‘Today I sobbed in my car. He wanted to take her to a concert with matching shirts. Her daddy was the biggest undercover Swifty.’: Widow writes gratitude lists during grief journey, ‘I have to remind myself this is only temporary’

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This is a follow up story to Cyndi’s ongoing grief journey. Read the full back story here.

“My daughter has been playing Taylor Swift on repeat. It’s fitting because her daddy was the biggest undercover Swifty fan around. He wanted to take her to a concert and have matching shirts made. The ultimate dad. She’s stuck on this one song, but the Live version from TayTay’s concert in Paris. Colon cancer had different plans.

Songs trigger things. Even angsty teenagey songs.

One of my favorite people, a writer himself, told me last night on a phone call I will cherish (because having guy friends who are just friends is so amazing at this point in my life, shout out to my ‘safe men friends’), ‘No one wants to read about how to sew a button on.’ So if you want something boring, this is not for you. If you want to hear about the underbelly of grief, pull up a chair. It may get weird. It may get ugly. I may cry again.

I don’t cry. It’s weird. I usually only cry when I’m really mad. But today while the rain poured down on my drive home alone, I sobbed. I know this is healthy, but I always feel like a weak person after and I hate that feeling.

Being strong means always holding it in. Picking a place on the wall and staring at it until the feeling passes. Holding it together as long as you possibly can. I did that today. Until I couldn’t.

Carrying around pain is exhausting. It makes the easiest things so hard. It makes the hardest things feel impossible. Today, I shut down. I haven’t let myself do that in a long time but I guess my body needed it.

The thing about grief and pain is neither is linear. You don’t get to compartmentalize and decide, ‘Today is the day I shut down completely and can’t function!’ Your body chooses those days for you, and you have to either force yourself through it and fail miserably or succumb to it. Today, I succumbed. I used to think having what felt like a cold, dead, black heart made me a stronger person. I was just trying to will away the pain I couldn’t handle dealing with.

I’ve had panic attacks few and far between lately but today I felt it build and build until it happened. That feeling of dread, the tightness in my chest, the pounding in my left ear I get when I’m so stressed and so overwhelmed, that feeling I would rather be unconscious than face the feelings that are next — all of that. It happened.

I ended up in the fetal position, praying for it to stop. This is a position I’ve been in many, many times. Still, it seems like such a foreign way to process pain when I’m used to just powering through.

Survival today was not looking. Survival consisted of not making eye contact. Survival was trying so hard to block out the sound of a voice that hurt me so I wouldn’t have to feel that pain again. Survival was and is removing from my life people who cause me pain. Survival was praying it was over as fast as humanly possible so I could go back to the safety of my world without him in it. Survival for me today felt like hell.

But I’m here and I’m alive. I made it through another dark day of trying to figure out how I made such a mess of the perfect life I had before it all came crashing down around me, most of it my own doing from really bad decisions about who I let in my circle.

I know I need to feel real human emotions to get past all of the things hurting me. I know masking them won’t help me at all. I know what I need to do to help myself move forward. The wonderful thing about loving so much is you feel everything a little bit more than the average person. The flip side of that is you feel everything bad, too. It’s hard to accept people will never be sorry for hurting you, but some people are incapable of basic human emotions. Being empathetic should be viewed as an attribute. But today, it felt like a mark against an exterior of strength I’ve fought like hell to build.

When it rains my daughter says, ‘Mama, the sky is crying.’ Well today, I cried with it. I begged God to continue to heal my heart. And He will, in time. I keep reminding myself everything is temporary. The harsh reality of that is even happiness is temporary. And I was happy, even in my grief, for a brief moment in time. Now I’m happy temporarily for different reasons. I want real happiness again.

I have been keeping gratitude lists for a while now. Every day I write down five things I’m grateful for. Some days I struggle to find the five things. Some days are repeats of the mundane from the day before. Today, my list is simple but poignant at this point in my grief journey:

1) God, because without Him I wouldn’t have been able to pull myself out of bed today to face the hard stuff. When nothing seems real and I’m overwhelmed by the reality of knowing Matt is gone forever, the only thing in the world that can comfort me is my faith in God. The promise of heaven and the notion we are on this earth for just a blip in time is my saving grace. I have to remind myself 100 times a day this life is only temporary.

2) Quinn, because she is my constant. My reason to be here. My reminder that everything good in the world lives in her great big heart. Protecting her heart is my number one goal in life. I may fail at everything I do lately, but I will never fail her because she is the little light of my life.

3) Friends that love me. The outpouring of love the last few months has been extraordinary. It’s hard to love someone who is grieving. Sometimes this means 3-hour phone conversations where you both cry your eyes out and sometimes this means a ‘You good?’ text so they know I haven’t jumped off a cliff yet.

4) Family. From the huge things like making sure Quinn and I feel loved and supported to the little things, like my daddy knowing how much I hate pumping gas and not only filling up my car for me but treating me to a tank of gas. I have the best family. They all loved Matt so much. His loss affects us all so deeply. I would give anything to hear him say ‘Hey, Mama!’ to my mom again and steal one of her diet cokes. He loved her so much. Or for him to yell ‘Mum! Tea!!’ to his own mom.

5) Forgiveness. I am thankful every day I am forgiven. I am working so hard on forgiving others. It’s something that has always come really easily for me. I will give people a fourth, fifth, and sixth chance even because I believe in redemption and I believe there is good in the world. I also believe some people just need someone to believe in them. But as I continue down the road of grief, I am finding it harder and harder to forgive people who hurt me. I am praying I am able to get back to that point. It’s hard to forgive people who are not sorry. It’s hard to forgive people who continue to hurt you with their actions. It’s impossibly hard to forgive people who saw you broken and broke you some more. I pray every day for that to change for me. I pray I’m able to forgive as freely as I love.

So no, nobody wants to read about how to sew a button on. And nobody wants to read things that are depressing when life right now is pretty depressing all over the place. Writing about my experiences as they are happening is one of the most therapeutic things that I do. It’s how I process life. It’s how I get through the hard times and celebrate the good. Here’s hoping there is good coming around the corner. I’ll be alright, it’s just a thousand cuts.”

Cyndi Smith

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cyndi Smith of Moody, Alabama. Follow her journey on her website hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories from Cyndi:

‘I feel like I’m dying.’ He started going downhill. He was diagnosed with the flu, and sent home to rest.’: Woman loses young husband to incurable colon cancer, ‘I know how much he loved me’

‘I carried his ashes. I carried them in a box all over the airport. I didn’t want to put him on the floor. It didn’t feel right.’: Woman’s journey to return her husband’s ashes to his home

‘Unprompted by any of us, she began drawing in the sand. ‘I love you’. It took my breath away thinking about her leaving messages in the sand to her dad.’: Widow and young daughter visit Wales to spread husband’s ashes

‘He quietly wrote, ‘Before I die, I want to see my Quinn grow up.’ We never thought for a second he wouldn’t.’: Widow shares how husband understood the value of a moment, always ‘showed up’

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