‘I still reach for him in bed. I still think I hear him coming in from work. I have to force myself to live.’: Widow suffering from PTSD says, ‘I can hear him telling me to get back up and fight’

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This is a follow up story to Cyndi’s on going grief journey.  To read the full back story please click here.

“I hesitate to even type this, but everything is going relatively okay right now. I don’t want to spook up anything crazy, but for now, it’s almost normal-ish. Global pandemic and quarantine notwithstanding, isn’t it amazing how world chaos can still feel normal?

Yesterday, my anxiety hit a fever pitch. I was shaking out of my skin. I tried to go down my list of things to do when it hits me and nothing worked.

I got the best news I could possibly get the day before. A loved one is cancer-free. I still cannot believe it, but I’m so happy.

I got to see my grandparents and my parents and have a day of normalcy in the middle of coronamania.

Q is riding her bike with no training wheels. She got to play on my mom’s boat. Get dirty. Be a kid.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

But in my life, every time things are going really good, something comes along and crushes it. Yesterday, I couldn’t shake that feeling that something bad was going to happen.

My child was happily climbing on rocks and pretending to be a cat with her friend by the water. She swims like a fish, but all I could think about was a busted head and drowning. I couldn’t even enjoy it.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

Matt used to say, post-cancer diagnosis, that the worst had already happened. Nothing else could touch us because we were already facing the absolute worst thing. He had such an outlook on cancer and life and what was coming. He never let it stress him like I did. My worst nightmare was losing him. I live in that nightmare daily. I still wake up and, for a second, forget he’s gone. I still reach for him in bed. I still think I hear him coming in from work. I still walk into the garage and expect to see him standing at his workbench, building a gun, and humming happily because it was his favorite thing to do until his fingers got so bad from neuropathy that he just couldn’t. When it hits me all over again that he’s gone, I have to force myself to get up and live. Some days are okay.

Most days are hell on earth.

Yesterday was seemingly perfect on the outside but inside, I was dying.

I didn’t even acknowledge I had PTSD until my therapist looked me in the face after hearing me talk and said, ‘That is PTSD. Every word you just said.’ Somehow I thought I was above that. I thought if I could power through the days that it would make what is, not. I thought that by not admitting it would mean I was doing okay.

Well, I can’t. I’m suffering from constant fear and anxiety and I hate it.

I want to be the mom who sees her kid having fun and doing regular kid stuff but if I lose her, get me to the nearest padded room. She’s all I have left in this world and I won’t survive that.

My mom told me after Matt died that I couldn’t stop Quinn from being a kid. She told me I still had to let her spend the night with friends, family, have fun, and not just keep her at home all the time just to make myself feel safer. Mamas are full of advice you need to hear but don’t want to hear. Mamas are always right.

A huge part of grief is distraction. Distraction and staying busy works for a while but eventually, you have to be alone with your thoughts and you have to face the monster. I understand why people numb the pain of grief with alcohol. It’s effective short term, and you really just grasp at any and every straw fo feel good when you feel so bad. I understand why people throw themselves into another relationship shortly after losing a spouse. Replacing the bad feelings with good. But when that goes south, you are forced to reevaluate.

I am blessed. I’m covered. I have the best friends and family anyone could ask for. I surround myself with good people and they know when I’m hitting the grief wall or rather, when it’s hitting me. They sit with me in that feeling. Sometimes it passes quickly, sometimes it lingers. It’s important to have people who can sit with you in the lowest times and just be there for you. My friends can make me feel better without saying a word.

Matt wasn’t scared of anything. He was an urban explorer when he lived in England and a very talented photographer. Breaking into abandoned places to take pictures of the ruins was one of his favorite things to do and he had a group of people he loved to do it with. Yesterday, one of his UrbX friends messaged me and sent me pictures I hadn’t seen before. I love seeing those because it’s a glimpse into his life before us. This one had me rolling laughing. I can almost hear the picture. They captioned it, ‘It’s a boy!’

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

He was always up for the next big adventure. He never let the fear of dying slow him down. This was even true towards the end of his life. All he could talk about was heaven and how beautiful it was going to be and who he would see there. I know that he’s at peace. I have begged God for peace for myself. But some days, that turns into, ‘God, I’m tired. Take me now. I’m ready to see him.’ Survivor’s guilt is also very real, unfortunately. I don’t understand why him and not me. I bargained with God a lot when he was sick. The worst thing in the world to me is for a little girl to lose her daddy. I told God I would gladly take his place so she would have him to grow up with. Their bond was unbreakable.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

He fought so hard to live. He never gave up. Every single time I think that I can’t do this or that I just want to crawl in a hole and never come out, I think about how hard he fought to be here for us. And I pick myself up and force myself to rejoin the living. It would be so easy to let the waves of grief take me down and leave me there. No one would fault me for that. But he would be so mad at me if I squandered my life away when his life was cut short. More than anything, he wanted us to be happy and move on.

The waves of grief are hitting me hard. Just before I can catch my breath, another one hits. I can almost hear him telling me to get back up and fight. So every day I do.

Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

The longer he’s gone, the more we hurt. We find good in every day, and we survive knowing every day on earth is one day closer to him in Heaven. But the pain and anxiety may never go away. Losing your whole world changes you forever.

I wish I could just go back in time for one day to have not a care or worry in the world. One more day of family fun with him. One more laughing until we cry over something stupid. One more dancing in the kitchen. One more ‘Daddy’s home!’ coming through the kitchen door. One more pajama ice cream trip. One more big Matt hug. One more looking over at him in church and seeing his hands up in the air praising God when he had every reason in the world to turn away from God. One more time hearing him say how he couldn’t wait to be old and wrinkly with me. One more day with the love of my whole life.

I don’t know what our future brings. I don’t know if life will ever be back to normal. What I do know is PTSD is not only real for grieving widows, it’s all-consuming. Keeping my head above water is a group effort at times. So I’m just over here waiting on the waves to calm down so I can breathe again.”

Courtesy of 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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