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How my husband’s death is bringing me to my feet…

Emma Grey

“When you lose the love of your life, it can bring you to your knees. It can completely destroy you. Or it can bring you to your feet.”

My family and I did the City 2 Surf yesterday, almost three weeks after Jeff died. Taking Seb (five) away and feeling the sand under our toes and watching the waves crash on the beach was exactly what we needed.

Completing the race was a welcome physical challenge to balance the emotional one that’s weighing so heavily. Doing it with my sister and her family symbolised walking together over the last three weeks, one step at a time. 

Along the way, I noticed a phrase printed on the back of someone’s T-shirt. It said, “Brain cancer didn’t bring me to my knees, it brought me to my feet.” That’s exactly how I’m feeling now, while trying to come to terms with what has happened.

When Audrey and I interviewed Rebecca Sparrow for our ’15 Minutes that Changed My Life’ speaker series a couple of years ago, Bec told us about losing her baby daughter, Georgie. “Somehow, Georgie was going to turn the light up in my life, not down,” Bec had said.

That’s how I’m feeling about Jeff. I want to be a better person. I want to do more. Experience more. LIVE more. Turn the light up because he died, not down.

Losing him has shown me the fragility of life. It’s made me value every breath I take much more highly. For the last six months, my body has been screaming at me with a combination of high blood pressure and a persistent, unidentified, stress-related rash. I was letting things get to me that weren’t worth the effort, and finding myself in a high-pressure pattern that wasn’t healthy.

In three weeks, so much has already changed. Most of it is for the worse, but some of it is for the better. I’ve realised I can grieve standing still, or I can grieve while moving — the pain is the same either way. I have a young, vibrant family whose broken hearts need time and love and routine and some special things to do, so I’m choosing to keep moving.

We decided on the night after Jeff’s funeral that we would do one life-affirming thing every day, no matter how miserable we might be feeling. It began the next day, when we pulled apart all the flowers we’d been given, made fresh bunches, wrapped them in pink tissue paper and cellophane and delivered about ten gorgeous bouquets to the hospital where all the kids were born.

Every day since, we’ve done something that makes us feel alive and grateful or helpful. It’s my belief that, if we just keep doing this — really living, despite our grief — at some point the unbearable ache might start to dull and some moments of happiness might peek through.

When you lose the love of your life, it can bring you to your knees. It can completely destroy you.

Or it can bring you to your feet. I’m feeling a strong calling to honour Jeff’s memory by becoming the best version of myself possible, in the precious time that I have.

Someone wrote in the condolences book: “He changed the way I see the world.” That’s something that he did when he was alive for me, too, and it hasn’t stopped since I lost him. He changed the way I see the world, and now I want to change the world as I see it. One step at a time — the way we tackled the City 2 Surf, and the way we’ll tackle every day to come.  

Join me?

Choose one life-affirming thing to do, every single day, not matter what sort of day you’re having or how you’re feeling — and no matter how large or small. It will change everything.

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Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

  • Bec Lou Lou Webster

    Well written Emma. I am very sorry for your loss. I just wanted to let you know that your article was fabulous and I think you are very brave and I wish I had had half your strength. My husband passed away in an accident 18 years ago and I did not have half of your strength or wisdom. It dragged me down to the lowest point in my life and there I stayed for some time. I think life would be very different now if I had ‘turned the light up’. Thanks for sharing your story and continue to be the brave and strong woman you are.

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