I Had To Find Myself Before I Could Move On After My Husband's Death

by Stacy Feintuch
A cup, Kindle, notebook and glasses on a table.
Unsplash / PEXELS

“What if I am alone for the rest of my life?”

I was crying in my therapist’s office with a box of tissues on my lap. That was my worst fear. My husband had passed away four years earlier, which was devastating. It was the most terrible thing that had ever happened to me. But now, four years later, I was going through a bad breakup, and I was a mess. It may have been the lowest point of my life. The past four years had taken their toll, and I felt like I was finally breaking. I had already been through so much, and I couldn’t handle anything more. This was it. I was going to spend the rest of my life alone. It terrified me.

I expected sympathy from my therapist. I expected her to tell me I was wrong, that it would all be OK. Instead, what she said was, “Tell me a little about your past relationships.”

I looked at her like she was crazy. What did my past relationships have to do with anything I was going through now? But I did as she asked.

I spoke about my recent breakup, about my marriage, and about my past boyfriends. I talked about my relationship with my two daughters. When I finished, she said, “You seem to be extremely dependent on your relationships to make you happy. Maybe you need to try to find something for yourself.”

Once again, I thought she was crazy. There I was, a 49-year-old single mother, working and raising two teenage girls alone. I had no time for myself. And I certainly wasn’t dependent on my relationships. That was ridiculous. At least, that’s what I thought at the time.

But something about what she said must have stuck in the back of my mind because, this time around, I devoted less time to the grieving process. As I started to feel better, I noticed that I felt the happiest at home. Instead of going out, I would find myself sitting on the floor in any given room in my house cleaning out drawers, closets, and cabinets. I wasn’t sure why I was doing this, but I knew it wasn’t only to escape the cold winter. And every time I finished one of these projects, I felt a little bit better. What I learned afterward was that I was purging — getting rid of stuff I no longer needed so I could make a change.

When spring finally came and the weather changed, so did my outlook. I became less focused on “being alone for the rest of my life” and more focused on the present as well as the future. I hadn’t made any significant changes. I was, to put it simply, feeling more comfortable with myself and thinking more clearly than I had in years.

At the same time, stories from throughout my life began swirling around in my head. I started to write. Soon after, I created a blog. The next thing I knew, readers, including other widows from around the country, began connecting with me online. Where once I had thought telling my stories would be cathartic for me, I realized sharing my experience was helping others too. And I discovered that I love to write.

Then something amazing happened. One of the women who contacted me told me about a hobby she had discovered during her recovery process: hot yoga. She encouraged me to try it. I didn’t think I would enjoy it but decided to give it a chance. Not only did I like it, I fell in love with it.

Hot yoga has since helped me get into perhaps the best physical shape of my life. It is also teaching me how to feel at peace with myself and grateful for all that I have. Now every week I look forward to yoga class. It has become my me time, something I haven’t had in a long while. The best part is I have become a much calmer, more optimistic person in the process.

Sometime during all of this, I began seeing someone seriously — a man. I am certain some people in my life think that my boyfriend is the reason I am in a better place today. But the exact opposite is true. I have my boyfriend because I am in a better place. Finding myself and becoming my own person is why I can coexist in a happy, healthy relationship.

I often think about what my therapist said that day — how I needed something for myself. As it turns out, she wasn’t so crazy after all. My writing and yoga have become important to me. I now have pastimes in my life that are mine, and mine only. Today, I feel like a whole person. The future looks bright, and I am no longer terrified of being alone. For the first time in my life, I am content to be just me.