Adventures in Change | Tara's Story

When Tara’s husband, Pete, was struck by pancreatic cancer, they began fighting an enemy they couldn’t see or touch plunging them into a world of daily wins and losses. Just a little over a year after he began exhibiting symptoms, Pete died leaving Tara to build a new life. How does a girl who married at 19 figure out who she is and how she fits into the world being just herself?

It really sucks to lose the war. And believe me, when you are fighting cancer you feel like you are in battle. Then, my entire life changed in one moment. Everything I had known and was familiar was gone the moment he died. My role as a wife. My role as a parent. As a lover and a friend. Everything changed. My identity was completely wiped away. In that moment, I thought who am I? What am I about? I’ve spent the last two years trying to figure that out.

I’m a strong woman, but I felt so alone and dark and afraid. All the firsts were the hardest. The first Valentines day, then all the birthdays, then our daughter’s wedding, then the birth of our first grandchild--a whole a cluster of “first” family things without him. I walked our daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Saw the birth of our first grandchild. I kept wondering if he could peer into this from heaven.

In May, after Pete had been gone a few months, I was invited to a widow’s luncheon and I was struck by how much people want to categorize you that way. How much some want you to own that identity. WTF. How depressing. I just kept thinking, “This is not me. I have a push up bra on.”

There is still some rawness to it. I still have anxiety. I still wonder what my life will look like in a year. I still wonder if no one comes along if I will be okay with that. But I’m also discovering me.

One of the things I discovered about myself that surprised me is just how wild I can be. Adventurous. I’ve done some good stuff, but I’ve also done some stupid stuff.

I discovered that Pete kept me grounded. I never knew how much he balanced me. How much he kept me in check with his quiet gentleness. One of the things about Pete is that he always knew what to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in the floor and thought, I don’t know what to do. I also realize now how much he loved me. I knew he was faithful, but I never really understood what that meant until he was gone.

I did go to grief counseling, but so much was cliche. They just seemed to tell you so much you already know. I kept thinking, “I can’t cuss here and I really want to.” My anger at God has been red hot. I have struggled through this whole thing. I cannot tell you some of the things I have shouted at the heavens and I am not through that yet. I do not feel judged or shame or guilt. I think it is healthier to be honest.

Discovering what I want has been a process. Not the cliche ‘ I want to be happy’ but the specifics that have to do with who I am. In the past two years, I’ve found I’m varied in my love of life. Perfectly content at the house, but just as content traveling the world.

I’ve discovered I really like a glass of wine at night.
I’ve discovered that I am sexy and hot.
I’m funny as hell.
I know what it is like to live from the inside. What’s in my soul. I love my kids, my job, my life....
I never knew how much I liked me.

I don’t feel in control, but I’m not sure I’m supposed to be. I just know my life is what it is and I’m content to the degree that I can be in this process. Sometimes it is brutally frightening and sometimes immensely satisfying just being me.

You told me you didn’t want stories that wrap up with a bow. Hell, there isn’t a bow big enough for this.

© Cathy Hutchison 2012

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