Day 20 – Most Difficult Time in My Life
There is no doubt when the most difficult time in my life was. I was 30. It was the year that my husband died. I got the call from his Grandmother ‘Michael is dead’ no preamble, no warm up, just the facts. I can still feel the the crushing weight on my heart when I think about it. It was my greatest fear realized. You see, Michael was an addict.
We had a whirlwind courtship. That man could really make my toes curl! I felt like a petite fleur- treasured and adored. It wasn’t til I was 5 months pregnant that I discovered that he was an addict. Never in the time we were together had I ever seen him use, and, having no experience with addiction, I didn’t see any of the signs. Over the next 2 years we struggled in his addiction. I watched him love our son more than life itself and hate himself for every use, every failure. I also knew that if he didn’t stop it would kill him.
When I got the call from his drug dealer the ‘Do you know where your children are? I’ve been to your house.’ I knew that I had to put the safety of my children before my love for this man, and we separated. My hope – that he could get clean, that he would be the father and the husband I knew he wanted to be. And I had a long list of things he ‘should’ do and ‘should’ be, which only compounded his failures. Finally, I surrendered and I prayed that he would find peace, whatever that meant for him. He died the next day from a cocaine induced heart attack. In a very real way, he died of a broken heart.
Grace comes in mysterious ways and as much as my heart was also broken, I knew that he had found peace and that had to be my solace. The year that followed his death is a blur, almost as if it is lost in time and doesn’t exist. If it hadn’t been that our son Peter was not yet 2, Sarah was 9, and they needed me in a really concrete way, I don’t know how I would have picked myself up off the floor. Not only was my heart broken, my dreams for our future shattered.
As is so often the case in tragedy, Michael’s addiction and death turned out to be one of the greatest gifts in my life, because they taught me compassion. I was raised that there was nothing that you couldn’t pick yourself up from and carry on. Watching Michael struggle with his addiction, I came to understand the pain of addiction for addicts and for families. My husband desperately wanted to be a good father to our son and no one was harder on him for his failures than he was. And in his death I finally understood that there are things that one can’t just pick themselves up and move on from. I learned first hand that grieving is a process with its own time, and some of that time is spent as a tearful puddle on the floor. I’m grateful for the people who loved me through it.
Those lessons have affected the kind of person, the kind of mediator that I am. Having seen and experienced that kind of pain I’ve learned not to judge other people, that we are all just doing the best we can, and to look beyond the behavior to the pain. It is the pain and the fear that creates the behavior, it isn’t who we are. When we acknowledge those two things we can find commonality and solutions that get to the root of the problems. At our core we all want the same things, to be loved and accepted, even when we fall down.