Our Story Begins:
It’s Been 5 Years Since We Lost Her..
What We Learned About Grief
It used to be a day at a time. One day…then the next…then the next. Days would tick off, checked in boxes or like the chalk markings of someone trapped in a prison cell, one then another and then another.
I cannot tell you when the boxes stopped appearing or the chalk marks stopped being placed on the wall. Suffice to say that they did.
Five years ago a woman died. It is fact, a sad one. It could be the beginning of a tragedy, a Shakespearean story filled with the tangled and surreal events that would make a great epic play.
The thing is it wasn’t tragic.
Andrea Marie Andrews was a blonde bombshell, waiting to go off with a hair trigger. I met her when I was 19 and our age didn’t seem as tender or minute as it really was. She was funny and smart and beautiful and I loved her. We got married on March 26th, 1993. We married too quick, had children too soon and were bound and determined to forge ahead, terrified and worried as we were, because we were doing it together.
Related: The Drive To Move Forward
Then we weren’t. On March 26th, 2011, the very day the two of us got married, she was gone. At the time I took solace in the fact she waited until the day of our 18th anniversary to go. The exact cause was pneumonia, an infection that in these days you think can’t kill someone. Until it does.
The lens of grief distorts. The pedestal you placed your lost loved one on starts out pretty small initially. Then it grows taller and taller as you forget the bad things. You forget that the person you were with isn’t perfect.
In five years, which I bet you think isn’t that long a time, the lens’ curve changed closer to normal.
This is called “Our Story Begins” because that’s what happened. That’s how we had to look at the world. I lost my wife, my four children lost their mother. We had to look at this though not as the end. This was an opportunity. That’s not gruesome or dreary, it’s just true.
Related: Our Story Begins: 365 Days
The hard truth is that our lives became opportunities. Things we never would have done before became realities.
One son is in student council, another is making animated movies. My middle daughter is going to try out for basketball.
It’s no accident the photo at the very beginning of this post was from Yosemite. Just a couple years before Andrea’s death we tried to go. It was one of the worst trips we ever attempted, with her arguing with her parents – screaming arguments. After a single afternoon I literally had enough and we drove home. We saw very little.
Just a week ago we met my oldest, on a spring break trek through all the National Parks on the west coast they can find, at Yosemite. It was one of the most enjoyable weekends in a long while.
We were forced to change. to find ourselves. In the first 3 years we made videos that were first tributes to our lost loved one. The last one seemed to have a finality to it: From the Beginning. It seemed we didn’t have to say it again.
I will be on a plane back home from an adventure of my own on March 26th. I am dating, my kids love it, and she’s nothing like my wife was because I’m nothing like I was in 1993.
And when I get back, the first two days of recording a solo album of material I’ve written begins.
Loss is just that: loss. We never get the person back and they’re always there, not a shadow, but a kind of ghost, one that hangs there, sometimes making you sad sometimes making you joyous and sometimes just there.
The lesson for you all is grief is different for everyone. We could have fallen into despair , and we did, and never come out. But hiding from the truth and the good, bad and indifferent doesn’t work. Eventually you have to understand you are finding yourself and the new life you have to live.
But in the end one thing is for sure:
Our story begins.
How do you process grief? How long before you found your new normal?