I turn 38-years old in a couple of weeks. So this is my list of my own 38 firsts that I have experienced in the past two years as a widow. 38 things that I had to do on my own or for the very first time. I hope they make you think of your own firsts after loss or help you to realize all of the small moments that go unnoticed by others and are hard and terrifying to go through for a widow. Some of my firsts are sad and some of them are exciting and new.
1. The first time I had to sit our children down with big, devastating, and sad news without their Dad there for support. I had to sit them down and tell them that their Dad had died. It is still one of the most out of body experiences of my entire life.
2. The first night I went to bed without a husband. I piled both of our children, our dog, and our cat into our King sized bed and slept with the lights on. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I didn’t sleep for a long time.
3. The night after he died was the first time that I wailed and cried and screamed and he wasn’t there to comfort me. For weeks, for months after he died I wanted only him to call to comfort me…..sometimes I would text his phone hoping for an answer from the beyond….and he wasn’t there.
3. The first morning I woke up that my husband no longer resided on this earth. This was also the first morning in years I had made coffee………for one.
4. The first night that he didn’t come home from work and I felt no ambition to cook dinner. We usually had a big dinner every night at 6:00pm for years. I haven’t cooked some of his favorites since he died.
5. The first time I did laundry after he died and I had to stand there with tons of visitors in our home and I had to fold his underwear, his t-shirts, and his jeans while my heart was on fire….holding back rivers of tears. I had to fold them for the last and final time. He would never wear them again.
6. The first time I had to spend thousands of dollars without his sound money advice. I had to plan his funeral alone. I had to budget for his funeral and choose his casket…..alone. Of course I chose the plainest and more frugal option because that’s what I heard him telling me to do in my mind.
7. The first weekend that came after he died. Families out doing things together, friends out having fun. Me? Planning a funeral that was coming on Monday. I would never have a weekend with him again.
8. Our son turned 2-years-old just weeks after my husband died. This was the first of our children’s birthdays that I would celebrate without him.
9. My birthday is 2 days before our son’s. I turned 36-years old without the man that I met when I was 23. No birthday card from him. No flowers. No dinner date. Just me and our children hiding away with our grief.
10. My first thanksgiving without my husband I ran away. I couldn’t bear to go to my parents and his parents house all in one day. I didn’t have the energy and I was so deep into my grief and so depressed and no one, no one understood……..so I ran away. I took our kids out of town and we experienced our first holiday and our first vacation without him.
11. My first Christmas without my husband. I’m not even sure how I made it through this one and even got all the presents wrapped and under the tree in time for Christmas morning for our children. I was determined to still create some magic for them.
12. New years eve. Nothing to celebrate that first new years eve. It felt so dreadful to be turning the page into a new year. A new year that he would never exist in. A new year that I wished I didn’t exist in either.
13. Valentines Day. No husband. A day for those in love and I just wished I was in the ground with my best friend.
14. Our daughter turned 5-years old without her Dad. She had a roller skating party with her friends and I strapped on rollerblades, a big smile, and made it through the party……….for her. Anything for that little girl.
15. My first winter without him was very hard. The dark, short, cold days of a Minnesota winter can feel like they multiply your grief by 1,000. I longed for spring. For the beach. For any sort of sunshine.
16. The first time I sat at my husbands grave alone without our kids. I might have cried more that day then I had in all the days since he died.
17. I sold my husbands truck to his friend. I didn’t feel sad watching that truck drive away. I only felt happiness that it would bring someone else some happiness and that I had done what I thought my husband would want me to do.
18. The first summer without him. The days were sunny and it lifted my grief just a little. So many firsts that summer. Everywhere I took our children was somewhere they had never been with me and never would be with him in their lifetime.
19. Our son started to talk in full sentences. He was only saying a few words when his Dad died. Now he would say, “Mama! Look at me! Me ride my bike!”
20. Our kids first puppy. The summer after he died I decided that we needed some joy and adventure in our house so we got another german shorthair and she was only 3 months old. We named her Opal and she is one of the loves of our lives.
21. Our 10th wedding anniversary came and went without him. I didn’t celebrate. There’s nothing to celebrate when you’re a grieving widow. We will never be married ten years. We had planned to go to Vegas to celebrate just the two of us. Instead I sat home and cried on the basement floor.
22. Our daughters first tooth fell out. She is growing up. The tooth fairy left a long trail of gold glitter all the way through our house to her bed and left glittery money under her pillow. The joy on that child’s face the next morning? Best thing in the world.
23. Our son turned 3 years old. His second birthday without his Dad. He no longer remembers him at this point. He wonders if maybe his Dad was a pirate, or moved to another planet, and is convinced that the mailman will deliver him a new guy to hang out with someday.
24. I turned 37-years old. The first time I would turn 37 and he never would.
25. My first writing piece was published online on a website and that website’s Facebook page. I only hoped that wherever he was now……he knew this and was proud of me.
26. Our daughter turned 6-years old. My heart, our hearts, were healed enough by this time to have a family birthday party in our home and it didn’t feel sad. It felt happy and joyful just as a child’s birthday should.
27. The roof of my house got damaged by a big hail storm and it was the first time I had to call and make arrangements with insurance, roofers, etc. Usually he did all of this. It was a first that made me proud of myself and how much I can handle alone.
28. I took our kids and 2 dogs camping for the first time. They are hooked.
29. Our daughter learned to ride her bike without her training wheels. One of the many, many first she will experience in her life without her Dad.
30. I took my first classes since before we had children. My heart told me to become a grief support specialist and it’s so interesting to me that I feel like this is one of my great purposes in life but that I would probably never have found this path without my husband dying. He gave me one last gift when he died…….he gave me back myself so that I could find out who I really am and what I’m really made of.
31. I drove me and our two kids all the way to and through South Dakota. This trip terrified me while planning it and that’s exactly why I did it. I just somehow knew it was the big scare I needed to catapult me further into my healing. To push me farther into moving forward. To show me that I am enough for our kids and that they will still have an amazing childhood all while keeping the love for their Dad in their hearts.
32. Our little guy got his first real bike. We took a trip to the store just me and him to pick it out and he rode it all the way through and out of the store. We high five after we loaded the bike into the car and then went for ice cream. He tells me, “Mama? You’re the best guy around. Thanks for my new bike!”
33. I went on my first date after loss.
34. I posted about me dating and it was terrifying but I was given so many heartfelt and compassionate responses.
35. My children had their first babysitter that wasn’t family. This was huge for me and for them. They loved it and it made me realize that it’s ok for me to get out there and have a life. I’m a good Mom…….I deserve it.
36. I went on a date to the Brad Paisley concert. This was my first country concert since before my kids were born. I felt like I was 22 again. Or at least like I wasn’t that girl who was dead on the inside. I laughed. I sang. I felt like maybe everything is going to be ok in my life after all.
37. I got a phone call from a producer on one of the new segments for the Today show. Turns out I wasn’t a good fit for the segment after all but it was a first that I will never forget. All my hard work of writing through my pain and grief is getting out there into the world and it’s what keeps me going other than my awesome kids.
38. Every day. Every day is a first after loss. Every day is a day without my late husband, a day that our children don’t have their Dad. Every day is something new that I am experiencing as a solo parent. Our kids have new tears every day, new triumphs, new milestones. And we carry our grief in our hearts forever. We are forever healing…..together. The difference now is that we are somehow getting used to all the firsts or we are learning how to handle them together. The silent ones that no one notices and the big ones that make us hold our breath. Every day is a first.
There are many more firsts to come in my life. Some make me sad and some make me grateful to have the opportunity and the brave heart to keep living and not hide away from the world. Judge me if you want. I’m just a regular girl. A regular girl who’s life and heart burned to the ground two years ago. A regular girl who only wishes to help others, to raise her children, to have adventures, and to live…….again. A regular girl who turns 38 in a couple of weeks and is going to celebrate with a big cake…..with frosting….and with mint chocolate chip ice cream on the side. Just like the days when she was a little girl at Colvill swimming pool eating her favorite ice cream, listening to the song “Heaven” by Bryan Adams blaring on the pool speakers, and dreaming of her future. I’m still that little girl…….dreaming of my future.