by Nikki Kirk
Seven years of bliss — this is what we had, my husband and I. Soulmates tangled together in the threads of love. We spent our days relishing every moment together. While our nights were spent sitting at the kitchen table, burning our tongues on Twinning’s tea while planning our future. Chancing fate by living in a delightful fantasy of all that could be. All the while knowing that as long as we had each other we had enough.
I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for where I was in life. My childhood was rocky with years of hardship and abuse, but I had forged out a new and beautiful life with the man I adored. Hand in hand, we could do anything. This man I married, he was more than my husband — he was my light, he was my fortress, he was my inspiration, he was my foundation. We had promised each other a lifetime of love and adventure, and we were excited to see where the path we were on would lead.
Then one day it all went away.
One blizzardy November night my life became undone. I was carelessly thrust into the terrifying wilderness of grief. One day my husband was with me and the next he was gone, and with him went everything I had ever known to be true. My foundation in life was violently cracked open. I was left gasping for air.
For the months that followed my husband’s death, I was less than human. I didn’t know how to live without him. I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping. I stopped functioning. My emotional turmoil led to physical and mental sickness. The grief that lived inside me began eating away at me from the inside out, gnawing at my soul. Leaving behind a skeleton of the woman I once was.
The only thing that I did know how to do through my grief was to write. I could write through the pain. Writing became my therapy. It allowed me to navigate the influx of confusing and conflicting emotions that brewed within. Writing was a gift offered to me in the darkest storm of my life. I was able to crawl out of the cavern I had hidden away in, excavating my way through the pain one poem at a time.
Eventually, I was able to breathe again. Like a toddler learning how to walk for the first time, I too was finding my legs. I had to learn to navigate the world without my husband. So much had changed within me and around me. I was emerging from my own Dark Night of the Soul. The light coming in was so dim, that it may have been unnoticeable to someone who wasn’t living in darkness for years. Though, I could see it. It was faint, but it was there.
I kept writing my way to that light. The more I wrote, the brighter it became. I was able to rebuild the pieces of my life again, but the life I have now will never look quite the same as the one I had with my husband. I am learning to be okay with that. I was profoundly changed by my grief. I am finding myself again. I am recreating myself. I am building a life I think my husband would be proud of.
That darkness still creeps in, pushing me back into the cave. There are days I know I will spend in my dark cavern – anniversaries, holidays and special occasions. However, the cave is no longer my home. I live in the light now. The light I found. The light I created.
Where I am now is a place that I would not have been able to fathom during the early days of raw grief. It took years of persistent work and tending to my grief to pull myself out of the darkness. I had to acknowledge and sit with the grief that lived within me, choosing to lean into the pain rather than run away or ignore it. Even so, the heartache can still rear its head and knock my breath from my chest. But I am acquainted with it now. I know its form. I know its language. I know its name. Grief is a part of my life, but so are so many other brilliant pieces that make my life vibrant and worth living.
I took the poems I used to climb out of my darkness and published them. My book is called Heart-Strapped: A Widows Journey Through Grief. I published this book as a way to affirm the raw heartache that comes with grief. As well as to let others know that their grief is valid; that the unrelenting pain that comes with grief is a result of loving so fully and so deeply. I also want those deep in their grief to know that there is hope. Healing isn’t easy, but it will lead us to a path where we can fully live again.
When I emerged from the murky sea of grief and was finally able to embrace the beauty of life once more, I felt something stirring in my heart. I felt a call to help support others in their grief. I wanted to assist others so they could avoid the same catastrophes and heartbreaks I had on my road to healing. I worked towards becoming a Certified Grief Support Counsellor and an Emotional Freedom Technique practitioner. I feel honored to be able to sit with others in their grief, to validate the heart-wrenching emotions that grief brings into our lives and offer encouragement to keep moving forward.
I don’t believe we “get over” or “move on” from our grief. I believe we carry our grief with us and we can form our lives around the heartache that once overwhelmed our soul. I will continue moving forward in my life, keeping my face towards the light, and bringing the memory of my husband with me as I venture onward.
For more information about Nikki, you can check out her website.
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