Pray to Live

I’ve been thinking a lot the past few weeks about something other than death.

Life.

I’ve been thinking about life, and the true meaning of it, and how that meaning is different for everyone, and how maybe that meaning changes and shifts when you have been through trauma or loss or grief. I have been thinking about what it all is, what it all means, really and truly means.

I know. Pretty deep stuff for a Friday morning. But let’s go with this thought process for a few minutes, and see what comes of it. Like many days and weeks in my life after loss, I woke up this morning with a feeling that I needed to write today, but had no idea what to actually write about. And then these jumbled, yet somewhat clear thoughts, appeared in my head about life, love, death. So I followed my brain cells, and I started writing about that.

In my jumbled up mess of a brain, I was also thinking about loneliness. Well, not so much thinking about it, as feeling it lately. Feeling that intense loneliness that happens when you have lived FOUR whole years of life without intimacy – without a partner – without a best friend. Since much of this past four years has been spent just trying to exist/live/get through the day, and grieve at the same time for the loss of that life I knew, the loneliness sort of got pushed to the side for awhile. It was there, but I pretended for a long time that it didn’t matter to me. I told myself I didn’t need to have anyone in my life anymore, that my dead husband was it for me, and that I would live my life alone. I told myself that nobody would ever love me again anyway, and nobody would ever be able to put up with this version of broken-down and battered me, and how on earth would I be able to feel anything again for anyone who wasn’t him, ever? I told myself that maybe he WAS the only person who thought I was worthy of love, or that I was beautiful, or that I was any other good thing. All of the relationships and situations I had with men before my husband, were complete shit, so I talked myself into the idea that having more love, just didn’t matter.

It didn’t seem possible, so I kicked it away and focused on work and other aspects of my life that didn’t involve the idea of “someone else.” I didn’t date. I didn’t think about dating. I didn’t think about sex. Truly. I honestly didn’t think about it, or even want it. I just somehow shut off that piece of myself from life, as if shutting off a water faucet and then exiting the room. And if a person of the male species dared to look my way or flirt with me, or god forbid, ask me out in some ridiculously overbearing and out of line manner, I felt sick to my stomach. A few times, after being hit on by a random guy, or feeling uncomfortable in a situation with a man who was showing interest in me, I actually would go home and throw up. I’m not joking. That is how sickening the very idea of someone that was not my dear husband, was to me. It made me feel ill. So I stayed alone.

And let’s be clear – being alone is very different than being lonely. I can do alone. I have been alone most of my life – all the years before my husband, and now, the 4.5 years after his death. I left small town Massachusetts home at 18 years old, for my big dreams in New York City. I lived alone in apartments for years. Ive paid all my own bills, walked home alone at night from subways and trains and busses, lifted my own damn suitcases and bags and everything else, for years and years and years. I’m fiercely independent, and I know how to survive alone.

But that is very different than being lonely. And what I have discovered in the past 4 plus years, is this: I don’t want to be lonely anymore. I don’t want to live a life of loneliness. Even if every single dream I have ever had for myself, career-wise or other, were to come true, I would not truly be happy if I were alone. For what is the point of living, what is the point of anything – if you have nobody to share it with? Nobody to come home to at the end of the day, and say: “Honey, I’m home.” Or “Honey, I had the worst day today. Can we just sit on the couch and let the world fall away?” It reminds me of a scene from the Kevin Costner film: “For Love of the Game”, where the main character, a major league baseball pitcher, has the best career day of his life. He pitches a perfect game. He is being interviewed, and the bright lights are on him, and he is the star in everyone’s eyes. He is all over the media, his name is everywhere, his dreams have just been realized. And then, after all the hoopla, there comes that moment when it has finally reached “the end of the day.” He goes “home”, to his hotel room, alone. He doesn’t have anyone in his life with him to share this major achievement. He sits on the corner of the hotel bed in silence for a few minutes, and then he just cries. Best and happiest day of his life – ruined and stolen by loneliness.

What made me start thinking about life, death, and loneliness so much, you didn’t ask? Well, dear readers, I will tell you. Recently, I have been “talking to someone”. I have “met someone”, in the sense that I have physically met them, and in the sense that, to me, they are someone very special. I am not going to call it “dating”, or whatever else, because things are rather complicated with this situation, and we are moving in very slow motion, which includes not labeling things just yet. Also, I am very protective of this person’s privacy, because he is way more private than I tend to be with things such as this, so it’s important that I respect that right now and keep things vague in public forums, until we have shifted into more of a place of knowing what this actually is, and what it might become.

I will say this – the act of talking with this person and then meeting them and spending some really good quality time with them – has made me start to think a lot about the meaning of life after loss. It has awakened that part of me, that I truly thought was dead inside. It has made me feel joy again in my personal life, and made me see that while I will ALWAYS love and miss my husband and that life, the life I have now is still very much happening, whether I like it or not. And even though I could survive alone and be alone, I don’t want to be. I want more memories, more life, more love. I don’t want the good pieces of my life to be tarnished and stolen by loneliness. I want to love my beautiful husband who died, forever and ever, while also feeling love for someone else, who is very much alive, in the very same breath.

And whether or not that turns out to be this person or someone different, the important thing right now is that I have finally let these feelings in. In 4 years time, I have gone from pushing them away, to welcoming them with a warm, yet terrified embrace. For so long, I was not ready. And the people that were approaching me, were not even close to worthy of me being ready. Then, about a year or so ago, something shifted, for no reason whatsoever, and I suddenly and finally felt ready to let the concept of “my next great love” into my heart. There was no new person in my life at that time. I just all of a sudden felt different about it. The idea of someone else no longer made me sick to my stomach. About 5 months later, this person showed up, and we began a slow and beautiful friendship. I believe it is much like what my friend Tom Zuba says: “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

Yes, Im scared. Losing the person you thought you would spend your life with to death, makes a person very scared. I’m terrified that I will open my heart and then be rejected. I’m terrified that this person will disappear entirely, either via sudden death, or because they just decide they don’t feel like doing this with me anymore. Both of those things have happened to me in my life, so it scares me every single day. I am walking around a terrified mess. But I’m also happy. And I’m emotional too. Letting someone into that vulnerable and soft part of yourself, it brings back the grief. Caring about someone new brings back the intense missing of your person, and the missing of the life you had. I’m not really sure why, but it does. In moments that are hard with the new person, you start to think things like: “Well if my person didn’t DIE, I wouldn’t be having to deal with this right now! DAMMIT!” I have learned that all of this is normal. I have learned to sit with 37 emotions at the same time. That is what this widowed life is. That is what it does. Instead of fighting that, I have decided to just let it happen. Sure, its exhausting and all kinds of complex and really, really hard. But it’s also a hell of a lot more fun and meaningful to actually be alive inside my own life, instead of just sitting around waiting to die.

Which brings me to the title of this piece. Pray to Live. I am not a religious person. I do believe in God, but I believe that God is whatever we want God to be. A concept, a symbol of love and all things good, a power or force of energy that nobody can really ever totally understand. I am not big on religion, as I feel it generally seperates people more than not, and that it uses itself to promote hate and judgment more than love. But that’s another post for another time. Today is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter, so I want to leave my widowed friends or any friends who are struggling, religious or not, with these thoughts to ponder …..

There was a time, for a long time, after my husband’s death, when I kept just wanting to die. Or, to be slightly more accurate, I was not interested in living “this” life, the one without my husband in it – the one that was shoved at me without my permission or consent. There was a time when I begged and begged, and maybe even prayed and prayed, even though I am NOT the praying type, that God or nature or the universe or whoever, would just take me in the middle of the night while I slept, so that I wouldn’t have to wake up to yet another day of this unbelievable pain.

The only thing that stopped these thoughts, or made these thoughts come less often, was making tiny and microscopic movements toward life. At first, it was taking a shower that day, or getting an errand done that my husband would have normally taken care of for me. Later, it was accepting lunch invites from friends, or getting through my workday without falling apart. Right away, I began writing everything down, because it felt like a lifeboat to me, to be able to put my emotions into words and then release them. Slowly, I began meeting other widowed people, and finding many ways to honor my husband and his life. For a long time, that is what my life was about. Honoring him. It gave me something to do, something to look forward to. Creating a one-woman show about him or doing a benefit concert in his name, or walking a 5K to raise money for Organ and Tissue Donation – anything that kept his name alive and out there and relevant. I didn’t really see a life for myself personally, so I would live for him. I would live because he did not have that choice. This is what kept me going in those early days, for the first couple of years, actually, until, eventually, I started to be able to see pieces of life , mixed in with all the pain. I was still in tremendous pain, but there was life. Still there. Lurking.

Now, 4 plus years later, there is still pain and grief. There always will be. And there are still days and weeks and moments when it overtakes me again, or when I feel like Im going backwards again. But Im not. That’s just grief, and that is just what this is. It is ALWAYS going to be hard. And now that I know that, I can handle it better. Recently, I have heard a lot of my widowed friends having these same thoughts that I had early on. I have read their words or heard their voices, and the ones who are religious, they keep saying that they keep praying to God that they would just die, and that God never answers them. They say: “Why cant I just go and be with my love in eternity?”

Well, I don’t know why. I don’t know if anyone does. But praying for death and praying to die – it doesn’t work. I don’t think it works that way. I don’t know what the reason is, and none of us do, but I do know that life has meaning, and life has the meaning that YOU give to it. For me, being here on earth is all about connecting with people, loving as much as you can possibly love until your last breath, and then leaving behind something good in the world, something that made a difference to someone, or to lots of people. It is in this way, that we all live eternally, through the beautiful lives and stories of other people. I don’t think we were brought to earth to live a life of loneliness and sorrow. There is a lot of sorrow in life, and there is a lot of grief – but there is also Love. So much beautiful, neverending love.

So what Im asking from you today, those of you who are struggling – is this: Instead of praying for or begging for death, or for God to end your time here, maybe you could begin a new thought. Maybe you could start praying for life. Pray for the courage or the strength or the shift to happen, where you begin to see more life. Pray that you are able to see or smell or feel a simple little joy today. Pray that you are alive to hear a gorgeous piece of music, or to witness a beautiful sunset, or to accomplish something new and strange that you never saw coming. Pray for the day to come, where your grief and your loss does not rule every minute of your day. Pray for the scales to tip to more joy instead of hurt. Instead of praying for the desire to die, pray for the desire to live. And then just keep living, one microscopic moment at a time.

It is what your loved one who died wants for you. If they could be here themselves to live with you, they would. They would move mountains and heaven and earth to be here. But they can’t. And yet, here you are. Still alive. Still on earth. Learning and growing and connecting with humans everyday. Living life to the fullest. It is what they would want for you. It is what any person who loves another person, wants for them. And eventually, it is what you should and will want for yourself.

Pray to find that meaning of life for yourself. Pray for more love to enter your heart, when you are ready to accept it. Pray to be able to blend new love with forever love, and to know that having both is very, very possible.

Pray to live.

And then go live.

I promise you won’t regret it.

P.S. If you just read this, please leave me a comment!!! I looooove comments!!! They are like a bunch of little Christmas presents, just waiting under the tree. I will try to do better at replying to them as well. Please comment!

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32 thoughts on “Pray to Live

  1. This was beautiful Kelley. For 2 years I have prayed at night for God to just take me so I could be with him but you’re right…it doesn’t work that way. Right now I will pray for the day to come when my grief and loss do not rule my every minute of my day. I will pray for life. Thank you!!

    • Thank you Barb. Yes, make that your new prayer for yourself. That the day will come where the joy overtakes the grief, and it no longer rules your world. That is a prayer that I truly believe will be answered, because you will make it so.

  2. I had the same physical reaction to even the thought of dating again after Dennis died. Then, when I finally started thinking it might be nice to have someone to talk to or hang out with, I had to fight the feeling that I was somehow cheating on Dennis. It took a while to shake that feeling, and to remind myself that not only was I not cheating, both Dennis and I honored our vow of ’til death do us part’. He did not chose to leave me & our unborn child. So, although it still hurts, I know that I have to continue living, which I chose to do for him, since it can no longer be with him.

  3. I am not a widow but I experience great loneliness, since discovering my then husband was living a double life with another woman in another country. I relive the anger, hurt and grief every time my kids go to his house and spend time with his new wife. I have no desire to date and figure I’ll be an old cat lady. I have moments when I don’t want to wake up the next day but I wouldn’t want to do that to my kids. I’m stuck trying to get by as a single parent with two jobs and have no time or energy to “live”. I just struggle. I’m tired. I’m not who I used to be. I don’t know how to change any of this and I’m absolutely beaten. I love seeing you experiencing that spark of life, again. I’ll let you know if it ever happens to me.

    • Will you please let me know? Im going to hold you to that. Please come back here and tell me when you feel that spark of life again. It does take awhile, a very long time, ESPECIALLY when you have been beaten up by life and hurt and struggle. And of course you have no energy for life right now – youre too busy trying to survive. Just remember – it starts with microscopic steps and changes. Tiny little shifts in thinking. You will get there. I promise you, and I want you to tell me when you do. Keep reading, and right now, just know you are a good mom who is doing the best she can for her family. That in itself is amazing.

  4. Beautifully stated, as always. The tiny, microscopic steps build on one another until we find ourselves ready for a new beginning. Moving forward is complicated…..but life is meant to be genuinely lived, rather than simply endured.

  5. Kelley, I know this is for your widowed group, but I read these posts too. Helps me understand others who are grieving. I have to say I think this is so beautifully written, and I hope it helps others get to the point of praying to live….beautiful.

  6. Dear Kelly,

    I was introduced to your AMAZING blog from a couple of other “widow sisters”. I sooooo look forward to your posts as they provide such comfort and wisdom!!

    After barely getting through the “2-year anniversary” of my beloved’s passing, I also realized a “shift” in my thoughts and feelings about life going forward. While I will always be dedicated in mind, body, and spirit to my husband – and will ALWAYS cherish the vows we made to each other 20+ years ago – I had to find a way to get past the continuous feeling of wanting to die.

    It truly feel the depth of the love and commitment we have for our loved ones makes it entirely possible to die from a broken heart. Our capacity to love another human is so voluminous and encompassing…we simply cannot “get over” a loss. Our walk through grief has no time limit; no right or wrong…there is simply the particular moment we are trying to live through because of our profound grief.

    I feel your Good Friday posting was so timely in my particular journey as I have been wrestling with a reason to continue on without my beloved. Why should I experience joy again? Why should I feel OK about someone (of the opposite sex) having an interest in me? Why, why, why????? In the still of the night and in the many seconds of each day I question why I am here and he is gone. Surely this is a joke God is playing on me!!!

    There are days the “guilt” of being alive is so overwhelming I just want to crawl into the oven and turn the gas on. The pain is felt in every single cell of my being. That darkness is so tempting to give into and just let go. And yet, when I read my emails and peruse your latest post, it’s as if a light bulb went off!! All of these strange and different feelings make sense!! Perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel of grief after all?!?!?!

    Thank you for your insightful wisdom and for having the balls to share with the world!!! You are a beautiful light in a life – some of us understand – which can be filled with darkness and despair. You are an inspiration for many, many of us!!!

    Sending abundant blessings for love, joy and happiness your way,

    Katniss

    • Im so happy to hear this provides you some light at the end of that tunnel, even if its only dimly lit right now. IT IS THERE. I promise you. Keep living. Keep feeling. Keep trying. As far as all the WHY questions, I wish I knew. I dont think they have answers, unfortunately. But I do know there is meaning to LIFE, and to us being here for whatever time we get. And that meaning is all about connecting and loving. xoxo

  7. Once again you say the exact words i need to hear. 20 months in and i will pray to live. Its what henry would want for me and what i want for myself <3

  8. Kelley, miracles never cease to come out of your literary words of wisdom and living life on life’s terms. You are amazing and so is the God of everyones understanding no matter what it is. You continue to share Hope and Joy with such a bright light glowing. Thank you. ONE DAY I hope we cross paths.

  9. My favorite to date and such good advice. Thank you for having the courage to share your deepest feelings and darkest thoughts with those who have lost; I believe you are a blessing to them all.

  10. I have been reading your blog since my husband died in July 2014. I was pregnant and in total despair.. It took a lot of time, therapy, tears and prayer but I feel like I am healed of my grief and pain of the loss. I will always love and miss him. I am sooooo happy that you have decided to live again. It’s nice to feel good. It took me awhile and I’m still not totally grounded but it’s coming, and so it’s yours….

  11. Thank you for sharing, Kelly. I’m coming up on 2 years since my husband’s sudden passing, and this post strikes soooooo true. An old friend from my childhood days has reached out, wanting to rekindle something that was never there; he keeps asking me “aren’t you lonely?” I’m not “there” just yet, but you’re writing lets me know that it’s OK to move at my own pace. And I will begin praying for life.

    • It iis more than okay to move at your own pace, or to stop and think about it for awhile. And yes, being lonely is so so awful, but it doesnt mean you are READY necessarily, to do anything about it. As I approach the end of year 4 after loss, I am finding that , for me, Im getting REALLY tired of being lonely. The first few years, I was too busy trying to just survive to notice the intense loneliness. But now, it just feels so much more heavy to think about not having someone to share life with. You will do whatever is right for YOU and your happiness, and you will figure it out in time. This, I know xo.

  12. Kelley, you have truly found your calling in life. You are my personal grief counselor. Everything you so eloquently write has been how I feel. I will start praying to live instead of wishing to die. My husband died 6 months ago from sudden cardiac arrest like your Don. His name was Don too. The shock and grief has been unbearable. Your blog has kept me going in times when I didn’t think I could survive alone. Thank you so much for being there for all of us who grieve.

    • Wow thank YOU Corinne for telling me this. I always connect with other “Don” people. For such a common name, I rarely meet other people named Don. Weird, I know. Anyway, your words are so kind and you are so early on in this huge struggle – at this early point, if you can get up and shower and function most days, and breathe, you are doing amazing in my book. This is the hardest thing ever. Truly. Keep coming here. Keep reading. Im so glad that my words can provide some hope …. xo

  13. Thank you Kelley for your thoughtful and caring words. I am 2.8 years out and am still in incredible pain.i have isolated myself completely. When I need to I reach out but it isn’t often. Friends and family are all gone and the dreams I’m having are nightmares. I feel so lost still but deep inside there seems to be a voice saying “there’s more.” I don’t have any idea which path is mine to take but hopefully it will become apparent soon. I have many health issues and am 70 years old so I’m rather limited. But I still believe there must be a reason for this pain. Love is a wonderful emotion but maybe the love left for me to give isn’t for another man but for humanity.

  14. I could only read two post before crying again for the 15th time today. My husband passed 2 weeks ago, leaving me alone to raise our 10 year old son. I will keep reading

    • Oh wow Marcia, this may be too much for you right now. If its helping you in ANY way, yes, keep reading. But if its making things worse, maybe stop for awhile until you can handle simpler things, like breathing in and out. Or maybe start ffrom the beginning of my blog and read there, since those posts I wrote right after it happened, so you might relate more . I am SO sorry for what you are going through right now. There really are no words. Just know I understand xoxo.

  15. I feel that way Kelley .. I really don’t want to have a life without Joe .. I try and then come back to the painful set backs .. Then I have to struggle to just go out of the house and start over again .. I’m tired … Thank you for writing your feelings and thoughts ..I know I am not alone ..

  16. I spent Easter alone like you did. I had an invitation to go to my sister’s home for dinner but I decided I wanted to do something just for me. I took a train ride. My husband and I enjoyed scenic train rides. I sat by myself in the dining car and had a delicious meal. Yes, people looked at me strangely and some may have labeled me a “loser” but I survived and enjoyed my day out. This is the first trip I’ve taken in 6 months since he died and I was so proud of myself. I only get this one life and I’ve got to find a way to live it without him, hard as it may be. I force myself every day to get up, take a shower, get dressed (so far I haven’t forgotten to put on my pants or any other item of clothing), go to work and go out to eat alone at a “table for one.” I know that’s what my dear husband would want me to do. I break down crying during the day multiple times but somehow I keep going. Your blogs help me get through this traumatic and horrific grief experience and give me hope and, for that, I am so grateful to you.

  17. Kelley – I discovered your amazing blog for the first time tonight and I want to hug you for all of the insight you’ve already provided me. I am not a widow but I have been in a relationship for over a year with my girlfriend whose husband died almost 5 years ago. I am her first relationship since his death and the past year+ hasn’t always been easy for either of us but I adore her with all my heart and very much hope to be “her next great love”. Reading your blog tonight (back to 2012) has helped me gain a perspective on the feelings and struggles she has undoubtedly been faced with over the past 5 years, and I thank you for your candor.

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