As a COVID widow, hearing people say “I cannot wait for things to get back to normal,” is incredibly frustrating and extremely painful. My life, along with the millions of others who have lost someone they loved to COVID, will never be “normal” again.
When I look back at the past year, the last time my life was somewhat “normal” was March 21, 2020. Yes, we were under a stay-at-home order, but our family of four was together and happily celebrating our daughter’s second birthday, lockdown style. It wasn’t what I had envisioned for Elsie’s second birthday, but my husband made sure her day was extra special. Despite the uncertainty of everything else going on in the world, the joy and excitement he brought to her birthday was absolutely magical. It’s a day I now look back on and cherish, because it was ours, because it was perfect, because it was joyous, and most of all because it was our last day together as a family of four.
March 21, 2020 is the last day I can say that COVID wasn’t a part of our story. Within hours of this happy celebration, Martin developed a cough and life as I knew it would never be normal again.
For five weeks my husband fought to get better. For five weeks I woke up everyday hoping that today would be a better day. For five weeks I prayed that my husband would recover. For five weeks I wished that life would go back to the way it was. For five weeks I watched in horror as COVID attacked my healthy, young husband. For five long weeks, COVID ravaged my husband’s body until his heart could no longer take it.
The moment Martin took his last breath was the moment my life as I knew it would never be the same. My new reality set in and there was no going back to “normal.” I will never share another anniversary, holiday, or birthday with him. I will never hear him say “I love you.” He will never look into my eyes again with his beaming smile and tell me “I am doing that looking more beautiful than I ever have thing.” I will never hold his hand and feel his sweet and loving touches. My two young children will never have another Christmas or birthday with him. They will never again have a Papa hug and goodnight kiss or a special Papa adventure. Those are the “normal” things we would love to enjoy and experience again, but unfortunately my family can never get back what we had on March 21, 2020.
I think sometimes it is easy to forget about the people whose lives have been turned upside down by this pandemic. There has been so much loss, so much pain, and so much heartache. Many of us still grieve for the life we once had, the “normal” parts of our lives before COVID took it all away. As we grieve, we also face the both challenging and frightening journey of finding our “new normal.” The “new normal” that doesn’t include our lost loved ones. The “new normal” that has thrown us into a life we could never have imagined nor truly prepared for.
When I see people so eager to make COVID a distant “bad memory,” I can’t help but feel angry and agitated. It’s hard to comprehend that so many still don’t truly understand how COVID has affected my life and the lives of so many others. COVID will not only be a bad memory that my children and I will carry with us for the rest of our lives, it will also be a constant reminder of the “perfect” life we once had that was suddenly taken away from us because of this horrible virus.
The trauma I have suffered in losing my husband in such an unexpected and devastating way, is always going to be a part of me and my story moving forward. It is important to understand that healing from a massive loss like the one I have endured is ongoing hard work, and my grief will never fully go away, I will just learn how to live with it. Grief creates a hole in your heart because the person you loved is no longer here with you. I will live with that small hole for the rest of my life. I will think of the what-ifs and could-have-beens. So that being said, maybe normal isn’t what we should strive for, because for me and so many others, normal is unattainable. Normal is all the memories I had before COVID impacted my life in such a profound way. Normal is a reminder of all I have lost and all the things I still need to figure out. Normal is reliving the nightmare I wish I could wake up from. Normal is knowing that I am no longer the person I once was because COVID took a piece of me that I will never get back.
It has been 10 months since I lost my husband and I have accepted that my life will never be “normal” again. I have made a lot of progress in learning my “new normal,” but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the life I once had, the life I will never have again. So as we are still healing from our devastating loss, remember that normal isn’t possible for me and the many others trying to heal and move forward with our lives after COVID stole so much from us.