Its been two years and five months since my husband was killed. A few days ago would have been our four year anniversary, and in just a few days he would have been 26. Our life together was ended after only being married a year and a half, and he was only 23. It just ended. From the moment I was notified, it felt as if the world was spinning so fast, and my life had come to a stand still. Everyone else was going on with their life, where did i fit in? What was I to do with my three month old daughter, Jaimie, who would only know her daddy from the memories of everyone else?
No one prepares you for planning a funeral. Days before his death, we planned it out. From the picture he wanted next to his casket, flowers,the “after party” . He felt as if something was going to happen, I told him over and over he was going to be fine, but deep down, I knew it too. Then, on November 12, 2008, on a cold Kentucky night, there they were, two uniformed soldiers at the door, holding two sheets of white paper, one directions to the small apartment shared with my sister, and the other, a scripted letter “We regret to inform you..”
There instantly was guilt. His death seemed to be my fault, I felt as if he were not going to come home, and there we were, hours after being notified, “Would you like a stainless steel or wooden casket?” How about a cozy seat on an airplane next to his fellow soldiers, awaiting their families. No, stainless steel or wood. The guilt lasted for a short time, as I knew it was not my fault.
A few weeks after Jose was killed, I received his belongings from Iraq, and immediately felt like i had to give everything away. I felt like hanging onto everything that could help someone else was selfish. Two years later I still wish I would have been selfish and kept everything. I went through the five or six large tough boxes and just sorted things out to reference with the check list I was given. My initial thoughts were, ‘Why is everything washed?’ ‘Who deleted everything off his laptop?’ Ironically, there was a sticker centered on the laptop that said “Am I dead yet?”
At this moment, I wish i had listened to those around me that said “Don’t make any huge decisions right now, give it AT LEAST six months.” I was stubborn, and wanted to go through everything while I was still numb and not have to open the wounds months down the road. I had no idea what I was doing anymore, I was still “new” at being a wife and mother, and suddenly I was labeled a widow.
Two years later, I would love to have gone through his belongings and really looked at everything in those boxes, and now I cant. Everything dwindled into one large box. Is that all his life came down to, just a black box? For a while, that is what it felt like, and it felt like that hurt more than his actual death. This is what life comes down to.
When Jose’s unit returned home, I went to the homecoming, not to be the odd man out and have everyone feel sorry for me, but for the fact that I too belonged at that ceremony. I was only two months away from seeing my soldier walk into the gym to a crowd of excited wives, children, parents, and i needed it to give me the end of the deployment I too had waited anxiously for, not a small airplane carrying his casket. It was then that I had met up with one of Jose’s friends that was in the same unit, and had gotten home days before, he went with me to the homecoming. Something between us sparked. I didn’t mean for it to happen. Maybe it was the feeling that he too had known Jose, or the need for closeness, but whatever it was, led me to where i am this very moment. We rushed into our relationship, and I pushed all grief aside. I didn’t want to feel the sadness or anger. I tried so hard to fight the emotions and not have to deal with them, and for the first year, i did ok. I got by somehow and moved into the second year. The second year is when everything flooded back, the anger, the hurt, the sadness. It had taken me this long to truly realize that emotions help guide you through the grief. It is ok for me to take a moment for myself and get through the grief, to remember the moments that made me smile, and to also realize that life isn’t going to stop. Its going to keep on, and that’s what i have to do as well.
The most useful information that was given to me, that I would pass on to any new widow would be to *Take your time *Don’t make life decisions on a whim* It’s ok to cry* Even more, it’s ok to smile and be happy!*