Written by Michelle shortly after her loss in 2009.

To this day I can feel uncomfortable in a room full of people that love me. My life is blessed in ways I can not even put it into words, but as a widow, I can feel out of place in lots of situations…but especially around friends & family. I’ve learned to love quiet walks with my kiddos and hard runs at the gym.

My life was incredibly simple and boring before October 9th, 2009. Nobody cared what I was doing; nobody asked if I was okay, everyone assumed life was perfect. Sometime around 1 pm on October 9th my life changed forever, and in that instant, my life became the talk of the town, and I felt like the big white elephant in nearly every room I entered. Ironically all a widow/widower wants to feel is normal, and normal was something rare and strange from the moment of loss on.

I retreated to the gym and long runs to grab my little slice of *normal*. Whenever I walked into the gym, I still got lots of side head tilts and sad glares from across the room, but with my closest friends at my side, I could hide and find shelter behind a set of weights or a few minutes of intense cardio. I never forgot that I was a widow, but I escaped the drama and the pity I felt consuming me moment by moment in my new life. Normal is rare for a widow, and every second of normal I could find made me survive one more day.

When your family goes from a strong square of 4 to an awkward triangle of 3, you feel out of place in nearly every circumstance. Being with family was extremely painful for me because one of my biggest life goals was to give my children a *normal* childhood. Growing up with two parents that loved them and loved each other was my dream for my kiddos. You see, my parents divorced when I was 2, and I was determined to give my kids what I had missed. With Mitch’s death I was forced to walk into family gatherings and painfully acknowledge that I could no longer give my children what I had dreamed of most, but yet my family members and their lives remained in tack. I didn’t wish them any pain or harm, but their happiness made my sadness worse. Their togetherness made my loss more glaring. Their complete life made mine feel more empty. I found myself at a loss for words (completely strange) and those I had felt closest to became like strangers in this new world. Many didn’t understand my feelings, and I felt selfish acknowledging how I was reacting. So I continued to retreat to the only place I felt *normal* and the only place that gave me peace. My workouts were my normal and the only place I felt completely okay just to be me other than being alone with my kiddos.

My life today has a new normal, and over time I have learned to embrace this normal and love life again. Time with family has become easier, and while I will never stop loving or missing my husband, my new life is beyond blessed. I’m not sure I could have survived those first two years without the peace I found in exercise. It was a distraction, and it was a normalcy I so desperately needed.

When those around you grieve, allow them to be who they are at that very moment. Don’t ask them to be who they were before their life turned upside down. Understand your life may cause them pain, because if nothing else your life is more *normal* than their life. Understand that their perceptions on life, death, money, worries, and pain are forever skewed by the experience they have endured. If you want to help them, let them be who they are and let them be where they need to be for that moment in time. Offer to watch their kids, so they can have some *me* time, and encourage them to move their body. Endorphins may save them just enough to make it through one more day as the white elephant.


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