It does if you want it to.
That’s how my friend, who has been a widow three years longer than I have been, responded to my question, “Does life get any better?”
Her response was a game changer for me this year in how I’m approaching life as I move forward. Honestly, what I expected to hear from her was something like, “Well, there are days that are easier than others; life will never be the same, as you know. You will have ups and downs.” All logical and true responses. But her directness about what I can control has been the best counsel I’ve received since my husband died.
Life gets better if you want it to. And I get to choose.
Her response reminds me that my thoughts drive my feelings. Here’s what that doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that I pretend that I’m not grieving–that I push down my emotions and slap on a smile. If I don’t acknowledge grief, it hounds me until I do–until I have that good cry or sit with that funky, angry mood. I lost a person, a love, a life that was very important to me. Grief is a part of my life now. But I don’t have to get stuck in it or be controlled by it. Facing it straight on is the best way to go through it.
Here’s what choosing to have a better life does look like:
It’s asking the question: Is that thought true?
When I have thoughts like, I have no purpose; my life will never be good again without my husband, I get to challenge that thought. When I examine that thought, I know for a fact that it is not true. When I acknowledge what is true, there is a shift in the way my body feels. I sit taller, I feel lighter, and anxiety lessens. I become more eager about the future.
Here’s the truth: We’ve had a very full life despite our loss as a family. We’ve had graduations, weddings, birthday parties, and travel. We continue to love and keep close family. We gather for holidays and plan for the future. My kids and I have continued to value knowledge, education, and growth experiences, as my husband did and modeled for each of us. We still set goals and work eagerly toward them. Because of our experience of loss, people who may have never come into our lives have become important to us. Our friend group has expanded and our family is growing (a first grand baby due this year). Life will be different. But that does not mean it will not be good.
Don’t be afraid to question your thoughts. Ask: Is that thought true? And then listen to the truth.