AARP, The Girlfriend, Widow, grief

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When You Lose The Love Of Your Life

The day my worst nightmare became a reality.

Life can change on a dime. On Dec. 30, 2017, I was the happiest person in the world, and then my worst nightmare became a reality.

In the early morning of Dec. 31, I found my beloved husband of 22 years dead, without warning or cause. The night before we enjoyed dinner with my dad in Florida, and then Sandy smoked a cigar while overlooking the ocean. He was relaxed, and the scene was almost too normal.

Sandy was not sick or feeling poorly, but he went to bed and never woke up. How is it possible that this magnificent man did not get a second chance? The experts call what happened the widow-maker, and that is what I am — a 49-year-old widow. Suddenly I can’t function, focus or breathe, and worst of all, I’ve lost my will. The pain is unbearable, basic survival is daunting, and the thought of recreating my life is overwhelming. Sandy and I loved each other with all our hearts, we had “it,” and “it” is gone.

Sandy was remarkable in every sense of the word, and was brilliant in mind and character. Stable and solid, dedicated and loyal, Sandy was the go-to person for so many. He was patient, kind and carried a joyous spirit throughout this world, always striving to share it with others. Sandy was a champion for his clients, colleagues, family and friends, and mostly for me. Regardless of what Sandy was doing or where he was in the world, I always felt like his No. 1 priority. He made me feel special, and I never took that for granted.

But he was ripped away in an instant, and I was going down for the count. So what is this girl … any girl … to do when disaster strikes?

By the grace of God I rely on my cherished friendships, where everyone contributes to a beautiful and diverse network composed of amazing people. These heroes give new meaning to the word “lifeline,” and have been with me every step of the way since Sandy’s death. Existing bonds have gotten stronger, old pals have resurfaced and new friends have emerged. On my worst days I am inspired by the thoughtfulness and generosity shared by so many.

The support, love and encouragement from my community has been the most effective therapy, and I am grateful.

It is easy to get caught in the stress of life and to not make time for relationships. And let’s face it, maintaining friendships takes time and commitment. But the investment is worth it and pays dividends in the form of resiliency, which I believe is the most important thing to embrace as we get older. Resilient people bounce back from adversity, and are able to do so because they surround themselves with a social network. Thus, I sincerely encourage those reading this article to commit to your friends and make time for them in your life.

Sandy’s premature passing is by far the worst thing that will ever happen to me, but now I have total clarity in how I will live my life. My future includes honoring my late husband in a way that keeps his legacy alive in a meaningful way. I will continue to surround myself with true friends who embrace and support each other. I acknowledge the gratitude I feel for these beautiful people, and will be there for them, in good times and bad. I feel so strongly about the power of friendship that I asked to write this article as a way to share my story, and to emphasize the importance of girlfriends, guy friends, and true friends. I love mine very much.