The start of 2011 was a pivotal turning point in my life post loss. I was emotionally drained and tired of living life as a grieving widow. I remember writing that I was sick and tired of grieving which was probably not the politically correct thing to say but my reality just the same. I was ready for a change and I was ready to feel like I was living again.

I started to look at life a little differently in 2011. Yes, I was still a widow. Yes, I was still grieving. Yes, my life would never be the same again and that sucked at the deepest level possible. However, it was time to reinvent my life, find new happiness, and live new dreams beyond loss. 2011 I believe I turned a corner and finally stopped living in the past. Mitch was not coming back, and he taught me enough in the 15 years we shared that I realized I needed to get busy living in the moment and loving the life I had be given.

I set new goals in 2011 and I really started to allow myself to be happy. I laughed without feeling guilty, I enjoyed time with my kids without always saying “what if”, and I felt alive for the first time in a very long time. Year one I was so numb, year two I learned who I was as an individual growing immensely, and in 2011 I felt that it was time for me to move forward. It was a year of progress in so many ways and it was a year of really big change. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around I was dating a guy who very unexpectedly was accepting of my past and even seemed to want to want to fill a spot in my future. I had made all the promises to never date again and yet here I was pleasantly surprised to find myself opening up to the prospect of being with someone new.

My in-laws, whom I’m very close with, were away most of 2011, working in another country. They returned to have Thanksgiving with us and I ended up emailing my father-in-law to tell him I was dating a nice guy. I was hoping he would break the news gently to my mother-in-law and save me the awkward and painful conversation I was dreading from the moment I realized this man might be a more stable fixture in our future. It was two days before Thanksgiving and I had decided to invite the new man in our lives over to celebrate the day with our family. I sat down and talked to my father-in-law about the invitation and then asked him if he had yet had a chance to break the news to mom. I remember the next 20 minutes as they transpired like it was yesterday. My father-in-law kissed me on the forehead and said, “No, I’m going to Home Depot – Good Luck!” and he walked out the door. I stood there terrified, short of breath, scared beyond words to tell my mother-in-law I was dating. She came into the room and I decided to not prolong my fear. It was time to have a talk with her that I had been dreading for months.

“Mom” I said, “there is something I need to talk with you about.” She looked at me and said, “okay” not thinking twice about my request. I looked at her for a few moments as I gathered my courage to say the words I had been practicing for weeks. “Mom, what I’m about to say is the one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to say. I’ve met somebody and he’s pretty awesome.” I glared at her look for any reaction in her eyes so I could prepare my next steps. What happened next surprised me and showed me the depth of this woman’s love for me. She took my hand and said, “Michelle, I will never doubt how much you love my son but you deserve to be happy here on this earth now.”

I was dumbfounded and completely speechless. Not only was she understanding but she was accepting and open to the next phases of my life. She made this difficult transition worlds easier by understanding that death does not mean the end of a great love and that a heart can hold more than one love within it. Loves only makes the heart grow – it does not make the heart fill up! Her graciousness gave me peace and deepened a bond that was already so strong to begin with.

Thanksgiving 2011 came and we shared our holiday swimming in unchartered territory – myself, the kids, my best friends, my parents, my in-laws, and my boyfriend. It was awkward, sometimes uncomfortable, and I often felt like a woman torn between two worlds. You see, a new normal does not happen overnight. You don’t wake up one morning and suddenly forget your past life and jump feet first into a new life. You dance between your two worlds for as long as you need until slowly you realize you are living in your new world and only sometimes visiting the old. Overtime the old world becomes more distant, never leaving, but fading a little farther into the distance. The new world starts to take center stage and with time starts to feel like home.

We laughed, we cried, we gave thanks, and we all realized that life would never be the same. Mitch was a focal point of our conversation as he had been at nearly every meal since his death. I believe that by making the choice to move boldly into my future I was not diminishing my love for Mitch – I was honoring it. Mitch loved life. Mitch loved his family, and above all else Mitch loved to see me smile. His love has given me strength to continue living my life, to fulfill our dreams for the future, and the dreams for our children. My choices have not always been easy but they have always been right, my heart tells me they are, and if nothing else, I have learned to listen to my heart.