Almost Five Years

If you’ve been a blog reader here for a while, you might remember that coming on June 2nd is the anniversary of the death of my husband from lung cancer. You might also know that the hardest anniversary for me has always been the last weekend of April. That’s when we found out the cancer had moved from his lung to his neck resulting in him breaking his neck. If you want more on the back story from when it happened, you can follow THIS LINK.

The reason that the anniversary was so hard is because I knew no matter what, that was the death of our relationship as it was. I would now be the forever caregiver. It was a big blow as the hope of him recovering was gone as even if he could kick the cancer, he couldn’t kick the broken neck as so much bone was gone. That weekend marked the death of our relationship as I knew it…that’s why this anniversary has always been harder for me than his actual death and funeral.

So over the past five years, the anniversary of that last weekend in April has been the time I dreaded. It was the hard memory. In past years, I started remembering that “THE” weekend in early April. I was grumpy much of the month anticipating “THE weekend”. It was not fun.

But…something happened this year. Something changed. This year I didn’t remember it.

Then a couple of days ago, I looked at the calendar and realized I had missed it. A tiny part of me was shocked. How could I have forgotten? But then a bigger part of me was so thankful for the place I’m now at.

I finally feel like I’m okay now. I don’t want to say I’ve “moved on”…but I don’t know how else to say it in a way that people would understand.

Maybe I’ll give some examples…
When I bought my van a couple of years ago, my whole decision process and how I went about it, was replaying and replaying all the times we bought a vehicle in the past. I used that as my guide on how to buy the van. I was constantly thinking “what would he want me to do”. I never really thought about how I would do it.

For the longest time, I wouldn’t get a second dog in the house because he had said, “only one dog in the house”. Even though he wasn’t here, he was still always my guide. Finally, I broke that one and got Izzy a year and a half ago.

He loved all things rhubarb. I don’t mind it and in fact, in season, enjoy rhubarb. He loved rhubarb year-round. We likely had ten bunches of it. I would freeze so much. Nowadays, I have one bunch. It’s plenty. I gave all the others away. Now I freeze enough so I can make a couple of pies of fall benefits. That’s it. I know that sounds like nothing, but giving away the rhubarb, was a big deal. I was giving away that part of my life with him. Even small things like this, at first, felt like an event.

That’s how it was…Even though he was gone, I was still running every decision past him.

I don’t think that way at all anymore. Getting my job at the vet clinic was so good for me. It got me out of the house. It got me away from the reminders of everything. It got me in social contact with people outside of my family.

I remember last Fall one of the gals that works there said, “Jo why aren’t you dating?” What? The thought NEVER crossed my mind. Later she got a “man” calendar and asked me what I thought of the bare-chested guy in the photo. I told her nothing. Then she started teasing me saying I must only be attracted to “Dad bods”. In the moment, I honestly never thought about any of that. I was attracted to no one…in my mind, I was still married. Then realized yes, if I ever dated a guy I would want a “Dad bod”. But that’s the thing. I thought about it. I had previously not thought for a moment about dating someone else. In my mind, I still felt married.

Gradually over the last months, it’s changed. I don’t feel married anymore. I feel like I was married…but not currently married. It was a huge switch that happened but it happened so gradually, I never realize the switch was flipped. I didn’t actually flip the switch…it was more like it was a dimmer switch and gradually this has all come to light.

What made me realize it more than ever was me missing the anniversary of when he broke his neck.

So, fast forward to today, it’s over a week since that traumatic anniversary. I forgot about the anniversary. For a tiny second I was frustrated…then I realized, it’s good. It’s all good. I’m okay. I can do me. I don’t have the burden of carrying “us” anymore. It’s been a huge relief for me and I can say, I finally feel more than just okay. I feel good. I no longer have to run every decision past my husband who isn’t even here.

I hated the phrase “move on”…and I still don’t know a better phrase for it. Maybe the better way is to say I’ve found peace. It doesn’t overwhelm me anymore. I don’t secretly cry anymore. I don’t think about the tough deal life dealt. I’ll forever get teary eyed from time to time of course but the deep grief is gone.

There’s the old saying, “Fake it until you make it!” I was doing a lot of faking and that’s totally okay. We do what we have to do to get through some messy stuff. But I’m not faking it anymore.

That doesn’t mean I’ll ever forget him. He was a wonderful husband, a hard worker, and a good Dad. He brought a ton of joy to my life. He helped me build a family I love. I am forever grateful we got together all those years ago. I’d do it all over again, even knowing, in the end, he would die and it would take almost five hard years for me to be a “me” and not an “us” anymore.

I never thought I would get here…but here I am…grateful for the past and looking forward to a future. I know there will still be moments…but only moments. I feel better than I have in years…and that’s a good thing.

42 thoughts on “Almost Five Years”

  1. Ana Marie Sweet

    This post will bring comfort to any reader who has lost someone. It gives hope. Thank you.

  2. Jo, you say you found peace, and I’m glad, but I think maybe you got to a place where peace could find you–peace and comfort. I’m glad your Comforter has come. That’s God’s presence. Just as we’re ready to find it, He is there!

  3. Jo, I think you have gotten to the place where you are able to allow all of the wonderful memories of Kramer to come to the front of your mind and the hard and sad ones to move to the back of your mind. I am so happy for you that you have found this peace. Morning your loved one takes time.

  4. Many of us here have been praying for moments like this for you. Thank you for your honesty and compassion as this will help so many.
    Love and prayers

  5. Well said, thank you for sharing Jo. I have a friend who lost her husband 10 years ago. It took her four years of grieving before she got to the point you are at now.

  6. I love what Donna wrote. We all love you, Jo, and many will have a happy tear reading this. Kramer too, it is just what every loving spouse prays for as they go on.

  7. It made me so happy to read this post this morning ! This is the place we’ve all wanted for you. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It will help so many.

  8. Susan the Farm Quilter

    So glad you have found peace. It does sneak up on you and is almost shocking as you have been faking it until you could make it and suddenly you realize you don’t have to fake it any more. What a blessing.

  9. Terry Harouff

    So happy for you. I have been a widow now over 10 years. I remember two different women who had been widows a long time telling me that when you hit 5 years something happens. The “switch Flips” as you will, and you feel like you again only stronger. I had the same kind of experience. I realized that the intense grief was gone, and in its place was the ability to smile and chuckle at good memories. The bad ones of such sickness and death faded into the background and now i can focus on the love we shared and the blessings of our life together. And look forward to all the growth and changes in my life as a good thing. thank you for sharing your story. Terry

  10. Sheila in WI

    Thank you for this heartfelt post, Jo. So happy to read that you are at peace. May grace continue to surround you as you move forward.

  11. Nicola (Nikki) DeRamus Moshier

    What a hopeful post for anyone who has lost or will lose someone. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and journey.

  12. My heart is so happy for your heart that you have “arrived” at this new door that opened for you. Like you, my older sister widowed young and suddenly. Your words and healing the huge hole to a ‘survive’ size are similar to hers. It was as sudden for her as it is for you. A joyful new chapter for you and the Kramer love forever in your heart and soul!

    Happy Tuesday Jo :-)

  13. Jo, not only is your post today touching but also the comments from your readers. It’s all very encouraging for others who may be going through a similar life experience. Praise be to God!

  14. Jo, thank you for sharing this. I am just over a year and half out from losing my husband to brain cancer. Your words give me hope of moving forward in this new life I’ve been handed.

  15. Congratulations, Jo,
    Your growth through your sorrow gives us all hope that whatever mountains we might be facing, whether it be a horrible loss of a loved one or loss of health or another loss, we will be able to move through the sorrow and come out the other side to realize that we can again have a happy life.
    Best wishes on your cancer journey!

  16. You have provided hope and helped others with healing through your sharing. Every one of us will say goodbye to a dear one eventually. It isn’t easy, and everyone walks that path differently. Thank you for your bravery in sharing. ♥️

  17. What an encouraging story! I think instead of “moving on”, a better way to put it is you have found a “new you”. You have changed and blossomed into the woman you are today. We love who you have become…a strong, independent, loving woman who enjoys life, no matter what comes your way. Stay the course! You are a fine example for all of us!

  18. Thank you, Jo! I “check in” with you every day & I marvel at your resilience & faith. I’m so happy that you’ve reached this oasis & I hope I can get there myself one day. My “Everything” for 41 yrs. passed suddenly in 2021 & it feels like I’ve been in limbo ever since.

  19. It’s a hard road finding peace and your bearings after a tragic and unexpected loss, I’m so glad you’ve gotten to a place you are there and content in living in a relationship with just you! Thanks for sharing your journey and insights. Much love to you and your family!

  20. Linda Carpenter

    Jo, I have to echo the sentiments you expressed today. I am so grateful that you have come to peace in your life as YOU. A word of encouragement: I am learning to have a “man-friend” is not a commitment, it just some one who you can talk to and do things with.

  21. What great information to live by. I wish my mother’s life had been as centered as you manage yours to be. She had the unfortunate take to be restless and resentful and was unable to hold on to the hope of being herself. Quite lost in the face of my dad’s passing. Your messages reinforce the simple ways to look towards peace and warm feelings in my heart every day. Much gratitude.

  22. Rebecca Burch

    Paul Newman said about grief (he lost his only son) “It never gets ‘easier’ – it just gets different”. I lost my 1st son & 1st husband 5 months apart & thought I’d grieve for the rest of my life. He was right – it just gets different. I’m glad you’ve reached that place, too.

  23. Shirley from Calmar

    It has just been 10 years on the 4th, that I lost my husband. 2 years ago I lost my daughter to covid. She left behind 4 teenagers with her husband. I know he has struggled. I am happy he is dating a young widow. As they say, once you lose a spouse, you are never the same person. You change. Everyone at there own pace. Having been a younger widow, I now have friends losing their partners. I try to reassure them, they will get through it. You do such a great job of sharing and reaching many people. I Try to model your examples along with my own experiences. I tell some, that when we reach a point where a memory brings more smiles than tears, you know you made through the worse. I try to keep positive as you and give everyone permission to mourn as they feel fit. Everyone is different. I have no interest in finding a mate, my life is full. I am a repurposed grandma. I still wake up each morning, realizing I am a widow, but proud of who I have become.

  24. elissa simmonds

    We are still married after 53years, however after losing only son at 21-year-old. Extra heart ache 14 months we lost our youngest daughter at 19 years old. Our only daughter is 50 later this year she has given us a blessing of six wonderful grandchildren, and our eldest grandchild [a girl] has given us her blessing of three greatgrandies. We have more coming we hope. We have found that we have become less emotional over our loss but the grief is still underlying after nearly 30 years.
    Life goes on we none of us can stand still. We will never forget but there is more of the good things God willing to fill our hearts and yours to Jo and to all others who have lost the love of their lives and close family and friend.
    God bless us all we need the blessings.

  25. Gail in Ohio

    I’m so glad for you – and thank you for sharing your insights into this aspect of your life. You have weathered the storm, as they say, and I wish you all the best! And I hope your sharing this helps others in similar positions – by the comments, I certainly think it has and will!

  26. My husband passed 9 yrs ago, after a 17 yr, 3 months very severe heart attack & quad bypass. He did everything doctors recommended, BUT, refused to quit smoking!!! Said had nothing to do with his heart/diabetes. Looked like a gut 50 at 73, because of cardio rehab all those years. Probably had lung cancer, never told me, refused to face that! We were married 51 years, i was 70. I’m still pis..ed about his “head in the sand”, attitude. I had 17 years plus to get my head around his passing. He did not believe in God…Period. The Lord God has gotten me through that time & continues to be at my call. You’ve made it to your next life with HIS help & the mental guidance of your late husband. That’s something to be very thankful for & we know you are that thankful. You are always in the prayers of so many.

  27. Janine Baker

    Thank you Jo for this post. While my husband of 51 years is not gone, he is disappearing everyday right in front of me. He has kidney failure, heart failure, is losing his ability to read his e-mail & get his voicemail messages off his phone. This post spoke to me even tho I am not currently a widow, just grieving the slow disappearance of my beloved mate. I knew that this would happen someday (he is 13 years older than me), I am not ready!!!! Thank you for always saying it like it is and sharing your life with us-it truly does make a difference. Hugs,

  28. Janine, thank you for acknowledging the sadness and grief that comes with the ongoing loss of a partner to a debilitating disease. My husband has Parkinson’s and there are days when it is a challenge to find the sunshine, but there is usually a memory or something light-hearted that will bring a smile to us both.

    Jo, thanks for sharing your journey through your own grief and how you came to recognize and appreciate the “new” you. Prayers continue for you and your readers. Kris

  29. Great to hear that you’re in this better place. Agreeing with the other comments. But I would add, don’t let anyone pressure you into dating. It’s ok if you don’t want to/aren’t ready. You do it when and if you want to, not when someone else thinks you should, no matter how well meaning they might be. Your post provides hope and a way of dealing with the whole grief journey for those of us who might be in this position ourselves one day. Blessings to you and your family.

  30. Jo, thank you for sharing your heart with all of us and telling it like it is. Grief is hard, but time does heal the passing of a loved one. I’m glad you are finding peace.

  31. It will be 7 years in Oct. since my husband passed away. My mother-in-law for whom I was also caretaker passed away the June before my husband did. Losing both of them after almost 8 years of caring for them left me just frozen. There was another family entanglement that kept me from gaining ground. Last year, I decided that no matter the financial cost I had to get out of it and I am almost finished with it. So, this year, it is suddenly like my brain are telling me that it is time to take care of me. I have hired someone to help with things in my house that my knee injuries were preventing me from working on and I feel more secure and content. Sometimes, I feel like my husband is happy to see me taking care of me.

  32. Jo……..Your blog post today was read with joy for you and thanks for sharing your experience. You deserve to have moved on to a more independent place and, in no way does it say you care less or don’t miss your dear husband. He would, no doubt, be very proud of your growth and feelings of more peace in your life. You are a very talented, creative person and whenever I read your blog, it is enjoyed immensely. Thanks!

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