Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Rearview Mirror

Sunday, July 7, 2013
Posted By: 

I was driving toward an ominous rainstorm the other day. I braced myself as the raindrops started to lightly fall, suddenly turning into a down pour that left me almost unable to see. My windshield wipers furiously tried to clear the onslaught of pounding raindrops as I struggled to visualize the road in front of me. I drove at a snail’s pace, clutching the wheel, until I finally emerged on the other side of the storm. I looked at it in my rearview mirror, and felt amazed how different it looked driving away from it. Looking ahead I saw brighter skies, and with the worst of it behind me, I could appreciate the storm I’d just been through.

Next week will be five years that I lost my 39 year old husband suddenly in his sleep. I’ve struggled to describe to  non-widowed people how overwhelming it can be. I suppose it’s a hokey cliche of sorts, using the imagery of storms, rearview mirrors, roller coasters, ocean waves, or uttering phrases like “it comes in waves” or “drowning in the ocean” or “treading water” or “it’s part of the road behind me,” but these and other such sentiments help me try to articulate some of the feelings I’ve experienced as a widow these last five years.

In my own widow journey, there have been many points where I have “looked back.” It’s a difficult, painful thing to do, but it also brings a welcomed perspective. Going forward can feel terrifying. The responsibility, the lack of control, the unknown ahead, it can make it hard to keep going. Every once in a while,  looking back can remind me I have done great things I might not have even realized while I was “in the thick of it.” At five years, I still sometimes get caught up in what lies ahead without my it affects us going forward. I need to remind myself to acknowledge all the things I have done successfully since his passing. The day to day responsibilities, the major life changing actions, and especially the things that I am always too hard on myself about. I have to take a moment to say “I have done it, and continue to do it, every day, since he died...and that is something to be grateful for.” I get up, take care of myself, my kids, the house, and all the daily responsibilities. Some might say “So what?  So do many other people who aren’t widowed, right?” Right. But they aren’t looking in my rearview mirror.

Sometimes you can see a storm on the horizon and have time to prepare yourself, to be more focused, more alert, more cautious, and brace yourself for the inevitable you can see in front of you. Sometimes, it just sneaks up on you with no warning, and while you are in it, it can be frightening, intimidating, and unnerving. But when you finally make it through, the sense of relief can cause you to look back and see just what it is you’ve come through. At five years out, if I could offer advice to my newly widowed self, it would be this: never dismiss the things you have done, continue to do, and have lived through, since becoming a widowed person. Give yourself credit for even the smallest of accomplishments. Take the time to reflect on how far you have come, on the roads you have traveled, and the storms you drove into, and came out of on the other side. Look forward, and try to anticipate what is coming, but never lose sight of what you went through, where you came from, and how you got through it. Look into your rearview mirror, and be amazed at yourself for making it through another day.  Reflect on how significant that really is. The road ahead and the road behind are part of the same vantage point. How it looks is a matter of the place you are and which perspective you see. Keep moving forward, but don’t forget to check your rearview once in a while.


What a beautiful essay. I love your metaphors about the storms and life.

That's some great advice Diana. It's so easy to get bogged down by the things we haven't done, or wish we'd done - whether that be at the end of the week, the day or even the hour. After seven years, I can look back and see that my daughter and I have done quite a bit in the accomplishment period and we continue to pursue life, challenges and all, even though we don't have Jenny any longer to share it with.

A poignant summation of your journey which nearly mirrors my loss in length (will be 5 years in Dec). I still look back and think "How did I ever make it through?"

Loved your post Diana. For me, it's been almost 7 years since my husband lost a very short battle with pancreatic cancer. I still look back quite a bit, but I'm finally at the point where I'm more focused on looking forward. It's taken me a long time, but I am a different person now, and I'm pretty darn proud of myself. It sounds like you should be pretty darn proud of yourself too! We are stronger and wiser than many because of our life experiences, and for that I am grateful. I have three teenage girls now, and it still makes me sad that my husband missed out on so much and even more sad that they missed out on having such a wonderful role-model for a father. But, overall, life is good, we are happy. I just turned 50 and one of my close friends wrote in a card to me "You've come a long way, baby!" which actually brought me to tears, because I have, thanks to many amazing people in my life! You sound like you have a good perspective on life, and I wish you the best. I really enjoyed your essay.

Thank you for sharing. I too am so hard on myself and hardly ever take a moment to see how far I've come. Thanks for the reminder.

Add new comment