How Loss Has Shaped Me Into Who I Am Today

This one is going to be a long one, but important.

I come with many layers and many sides, each of those get pulled back one at a time. I’m easy to get to know me on the surface, but it’s hard to really let people in. One of those layers is death – experiencing the loss of those that are closest to me. I’ve learned life can change as quickly as the blink of an eye, and this lesson has come in the form of many losses – my Stepdad, Bio-Dad, my husband, and most recently my Grandfather – the most significant and impactful being Wade (my husband). It doesn’t mean my two Dads and Grandfather were less important or less loved, but the death of a spouse is just different, especially at such a young age (34). Today, July 5, would have been our 5th wedding anniversary – we dated for 4 years before finally getting hitched.

Wade and I met in 2010, our official date is September 11, 2010 – that’s the day we became inseparable. Wade was extremely smart, funny, outgoing and just a joy to be around. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times we needed to get away from each other, but I’ve never met a couple that doesn’t bicker and need a moment for fresh air. Wade was my rock, he taught me that anything is obtainable. I watched this man work full time and go to school full time, doing so with a smile on his face and the occasional why am I doing this to myself. Wade led by example to always push yourself, he would push me to do the best I can and to be the best person I possibly could be. He was a witty man, very sarcastic, caring and extremely smart. I got my love for travel from him. We weren’t able to travel too often or too far because of work and school schedules, but after he passed, I started to visit some of the places we had on our “places to see list”. I can now say I have been out of the south and out of the country, going as far west as you can go in the States (San Francisco) and going tropical to the British Virgin Islands! Because of these missed opportunities, I’ve learned to live more in the moment instead of so planned out and scheduled.

My Stepdad taught me to not be so closed off, like I said earlier – it’s hard for me to let people in – I’ll probably always have to work on this. When he first came into our lives, I was a bratty youngster that didn’t like change and took that out on him for many years. A lot of change in my life came with him. It was no longer us three girls (my Mom, sister and me). Then there was the move from Charleston to Florida – I did not want to leave Charleston, it will always be home and one of my most favorite places! When I got out of high school, our relationship started to change, I saw him for who he really was – a caring man, loving, my goodness he thought the sun rose and set out of my Mom’s ass (that’s how much he loved my Mom). My only regret is waiting too long to opening up to him. It wasn’t long after I did so that the doctors found the cancer and he fought hard as hell to beat, but the cancer took him in 2003 at the age of 46. I try hard not to be so guarded nowadays, and to let people in a little sooner.

My Bio-Dad taught me a lot, but the one that comes to mind as I’m writing this, keep up with your mental health. My Dad was a strong man, stood about 6’1 – I definitely did not get his height with my 5’2 frame. I looked up to him figuratively and literally! One of my favorite memories of my Dad was when I was super young, we’d go on our bike rides around the neighborhood and stop for ice cream on our way home. I have good memories with my Dad, but he also had a rough side to him. He drank and wasn’t always the nicest person when he did. I remember times that he would say things to piss me off and we’d go a while without talking (we’re both stubborn), but I was a Daddy’s Girl and we’d eventually start talking again. My most hated memory is waking up around 11:30 (pm) and seeing I’ve missed 24 calls from my Stepmom, sister and Mom, I knew this couldn’t be good. A few hours after those calls started, my Dad died by suicide. If you have suicidal thoughts, please talk to someone and seek help. If you need to talk to someone, the National Suicide Prevention Helpline is below.

Sometimes a lesson someone will teach you will be something they say and be so simple, but powerful. Because of my grandfather I will never walk through a parking lot without something in my hand -keys or my phone. This is just in case someone isn’t paying attention and starts to backup while walking in their path – have something to toss at the car in the event you don’t have time to make a quick move to get out of their way. Let’s be honest, in this day, people are super busy and small things like looking at your surroundings get missed at times.

Back to Wade, when he died, a part of me died too. That day I just knew I would never see or know happiness again. But, it’s amazing what the heart can do – it can break into a million tiny pieces, put itself back together (although there are now scars). It will grow bigger to allow a new/fresh love to form, while still holding onto the love you have for those that have gained their beautiful wings and are now watching over you. I never in a million years thought I would be able to say my heart, at this moment in time is bursting. Because of A.J., I now get to experience the love a mother has for her child. This truly is the most amazing feeling there is to have!

I have taken on the position that I don’t want these great losses to define me – they most definitely have shaped and formed me along the way. But if I let them define me, I would be an angry, why me, bitter person. This has been my choice to continue to love them and love my memories with them, but also allow my life to continue, and keep them a part of every step. I just hope they are all looking down on me with an ice-cold adult beverage, smiling, saying that’s our girl!

National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 800-273-8255