THE FIRST HOLIDAY
Thanksgiving – 6 weeks post loss
How quickly life can become a blur, a complete and utter indiscernible mess of emotions, pain, and agony. Just 6 weeks prior I was a happily married mother of 2 coming home from a business trip looking to get healthy and drop some 50 odd pounds. 6 weeks later I’d become a widowed mother of 2 down nearly all of my weight due to the dreaded *widow diet*. My life that first Thanksgiving post loss was void of emotion and feeling as the shock still covered my fading body and protected my delicate brain. I truly don’t remember much about the day to day actives during that time of my life. I remember the big moments, I remember the loneliness, I remember the disbelief.
How was this happening.
What just happened to my happily ever after?
I tried my best to put on a happy adjusted face. Feeling extreme fight or flight for my children, I did everything I could to protect them with a cold and unfeeling facade. Mommy didn’t have much love to give so I surrounded them with a village, warm enough to embrace them while I temporary avoided life. I could have done better, but I certainly could have done much worse.
I decided to press forward with celebrating Thanksgiving.
I felt it was my duty as a mother and a way to honor a man who loved to celebrate. My mother-in-law could have easily forgot the day and to some extent I think it hurt her to go about our holiday festivities. I cooked a beautiful meal – crazy as it seems looking back today.
I had no business cooking, but I needed the distraction. and I love to cook on the holidays.
Before the day got too busy I woke up early and ran a 5k race with our kids and a few of my closest friends. I remember pushing our stroller and crossing the finish line just over 30 minutes. Pretty good timing for a girl who had been so out of shape just a few weeks prior and who was going through just about the worst pain a human can experience.
I think the grief pushed me forward.
The exercise and sweat washing over me and helping me survive my first holiday without him. I can’t explain what exercise did for me in the first year. It literally saved my life. Without it I truly am not sure I could have survived my loss. It renewed my spirit, gave me strength, empowered me, and above all else gave me an outlet for an anger so deep no words can describe.
You aren’t suppose to become a widow at 36 with 2 small babies.
You aren’t suppose to do this alone.
You aren’t suppose to rewrite your life in the middle of the story.
We sat down around 2pm to a beautiful table with amazing food. There was an empty seat at the table for Mitch and the void encompassed my entire being, and truth be told nobody ate much of anything. We all sat there, deep in a cloud of grief, as the silence became so loud it was all you could hear. I watched my best friends grieve, I watched my in-laws grieve, I watched my kids innocently play as their loss could not be comprehended at such a tender age. I could hear my own heart beating and yet I could feel nothing but numbness.
The day ended and we all survived as painful as it was.
At the end of the evening I made myself write a list of all the things I was thankful for. Tonight, I urge you to make your own list and remember that while so much may be taken away, you will never see the good that remains if you don’t look for it. Even if in a small way, allow the good to move you forward and grant you a moment of peace.
Here is my unedited list from November 27th, 2009:
As Thanksgiving approaches a short 7 weeks after Mitch’s death, I thought it would be important to remember how I am still blessed and what I have to be thankful for…
15 years of living a fairy tale with my prince charming
That I was his chosen one from the day we first kissed until the day he died
Unconditional and unwavering love
Our two beautiful children
Our family (both his and mine)
Our friends (both his, mine, and ours)
That he was able to fly like he always dreamed
Photographs & video of him/us
That the last thing I said to him was, “I love you” and he said it back
Our weekend escape to Cabo in July…I will always remember that alone time
That while our relationship changed over the years and with children, I never wanted to be with anyone else and neither did he
That I had a chance to find a soul mate…not just a husband
My job, which has been very understanding during this tragic time
Our community, which has opened its arms to us and held on tight
Our travels (especially our special place)
Our dogs (both past and present)
The lessons he taught me about life and about myself
My dreams, that let me close my eyes and be with him once more
I hope you can find a few things to be thankful for tonight.
So much love,
Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is a published author, international speaker, fitness coach, mother and a re-married widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009 she turned to exercise as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle found it so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate job to become a fitness trainer. Since then Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets. In addition to her virtual training business, Michelle recently launched her own nonprofit focused on helping widows and widowers complete bucket list dreams to honor their late spouse while moving boldly into their future. You can find out more about Michelle’s training programs at: 1fw Training