introductionWhat if everything you thought you ever wanted—and had actually created—was taken away in an instant, and you had to imagine a new life for yourself? What would it look like? More importantly, how would you go about creating it?
At the age of 28—after 9 ½ months of marriage, 1 glorious 12-day honeymoon in Hawaii, 6 weeks after buying our first home and looking forward to a bright, beautiful future together—Barry Nelson, my sweet, wonderful husband, died.
What was I going to do now?
I began writing this book nine years ago, almost immediately after my husband died. In retrospect, I am so happy I did. If I had waited a few years, or even a few months, I don’t think I would have been able to capture the raw pain that I felt in the moment.
The writing was hard. Some days I could only write I don’t feel like writing… But a friend suggested that I stick with it, and so I committed to writing for 15 minutes a day. Some days I looked forward to it, knowing that afterwards I would feel a little clearer, a little cleaner.
Months after Barry’s death, when I felt certain I was not getting any better, it helped to read those first pages and realize that I had moved on. I was no longer in the same place as I was when I started writing. Grief is circular, with no beginning and no end. But there is movement—slow, painful movement. Sometimes you find yourself working through a memory, an emotion, a piece of your heart that you thought you had already dealt with. Yet there it is, needing some more attention, another layer to peel away.
I learned a lot from Barry while he was here. He was always able to evaluate a situation and try to choose the best action for all involved. In the days and months after his death, remembering this helped me through the tragedy of losing him. It also helped me resolve and heal other relationships—even if that meant severing some. I knew I wanted Barry to be proud of me. Always. I knew that to honor him meant that I must live an honorable life. I knew that loving me was his first priority, and now I was left to do that for myself.
The pages about my family were written years later, mostly while I was pregnant with my first child. If nothing else, I saw it as a way to record information for the next generation. After I had my baby, I would add to the book occasionally, but I really didn’t have much time to write, and I was frustrated that the book wasn’t coming together. A friend suggested that it was because it—the book, my life—was still being recreated. I suppose there was some truth to that.
It didn’t hurt to let some time pass so I could continue the healing/grieving process and gain some perspective. In the intervening years, I had another baby. It’s amazing the way children bring their own healing powers into the world and remind us to live more fully, more in the Now. Children give us a second chance. It has been through raising my children that I’ve been able to heal myself.
I think now is a good time to start letting my story out—letting it go—to pass it along to someone who can learn from it. If, by sharing my experience, I can help someone else, then the emotionally challenging work of digging up my feelings and writing this book has been worth it.
A few of the names have been changed, but everything else remains as it does in my memories.
NOW IN PAPERBACKGet your copy of A Life Imagined. All proceeds from the first printing directly benefit OUR HOUSE, providing grief support services, education, resources and hope.
(paperback, 342pp., ISBN# 978-0-615-20961-6)
"This book should be read not only by widows and widowers, old and young, but by those couples whose relationships are still intact. Many evaluate their life and their relationships when faced with uncertainty, illness or death. A Life Imagined reminds us to live presently, move forward and move on when necessary."