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On this day three years ago, I wrote this post in Facebook:

I’m ready. It’s time.
I have had an overwhelming rush of love and support from dear, dear friends and family, but for those who don’t know, and those who are waiting for my words, I have terrible news. On Wednesday morning my dearest husband Alec step in father of my children Zachery and Isabelle, best friend, love of my life, partner in everything, maker of the finest food and pourer of wine, provider of all good things in my life, sweetest lover, family festival coordinator, chief spoiling officer, master technician and fixer of all buttoned things, fanatical one-man cheer squad of mine, boundary pusher and pathological optimist, ambitious dream maker and sharer, king of emotional adjustment and accommodator of difference, agent of grounding and reality checker, table for two booker, couch companion, avoider of bathroom cleaning but still all round super hero passed away. There are no words which adequately describe this gutting sense of loss, this hideous darkness, this engulfing lonely hole, this terror, this exhaustion. I am devastated beyond expression. My life changed forever when he joined it, and now I face new changes on his departure. I have had a marriage experience many only dream of, built on pure, raw, honest tenacity to push through every valley and dance on every mountain simply because sharing it all together was our deepest passion and life anchoring commitment. His love for me was his defining attribute, unfailing and never ending. To say he will be missed is an absurd understatement, yet better words escape me. I join Zac in feeling lost, I have never been here before, and also join Isabelle in daring to believe “We can do it!”
Please pray for us. Your love and support is our strength for now, and will be a foundation we need to ground the insanity we face. And please remember us in the coming weeks and months as we embark on learning a new life we never dreamed we would have to learn. We are tearfully figuring out how to hold on and let go at the same time. Each moment brings a new wave to deal with
And most importantly, tell your loved ones just how much you love them every single day. You can never express too much love, in words and in actions, because I have been hit like a slap in the face, it’s true, you never know how long you really have. In a blink …
xxx

 

Melbourne based speaker

The view from our old home in Research as the sun set on the first day without Alec

This morning I read that post, and the tears trickled down my face as I relived those few days of shock.

This day three years ago really was a big one. I remember writing that post very clearly. Through copious tears and with my mind racing. It was bizarre to have “memories” of Alec flooding my mind, because he had only been there beside me three days prior. I had to remind myself that he wasn’t there any more. Repeatedly. I had to learn how to have a picture of myself and my life that didn’t have him in it.

I am comforted to this day by the knowledge that love never dies. On reading this now though, I remember the feeling of his absence. Foreign. Strange. Brutal. Aggressive. Terrifying.

I have never known a sadness that washed me so completely, or a grief like this that gutted me to my core. Oh my god it was horrible. Nauseating. Dizzying. Isolating. Deafening.

But as time has passed, I have taught myself a few new ways of seeing things. Some additional layers of perspective. Nothing will stop this loss from being so so sad and horrendously tragic, but there is more. Because I lived. I kept going. The next day, and the next and the next. New seasons. New chapters. I grew.

To have lived through such a shock is the proof I need now that I can make it through anything. I know I am not the only widow in the world, and that other people have gone through more tragic circumstances. But I am not them. Nor are they me. So I don’t compare. I am simply filled with wide eyed amazement and gratitude at the experiences I have had, lessons I have learned, and the way things have turned out.

My life still stuns me to this day. It is all just so completely mind blowing. It has changed me forever to learn that light can be found through darkness. Purpose can be found through loss. Love can be found through heartbreak. And passion can be found through adversity.

And now, today … we live. We love. We bring honour to the things we have learned

 

Don’t Confuse Strength With Bravery

“She is incredible. It’s like every time she cries she gets more power and just keeps going.”

The time after I lost Alec I was truly in a daze. I heard my friend describe me like this to her friend on the phone. It was when she had rushed to come and take care of us at our home in the first couple of days after the loss. I was there in my body, but not really present. For 11 days I was somewhere else … on the inside. The world was a blur around me. I could tell it was loud but the noise was muffled by my grief. I could tell it was fast but I had no connection in space to be able to accurately gauge its speed.

But even from within this isolation and disconnection, I had experienced a realisation that helped me to anchor everything and make sense of it all. You see, on the day after Alec died, I sat reading the reflections I had been keeping in my phone and I realised that everything in my life had brought me to this point. From here, I was to become an author and a speaker. I knew almost straight way that I would write a book and share a message of hope and light. At that time I had aspirations of becoming a “Professional Encourager.” These days I describe myself as The Happy Widow with a message of Unstoppable Freedom. The words almost don’t matter. What I have wanted to do with every part of this chapter is to empower you to realise that you already have everything you need to find and follow your passions.

I have always had this sort of outlook. Positive. Optimistic. Faith-filled. This doesn’t mean that I have not faced darkness … only that I don’t know a time where I have not had a glimmer of hope that it would pass, however faint that glimmer was. You don’t have to read too many of my reflections to know that I have experienced profound loss, terrifying fear, choking anxiety, and the thickest grey sludge of depression. But even amidst those times, I have always managed to pull something special from somewhere deep, to see the season through to change.

“You are so strong!”

“You will get through this. You’re a survivor.”

“You’re an inspiration, Kerry. You’re amazing.”

Given my “ray-of-sunshine” outlook, it is understandable that people would describe me as strong. I get it. I really do. But no, I can’t live up to that, and I would like to go on the record and correct this misunderstanding.

I realised a very long time ago that being strong is a falsehood, and a bar that is set too high for me to achieve. I can’t believe I’m strong on the days where I haven’t been able to pick up the phone without crying, or go to the shops without experiencing a panic attack. A strong person wouldn’t have black outs on the freeway, and wouldn’t be terrified of being alone and unloved. This is not what I would call a picture of strength. No Sirreeey.

And this is more than OK. In fact. It is perfect.

Kerry Anne Nelson Professional Speaker

We don’t need to be strong. We can make progress through our toughest days when we are bold enough to hope despite the hardship.

I have no intention of being strong. And my aim with this blog is to let you off that unrealistic hook too. Screw being strong. Real life hurts! It is hard. It is scary. It is unpredictable and it is relentless. Real life is brutal.

I permitted myself a long time ago to give up on being strong. I don’t feel strong. I don’t need to look strong, and I sure as hell don’t need to act strong. Especially when I am simply trying to keep up appearances. The pretence is worse than useless. It is damaging. Destructive. It will hold us in a prison of performance, people-pleasing, striving and falsehood. And the worst part of trying to act strong, is that it locks us in a cage that we have, in fact, constructed entirely on our own.

No. Being strong is a recipe for disaster. I chose years ago to replace this ambition with the one I have for bravery.

You see, in bravery, I can admit that I am afraid. I’m hurt. Confused. Angry. Ashamed. Lost. Broken. Terrified. In fact, to experience those feelings of overwhelm is a pre-requisite of bravery, because without them, my response would simply be … living! Bravery does not require strength. It simply requires a step of bold courage from the place of weakness.

It is in the face of fear that I can choose to practice being brave. It is when I confront pain that I can dare to show my broken heart, and somehow take steps forward. It’s in the shame that I can stand tall. In the haze that I can fight my way through to clarity. In bravery my fear becomes hope, my reluctance becomes action, and my exhaustion becomes a new flame of passion.

When I am brave I still get to cry. To shut the world out, just for a little while. To feel it all. Every lat painful bit. These agonising feelings are what make my positive response so damn brave. Being strong says “It’s fine. I’m ok. This doesn’t affect me.” But being brave says, “This hurts like crazy, but I am going to give it my best shot and see what I can make of it.”

You don’t need to be strong in the middle of the mire. But, there is a bravery inside of you that can confront your worst days head on. Let’s give up on being strong, and let’s choose to be bold and brave instead.