‘How do I go from living with him to living for him?’: Widow shares personal meaning of living life for deceased husband

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“‘We owe it to everyone we lost to live the life they can’t.’ – Grey’s Anatomy

Let me start by saying, I have actually never watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. (I know, I know. It’s on my summer binge list!) But my mom sent me that quote the other day and it’s made itself at home in the forefront of my mind. 

At first, though the sentiment was hopeful, my initial reaction was frustration, annoyance. As I sat on the floor with V, chugging lukewarm coffee, trying to rub the fog from my eyes, grieving a loss still so raw and fresh, I felt like it was easy for them to say. Easy for the writers to poetically weave into the perfectly crafted script. For the actors to practice, nailing it with just the right amount of emotion and conviction. But my reality, like many others, is that no one says, ‘That’s a wrap’ at the end of the day. The stage lights don’t shut off and I can’t leave my heartbreak in the make-up trailer to put on again the next day. The grief, the loss… it’s constant 24/7, as real as it gets. And most days, the thought of living is exhausting and the bare minimum is about all I can manage. So how then, are we supposed to live the life our loved ones lost?

Perhaps, like so many concepts and quotes I’ve come across in the last few months, it’s more applicable to the seasoned grievers. Those who have had no choice but to withstand the passing of time, and with that have found the adjusted way to live their next chapters. (The concept of a new life or new normal is one I struggle with immensely and still refuse to say.) But as I looked at Joe in the various stages of our lives captured on our gallery wall, I wondered, ‘Could I live for him?’ I suppose I have been, for the last 11 years of our lives together, but that was with him here. How do I go from living with him to living for him? And If I could, what would that look like?

There are, of course, the things he enjoyed; living for him in the more literal sense. Working out, time with family and friends, a late night order of Domino’s. He loved football on a Sunday, a can (or five) of Bud Light seltzers. He loved a movie he had seen 100 times and a night on the couch with me. I could do all of these things, but I think Joe would be the first to tell you, they weren’t really me. I can’t stand working out, and too much Domino’s leaves me with intense regret in the morning. I would roll my eyes at Home Alone blaring from the TV again as he waited for the Red Zone to start. Though, sitting on the couch with him — talking, not talking, just being — will forever be one of my favorite things to do.

If I had to jump inside Joe Abate’s head and think about the life he’d want me to live, I’m pretty sure he’d say, ‘I don’t know babe, it’s whatever you want.’ Joe was never one for too many words and he wouldn’t really know how to answer that, but he always supported whatever it was I wanted to do. Ironically, I had shared with him both in the past and recently that I would love to write. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to write, but it was something I’ve always enjoyed and wanted to explore. And here we are. I’m writing. For me, for others, for him. We talked often of helping, making a difference. I’m working on plans and projects I hope can do just that. For me, for others, for him.

In the scope of a nation wide camera lens, I think the Grey’s writing room built that quote on the legs of hope. To encourage growth, allowing yourself to live your life fully in the freedom that happens when you allow grief and joy to co-exist. To live a life the ones we lost would be proud of. In my much smaller view of our story, I’ll keep that quote with me and focus on the simpler concept of doing the little things we’d talk about, simply making it through another day or doing what I know he’d be proud of.

So on the good days, the hardest days, the tired days… on all the days, I’ll live this life. Not because he can’t, but because I can. For me, for others, for him.”

husband and wife sit together while she holds their baby on her lap
Courtesy of Meghan Abate

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Meghan Abate. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read Meghan’s backstory:

‘We have your husband.’ A pit formed in my stomach. Looking back, my heart hadn’t really begun to break yet.’: Widow shares ‘the pits and peaks of grief’ after losing husband

Read more from Meghan here:

‘I didn’t just lose my husband, Vienna’s father, or my best friend. I lost parts of myself.’: Young widow shares raw grief over loss of life she imagined

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