‘I let my pain lead—it worked until it didn’t.’: Widow, toxic relationship survivor says ‘I can’t look backward anymore’

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Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of suicide that may be triggering to some.

This is a follow-up story documenting Cyndi Smith’s ongoing grief journey. To read Cyndi’s full back story click here.

“Grief is a burden on everyone who has the misfortune of carrying it. It’s heavy, even crushing at times. Grief can come from past relationships, death, trauma—it is not attached to one particular life event, but rather a combination of past experiences.

In a lot of ways, grief and loss changed me for the better. I love so hard now because I understand time is so precious. I value things I used to view as wastes of time. I don’t worry about things I used to care way too much about. I don’t take life too seriously, and I don’t focus on the worries of the world as much as I used to. None of it really matters. All that matters is how you make people feel. Money is the least important thing in the world to me now. Sure, it’s nice to have. But if given the choice of money or happiness, happiness wins every time.

I realized the grief I’ve been carrying is impacting my life in a negative way. Two very traumatic events influence the way I process almost everything—the death of my husband and the mistreatment I endured in a relationship after. I let the pain from both events lead my thoughts, words, and actions. It’s self-preservation because it feels safe to compare everything to those traumas as a way to gauge where I am and how things make me feel. It worked for a while. Until it didn’t.

More than anything in the world, I want to move on and be happy. I know I deserve that for myself and my daughter. I know I’m capable of living a happy life independent of someone, but recently I’ve realized a happy life with someone is right within my reach. And, while it is scary to open up to someone again, I did. And it is good. So good I’m not even really ready to write a lot about it for fear of messing it up. I like it’s private for now.

A little girl eats noodles out of a bowl
Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

Today, I prayed. I prayed the kind of prayer that drains every ounce of energy from your body. I talked to God about all of the things I’ve been holding in, and I laid it all down. The more I prayed, the more I cried. I believe sometimes God breaks you down to your knees so you can cry it all out and start out with fresh eyes to see more clearly.

I cannot carry grief and trauma into a new relationship. That’s not fair to anyone involved, especially GuyISeeAFutureWith (for lack of a better nickname). In order for anything to work with anyone, I have to move forward and not compare a single thing happening now to what happened then. It’s just not fair to him.

I’ll always be a widow, but that’s not my identity. It doesn’t define me as a person. It’s just something unfortunate that happened to me. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t choose it. It is a burden on my life, and some days, I just want to be anonymous in a small town again before cancer thrust us into the spotlight.

So I’m laying it down, the burden of being a widow and the burden of the relationship that almost broke me. That’s not who I am as a person. I’m so much more than either of those things.

A year ago, I was in a camper at the beach with a gun in my mouth with typed-out messages to my friends and family ready to send because I wanted to die. That’s where holding on to grief takes you, and I will never go back there again. When I think about everything I would’ve missed if I pulled that trigger, I get chills. I know what it’s like to be at your absolute lowest and have to will yourself to live. If you feel like that, there is hope. I would’ve missed so many opportunities to be happy.

Since then, I have rebuilt my life into something crazy and beautiful. I’m surrounded by friends who love me. I love my daughter more than anything on this earth. Starting over was scary, but we did it. There were a few bumps in the road, some sad times, a global pandemic, some days I never wanted to end, and some days I wouldn’t do over if you paid me, but we’re here. We’re alive. We’re healthy. And we are happy.

The last month of my life has been one of the happiest of my entire life. I have smiled more, laughed more, and felt more loved than I have in a long time. The only stress I have felt has been connected to the bad relationship I am still dealing with the repercussions of. There is finally an end in sight to that, and I can put it behind me forever and chalk it up to one big, bad, decision.

In order to move forward with my life, I can’t look backward anymore. I am running full speed toward my future and everything good it has to offer and letting go of all the pain and trauma of my past. No one deserves to carry that pain forever. Carrying it only hurts you longer.

Dragging grief through life is bondage. Carrying it is heavy, but when you break the chains and lay down the weight of it, you’re finally free. Free to love, free to be happy, and free to move on and step into the life God intended for you to live. Here’s to putting my best foot forward.”

A woman holds her daughter by the water
Courtesy of Cyndi Smith

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Cyndi Smith of Moody, Alabama. You can 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 here:

‘A little old lady complimented my car. I could have just said thank you. Instead, I said, ‘I bought it after my husband died.’ She had tears in her eyes.’: Woman shares touching moment with stranger over love and grief

‘I was over-medicated, an emotionless zombie. I didn’t know how to celebrate without him. This year, I FEEL.’: Widow shares feelings on holidays while grieving, ‘Finding a new normal is weird’

‘I’m still forced to see him at court proceedings. I want to run so far away from him. My whole body hurts.’: Narcissistic abuse survivor says ‘there is absolutely nothing romantic about abuse’

‘This isn’t normal behavior.’ His lip marks were all over the window. She saved me that night.’: Mother survives grief predator with daughter’s help, ‘There is hope’

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