After a tragic loss, it is so easy to close off your feelings and do whatever is needed to get through the day-to-day. For me, I had no idea how to deal with the intense emotions of losing my fiance while also trying to manage to be mom and have a career. So I did what I do best: bottled up the pain and closed my true self off. I built another wall around my heart, kept my head down and powered through it. It didn’t mean the tears, and broken feeling disappeared; they were just farther away for me to be able to put one foot in front of the other.
This way of dealing didn’t by any means make things easier, just bearable for the time being. Merely a coping mechanism, regardless of how toxic, of how I pushed through so many traumatic experiences in my life. Turn it off. Shut it down. Move on. The problem? Every time I would bottle it up or turn it off I would lose a part of myself. Although it was for self-preservation, long-term, it would hurt more than it would help. But when Ben passed, I fell right into the same behavior.
Hit like a ton of bricks.
On Sunday evening, I was mildly celebrating getting through a weekend alone. It was two weeks since I found Ben and the first weekend without the kids or a constant companion. I had done it. Kept busy enough to pass the time, relaxed, and even made time to write for the blog. I decided I wanted to share my minor obsession with monograms for my readers. Pulled together a quick post, edited it, then went to my Google Drive to download some of my design files. For one reason or another, my drive does not like my laptop. Determined to get the post completed, I went downstairs and got my iMac that had been unplugged for a couple of months.
I plugged in the computer and tried to start working when I heard the text message alert. I glanced up at the top right hand of the screen, there was Ben’s picture and a text message he had sent three days before he died. The words seemed to be in a flashing marquee sign: “I know, and I love it. And I LOVE you!” In this split second all of my defenses were destroyed. All composure was gone. The basic fact I had denied smacked me straight between the eyes: Ben was gone.
There were so many reasons why I loved Ben, but one of the biggest was his ability to see me. Not see through me or accept my facade, but notice when I was pushing him away. He wouldn’t allow it because he wanted what was best for me and to understand what I was going through. He pushed and pried until I couldn’t hide and I would be forced to deal with what was bothering me.
After balling my eyes out and feeling everything I had held back, I realized that text message was a real gift. There were so many other text messages that could have come through on my computer from Ben and other people since it had been powered off. But the one text where he stated that he knew I was trying to get him better, he loved that I was helping him and that he loved me was what came through. Explain it away any way you like, but reminded me of my path forward. I needed to know that he loved me, he knew I was trying to get him better, but that I also need to keep my heart open to heal. While I am still suffering tremendous pain, I know that God and Ben are watching over me.
If you have suffered a significant loss, we have to remember to look forward. While it is impossible to imagine a future without that person, they would not want us to not live our lives. Keep your heart open and remember you’re not alone.