mending while bending

The Case For Love After Loss

In this life there is love and there is death.

These two entities are intertwined like a sick and cruel joke played on all of mankind. You may find love in this life but when you risk love it is inevitable at some point you will know loss. Your loss may not come for decades – or you may only be blessed with a fleeting few moments of pure bliss.

At the tender age of 21 I met him. There was something special about his being.

A light.

A knowing.

An acceptance of life in the present moment.

An ease.

A joy like I’d never seen before.

In his earthly life I found his light enchanting – almost simple and childlike. He wasn’t driven or anxious. He was content and present.

In his death I found his light to be profound and self-actualizing. His death taught me the true beauty of life through years of lessons only visible after his loss.

He was my soul mate – or so I thought. Our relationship was easy; we fit, we belonged, we meshed. There was a mutual understanding of feelings, thoughts, and emotions – without the complexity of words.

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It was not a perfect union – non-are.

It was however, our ideal of perfection, and in the moment I lost him to death I felt the air leave my body simultaneously. I was breathless and hopeless at a loss felt deep within my soul.

Those first moments of realization from sudden loss are impossible to explain to those who have not experienced them. Confusion, intense and compounding fear, weightlessness, breathlessness, agony, shock, and emptiness no words in the human language can properly validate.

For 15 years he was my other half.

In a matter of less than 15 seconds he was gone, his light taken from my daily view, and his joy stolen from my vantage point.

His light still exists; energy that pure and beautiful cannot be extinguished. It is however, no longer mine to bask in or enjoy here on this earth.

I mourned his loss. I mourned our loss. I mourned my children’s loss. I mourned his parent’s loss. I mourned the loss of a future planned and dreams unfulfilled. I mourned the silence, the emptiness, the deafening quiet and the unrelenting agony.

Mourning is not linear, grief not tangible, nor measurable by any human form of calculation.

The platitudes began before the end of my first year of widowhood from well meaning friends and family. The side remarks of moving on and starting anew – as if there is someplace new I had to go. The grieving move forward they do not move on. There is a remarkable difference in the two simple words when you live a life of grief.

Widowhood is perceived to be less painful when you are young, attractive and eligible in the eyes of society. You do, in the estimation of others, have the opportunity to ‘replace what was lost’. As if in your youth pain is acceptable with the prospects of starting over.

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Those who grieve understand that life is not replaceable. What was lost is forever lost. There is no replacement for one human being by another. Your loss is forever. It takes a considerable amount of time to come to grips with this reality. You are forever without that person who made you whole and filled that special spot in your heart. That spot is held by the lost for the remainder of your days. It is what it is and you are forever changed.

That’s not to say the heart cannot expand, it is my belief that with great love comes great growth and from growth we are allowed to compartmentalize emotion.

Like a mother loves each of her children differently – she is, undoubtedly, still able to love them all.

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At some point after my loss I decided I was willing to open myself up to new life and potentially try again. I was willing to risk the inevitable pain, the loss, the grief – all in the name of an unforeseen happiness for an unknown amount of hours, weeks, months, or dare I say – years.

Fear consumed my being.

Fear of being vulnerable.

Fear of being hurt.

Fear of being letdown.

and

Fear of not having what I had with Mitch.

As I analyzed my fears it dawned on me that I was going to have accept vulnerability to begin again.

I was going to have to open myself up to potential pain and letdown AND I was never going to have what I had with Mitch –

And that was okay.

What I had with Mitch was unique to Mitch and I. What would eventually come next would be unique to me and the man lucky enough to share my deep and unrelenting love of life post loss. I had to become okay with nothing being the same. I had to become okay with the new and unchartered waters of love after loss.

Expectations are often our greatest hurtle to happiness.

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We expect perfection.

We expect familiarity

We expect the fairytale we are sold as children.

Happy endings are the lie within the fairytale, after all, ending are always sad. The ending is goodbye, until we meet again, and till death do us part.

The beginning and the middle are the fairytale.

The acceptance and growth of new friendship.

The acceptance of new feelings.

The acceptance of new love.

The joy of deeper emotions, richer connections, and a closer step to your own self-actualization.

It takes a unique individual to love again after great loss and it takes a special soul to accept such love. A love that is ripe with complexity, rich hues, and detailed tapestries. The grieving grasps the brevity of life and the beauty of the moment. The grieving also live with the awareness nothing is guaranteed. You are deeply endowed with the powerful ‘gifts of grief’, which can be daunting to harness. These gifts are not given to many and wasted on most.

I know longer believe in soul mates.

I believe we are born to love, wired to connect, and long for companionship. I’ve been blessed with two great loves in this life. Neither man is comparable and neither relationship defined by simple or quantifiable terms. Their place in my ever-expanding heart separated by various chapters in my best-selling book of life.

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If you are considering moving forward into love again after loss let me assure you of one thing:

You are imperfectly perfect.

Your loss is not damage. Your loss is not a hindrance to new life but a catalyst to new depths of joy. Within your pain you’ve grown. You’ve come closer to your own self-actualization. You now are enlightened with the gifts of grief.

New won’t cancel out the old. New won’t diminish what you had, nor what you can have.

New is new and old is old.

Quiet the crowd and listen to the voice of your own heart. You aren’t required to live your life within the walls built by a stifled culture unwilling to accept growth, change, and re-birth.

You can move forward bravely while honoring your past gracefully.

This is your life to live.

This is your story to write.

Your loss did not end your ability to write new chapters in your book of life.

After all, the chapters you have yet to write might just be the best part of your story.

You’ll never know unless you are willing to be vulnerable once again.

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Michelle

Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is a author, international speaker, fitness coach, mother and a re-married widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009 she turned to exercise as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle found it so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate job to become a fitness trainer. Since then Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets. In addition to her virtual training business, and many speaking engagements, Michelle recently launched her own nonprofit focused on helping widows and widowers complete bucket list dreams to honor their late spouse while moving boldly into their future. If you know a widow who might deserve sponsorship please have them apply on this page.

You can find out more about Michelle’s training programs at: 1fw Training