I recently had a conversation with a friend who had lost his wife last year. He asked me about my experience “running away” and when looking back, if it had ended up being the right choice for me. He was craving something similar but, understandably, scared to make a move.
Here’s the thing. They say not to do anything drastic after experiencing such a loss - don’t move, don’t switch jobs, don’t spend your money, don’t change. But I’m starting to believe that maybe “they” (whoever they are) have never actually experienced loss and that maybe “they” are sometimes full of shit.
When you lose your spouse, everything changes. Everything changes. Everything that was previously familiar suddenly becomes foreign. Your home, your social circle, you job, your routine. None of it makes sense anymore. It feels like waking up in a stranger’s bed. The smells are different. The sounds are different. Everything is different.
For me, the easiest way to cope with this feeling of unfamiliarity was to physically insert myself in new unfamiliar situations. To deal with unwanted change I needed to continue experiencing change (change of scenery, change of location, change of people). For me, that meant getting in my car and spending two months driving across the country and another month traveling through Iceland and Norway. For me, the best chance I had of moving forward in a life without Brad was to start outside of the place we had spent 10 years living together.
People may have thought my decision was irrational, but running away allowed me the opportunity to deal with this unwanted change on my own terms. It was space away from the closet filled with Brad’s clothes. And the bar where we would grab drinks after work. And the river where we would take morning walks with Dune. It was space away from eyes of pity and stares of concern. More than anything, running away allowed me the space to grieve.
And it was hard. Really hard. At times I was scared and uncomfortable and really fucking sad. But something unexpectedly beautiful also happened during that time. Without the pressure of expectations or outside influences, I stripped down to the barest version of myself and began to learn who I was and what I wanted, not as part of Brad and Dana, but as me (and yeah, that was hard too). I threw myself into the unknown and came out the other side, changed.
So yes, running away was the right choice for me. “They” all say not to do anything drastic, but if your heart is pulling you to change, you change. It’s your life. Don’t let “them” stop you from living it. And if you’re lucky. running away can actually lead you towards some changed version of yourself.