Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Looking Back, But Forward, Too, On Memorial Day

Date: 
Monday, May 27, 2013
Posted By: 
Eden Maheras
Eden was widowed on February 15, 2012, when her 44-year-old husband's heart suddenly gave out.  She is currently pursuing a Master's in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and enjoys Crossfit daily as a form of therapy.  Eden lives in Lakeview with her son, Max, who will be 2 in July, her dog, Ruby and her parents who moved here from Florida to help her. 
 
To many Americans, Memorial Day is all about good stuff: it heralds the start of summer, and is yet another excuse to get our consumerism on with all the sales.  We kick off the barbeque season with burgers, beers, and brats in backyards and on rooftops.  What’s not to love?
 
But for those who have lost a loved one in the service, this weekend is not all about gathering around the grill and enjoying an extra day of sleeping in.  For these folks, the true meaning of the holiday, paying tribute to those killed in service to our country, is painfully clear.
 
My husband was not in the service, but he was as patriotic as they come.  With his birthday falling on May 31, we often hosted parties to celebrate his birthday and commemorate the holiday.  JP had an impressive collection of American flags that would hang from our roof and balcony on national holidays (in fact, one of our friends wanted to keep one to remember him by, which I loved).  And while I didn’t lose him in battle, I did lose him suddenly, like many of those widowed by war.
 
So this Memorial Day, I will be taking a moment to not only remember the true reason behind this holiday, but to mourn for all of the women and men who have suffered such great loss due to their shared dedication to the ideals of this great country of ours, including: freedom…democracy…the pursuit of happiness.  I will be thinking of their children, and hoping that they grow up knowing that their parents were heroes. 
 
And let’s go back to that  “unalienable right” of the pursuit of happiness…a right that, by definition, cannot be surrendered or taken.  Granted, in the Declaration of Independence, this refers to the pursuit of a business or vocation that can provide enjoyment.  That’s not the definition I’m using.  I’m talking about ANYTHING that makes you happy.  And let’s face it - if anyone deserves to be pursuing happiness, young widows do. 
 
These days I feel like I’m burning the candle at both ends.  I’m working full-time at an internship, which is great, but being out of the house for 10+ hours, not even seeing Max in the morning since he’s still asleep, is tough.  We get a couple hours at night, but even that feels rushed – dinner, bath, a TV show (during which I usually fall asleep), reading “bookses” as he calls them, and bedtime.  I don’t have a whole lot of time or energy left over for “me time” or the things that I enjoy outside of time with Max or working out (since doing Crossfit continues to be my preferred method of therapy).  But I’m definitely making an effort.  And I’m finally feeling ready to BE happy in a larger sense than, say, enjoying an episode (or marathon) of Arrested Development.  There are still times when I feel guilty for feeling happy, but they’re fewer and farther between now. 
 
My advice to other young widows would be to find the things that bring you some happiness, and make time for them, and open yourself to truly enjoying them.  Whether that means working out, reading, cheering on your favorite team in the Stanley Cup playoffs, etc., let yourself live in the moment and find your genuine smile. 
 
Once you start doing that, you just might find yourself ready for something that’s more than a fleeting lift of your spirit.  Be mindful of your feelings; I know it’s common for us to feel uncomfortable with the idea of welcoming legit happiness again, especially if that feeling is in any way tied to opening our hearts to someone else.   But in the beginning of our journeys, it felt like a betrayal to crack a smile about anything, so I hope that we are all able to keep the lines of communication open internally and externally, and allow ourselves to open ourselves to what is, after all, our unalienable right.
 
JP was never into celebrating his own birthday, but with what would have been his 46th coming up on Friday, I find myself trying to come up with a “gift” that I could give him.  As someone who was so devoted to making me happy, I think that my gift to him will be my concerted effort to focus on my own happiness, not just homework and responsibilities, which have dominated my mental bandwidth for so long.  Until recently, I didn’t feel like I had it in me to deal with a seemingly unattainable goal like being happy again.  I think it will be nice for JP to look down and see me smiling that genuine smile again.

Comments

I admire your strength and ambition. I too am in school, workout everyday (to keep me sane), work and am raising my two young children. My husband died last June in a motorcycle accident. It's not easy, but you are setting an amazing example for your son. Best of luck and keep it up!!!

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