“January 9th will forever be the day that changed the course of our lives forever. That evening my son, Theo, and I unexpectedly lost a father and a husband. We lost the life that could have been and all the security that comes with that vision. The proverbial rug was pulled from under us and a ‘new life’ was to begin. A life without Albert.
Albert died amidst one of the hardest times in any young couple’s life. The life of constant diapers, constant messes, and constant exhaustion. Gone were the days of impromptu date nights and drinking too much for the fun of it. Gone were the hours I used to spend taking care of myself. I mean, I couldn’t remember the last time I had a haircut. I was lucky if I shaved my legs once a week. Being a mother and a wife is HARD. Trying to find that balance of self-care, Theo care, and keeping the flame ignited in our marriage was enough to make me want to sit down, eat junk food, and Netflix binge, and save the balancing act for another day. Of course, knowing what I know now, I would have done things differently. Perspective is everything when you have just watched your husband die, in the hospital, right in front of you.
After witnessing the death of Albert, I continued on the path of self-care destruction. If I couldn’t even keep it up with him alive – how was I supposed to do it now, let alone care? I wasn’t washing my face, I barely brushed my hair, I was drinking soda like it was water, and I wasn’t brushing my teeth regularly. Gross right? But I am here to tell you that these are all signs of grief, combined with months of motherhood, and exhaustion. I didn’t know how to take care of myself anymore. Somewhere along the line, I had lost the girl who lived for heels, dresses, and fun makeup and hair exploration. The super-confident girl who loved being the center of attention. But – And there is a BIG BUT – I used to put my worth in how I looked, and how I was perceived by others. As time went on, I started to let that side of me fall away and I started to find myself. The person I was behind this wall of makeup and pretty clothing. A woman who didn’t need those things to feel beautiful. Then, I let it go too far, and I lost myself yet again. And with Albert’s death, it only got worse. I flat out stopped taking care of myself.
When Albert died, Theo and I moved back to my hometown to live with my parents. I reconnected with two very dear, lifelong friends. We recently came to the conclusion that we had been friends for around 20 years. Over time we had been pulled apart and pushed back together, but being with them is like picking up an old book you’ve read a hundred times and never want to put down. It felt right and amazing, and they met me where I was at any given moment. Friendships like that are precious and should never be taken for granted. We are three funny, inappropriate, and loving women who share a strong bond. A bond we truly never thought would be brought back together as tightly as it has. (Even if one of them likes to be a smart ass, you know who you are.)
One of these friends is a lovely woman named Jillian, who is an amazing hair stylist and had been offering to cut my hair. Finally, one day I got a text from her saying that her 1 p.m. appointment had canceled. ‘Are you free to come in right now?,’ she asked. I was elated and immediately responded ‘OHHHHH! Yes, I’d love that!!’ Making my way over there I realized that it was the one month anniversary of Albert’s death. This was going to be a new chapter for me. This was the time I started to change, that I needed to change.
When I arrived, Jillian had me sit in the salon chair and asked what I was thinking, in terms of my hair. Truthfully, I really had no idea. I told her, ‘I am open to whatever. I trust you.’ As she washed, cut, and colored my hair (which hadn’t happened in over 10 years), we talked. We talked about everything. We reconnected. We talked about our families, Albert, our mutual sadness over past events, old times, and we LAUGHED. While parts of ‘old me’ were strewn all over the floor, the ‘new parts’ of our regained friendship, companionship, and understanding were blossoming. As she finished up my hair, I felt lighter, and a thousand feet tall. It is truly amazing what a haircut can do to your psyche. When I got back to my car, I snapped a selfie and put it on Instagram. I captioned it, ‘A little self-care today. New cut & color. Thank you @littlehairmaid for my amazing hair!’
I have deemed Jillian my ‘hair guru,’ along with friend, confident, and a shoulder to cry on. I’ve told her a thousand times that her giving me that haircut gave me so much confidence and a renewed friendship with self-care. I can text her with a question and she will always give me advice on the best products and how to use them. She helped get my hair back to a healthy state and showed me how to style it. She even surprised me at Ulta while I was texting her about what conditioner to buy, by showing up and helping me pick it out. I mean, does it get better than that? That is love people.
Getting my haircut was just the beginning of my self-care journey. It kick-started all sorts of renewed habits for me. Skin care, taking some control over my feelings towards my body, having fun with makeup again, and pushing my clothing style boundaries. While this may all sound superficial, I don’t mean it to be. It’s really about the insane amount of paths you journey down during the loss of a loved one and motherhood. Taking care of myself during this time has had huge impacts on every aspect of my life. Feeling good about myself is so important and gives me the confidence I need to be present for both Theo and me.
Learning how to take care of myself, by myself, for myself, has been fun and weird and everything in between. Which may sound strange to some, but when you’re a mom and a wife sometimes those little things can slide. Then it’s years later and you’re like, ‘What the hell happened?’
With all that said, I look at myself and try to love myself for where I am in this moment. I’m not perfect. I still criticize myself and look in the mirror and groan. But I FEEL such a difference in every aspect of my being, and I know I’m doing alright. I’m seeing myself as Albert saw me – Beautiful.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brianna Simpson of Fredericksburg, Virginia. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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