I couldn’t have written it better if I were Scorsese. I had recently moved to the country, a small town called Sunshine, LA, right outside of Baton Rouge, which gives me a scenic 15-minute drive home along the majestic Mississippi River. It was overcast, lightly raining, and I was moving along at a leisurely Saturday morning pace. On the radio, my iPod playing, what I call on “loaded shuffle,” because I never know what song will come on next and trigger a memory. Some good, some bad, and some overwhelmingly moving. Throughout my life, music has always been a beautiful touchstone for me, solidifying my experiences and powerful moments, for which I clung to in my first few months after losing Drew. And as I learned today, music still has this affect on me.
The song was “Storm” by Lifehouse; it’s obscure but a poignant benchmark for multiple sorrowful moments when I use to sob alone in my apartment waiting for my life to change. And now, here I am 8 years later, driving in my car with my life undoubtedly changed, yet still so moved by the melody and thinking of Drew. The lyrics:
“I know you didn’t bring me out here to drown, so why am I 10 feet under and upside down? Barely surviving has become my purpose, ‘cause I am so use to living underneath the surface.”
All I could think of was the times I listened to this on repeat pleading with Drew, God, and the Universe to help me make sense of what had happened and why. I didn’t want to wait patiently for the reason to unfold; I wanted a lighting bolt to hit and take me to when pain wasn’t all I knew how to feel. But something was happening, I just couldn’t see it or maybe didn’t want to believe it.
Today, I am four months pregnant, remarried to someone who unconditionally loves me, and the legacy of Drew. I have a private practice with a business partner who dreams just as big and out of the box as I do, and a loving supportive network of family and friends who backs me no matter what. Throughout the last 8 years, I have been admired for my success with earning a PhD, expanding my offices, and running a nonprofit. I humbly appreciate every accolade I’ve ever received, because frankly, I still can’t believe it myself that I’ve mustered up the strength to do any of it.
But on this Saturday morning, that all washes away like the rain on my windshield, and I think about what I believe is my success. To me, it was not bolting when Drew told me he had been diagnosed with cancer and skipping out on college experiences to spend my weekends in hospital rooms. It was walking down the aisle to be his wife, and ensuring that he graduated from college hours before passing away. But most importantly, holding Drew’s sweet face so he wouldn’t be scared to slip away and say goodbye to his life here on earth, just as my new life without him here was just beginning. It took me a few hours to even cry when he died. Something that has always baffled me because when I think back to that moment the tears fall freely. But I wanted so badly to be brave for him, it took awhile for my mind and body to connect … he was gone.
I feel like I have army crawled through life since then. A dear friend once told me you can either be bitter or better, you decide which road you will take. The better is much harder, but is the true path to happiness. I would like to think I am on it, currently it’s River Road, and surprisingly the rain still falls like my tears for Drew. But, I am so comforted by this, the fact that I was able to create a new chapter of love and life, yet still bring Drew with me.
It Is Your Journey
For anyone reading this and is anywhere along the spectrum of grief, please know it is your journey and no one else’s. You have to make the choices of how to move in a forward motion and how to bring the memory of your loved one with you. Being a young widow is such a rare and life changing event, so that is exactly why anyone who tries to advise you probably has not been in your shoes. Even if they have, they have not had your loss … it is a beautiful tragedy that’s all your own. I say beautiful because losing your spouse just as you should be hitting the stride of young adulthood rips the blinders off. It is as if you see color for the first time. It is bright, it hurts, but once you adjust you live and love deeper than you could ever know. Cling to what matters most, true genuine friendships, family, and strength that is inside all of us. It is ok not to know what will happen next, the answers are there waiting for you to reach them. It takes time, tears, laughter, love, and most importantly yourself. In the meantime, let music sooth your soul and guide you on your journey, even when the rains falls.
*The contents of this blog post are not meant to represent or replace mental health therapy. If you are interesting in counseling, please visit www.surprisinglywell.com, call your insurance provider, local hospitals, or mental health agencies. If you are in crisis, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
About Mary Kathryn Rodrigue, PhD, LPC, NCC
Dr. Mary Kathryn Rodrigue is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 10 years of clinical experience, and is the co-owner and founder of The Wellness Studio, LLC. Dr. Rodrigue also has over five years of experience in psychosocial oncology with a focus on young adults, and specializes in grief. The Wellness Studio is a mental health counseling private practice that offers individual, couples, family, and group therapy services for children, adolescents, and adults. The offices incorporate psychological artistic mediums found throughout the studios to promote mental health wellness while also eradicating stigmas. In 2017, Dr. Rodrigue launched her young adult widowhood brand, FidoWidow, in honor of her late husband Drew Rodrigue, and how she processed and rebuilt her life and career during her adversity of becoming a widow at 26 years old. In 2017, Dr. Rodrigue married Paul Gastinel and they are expecting their first child in January of 2018. Dr. Rodrigue regularly appears in local and regional publications, television news media, and a podcast, The Waiting Room.