try to keep themselves so busy that they don’t have time to think.

I will never stop thinking about Harry and missing all the ways he cared for me. But I do seek out his traits — his kindness, his ability to help people he loved, his willingness to “fix” everything he could, his endless love for research and gadgets, the way he embraced fatherhood later in life, and many more. And I am beginning to see many of those traits in my young son, and I hope they will continue to develop as he becomes a man.

It has been nearly ten months since I lost the love of my life. I am strong some days, and weak others. Some days I can cry the moment I hear one of our favorite love songs. Once in a while I am able to watch one of our favorite movies alone.

I know that my life will never be the same, and that I will never get over losing Harry. But I do know that in Harry’s memory and for my own sake and the sake of my son, I have to find the rainbows and sunshine. Smile more, watch the autumn leaves fall from the trees, create new traditions, and explain the old traditions to my son. I have to find a new life for us. It is what Harry would have wanted. He even told me so, and my son and I deserve it.

~Debra Wallace Forman

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