- Cynthia Hellen
Love, Loss & Hope
Updated: Sep 7, 2020
It was a week after Ryan, my fiancé, passed away that I was invited to attend an award ceremony to be honored for the work I do as an entrepreneur. I’ll be honest I did not want to attend. After you lose someone who was your life and you theirs, you don’t seem to have much interest in life itself. You just feel numb. But as I sat in my living room looking down at the invitation flashbacks of him saying “celebrating the good moments is what gets you through the bad ones” kept coming back. In that moment, for the first time, I felt as though he was by my side, embracing me as I made the decision to attend.
It was the first event I was going to attend without him by my side. Luckily, my entire family was joining me. As we discussed the event, I began to think about what he and I would be doing right now. A week before he was hospitalized, we had put a deposit on an engagement photographer. We wanted to surprise our family and friends with our engagement so we booked a photo shoot session and scheduled the announcement for July. The plan was to be photographed at some of our favorite places in NYC. We both couldn’t have been more excited to be actually planning our wedding. He even chose what he wanted to wear. I had put on hold this white gown and was supposed to pick it up later that month. I mentioned to my sister that I had a gown that perhaps can be used for the event and we just needed to pick it up. As we drove to the store, I began to question if I was making the right decision. I mean, would I even have the strength to wear it let alone attend this event?
As I tried on the gown, this feeling of calmness came over me. As my sister and I talked about the gown and Ryan, a woman next to my dressing room was overhearing our conversation. As she and I both stepped out, she turned to me and said “Wear the gown. This is your grief.” That moment of sincerity, was the all I needed to walk out of the store with tears in my eyes, and the gown in my hands.
Now, it has been 11 months since Ryan’s death and I can’t stop thinking about everything else that has happened so far in my life. Not only have I managed learn how to be alone again (thanks to this quarantine) but I am now experiencing more joy in my life than pain. This joy is what has been helping the bits and pieces of me to move forward while still feeling it. By “it” I mean grief.
Statistics show about 2.5 million people die in the United States annually, each leaving an average of five grieving people behind. This of course does not include this years death due to Covid19, job, pet, relationship loss and relocation. If you think about it, that means that almost all of us have experienced or are experiencing grief. But why do I feel like I am alone in my grief, if grief is this universal experience? Perhaps, if we were all to begin to understand the true nature of grief, we would be able to have a more helpful, loving, supportive culture.
But what is grief exactly? Grief is the process an individual goes through after losing a significant person or element from their life. What has grief felt like for me? Grief has felt like an overwhelming and powerful wave of emotions, that will appear and disappear at any point while I am awake. I will cry and laugh both at the same time, because my heart will miss him terribly while remembering all the happy moments we shared. It is very exhausting, mentally, physically and emotionally. “But Cynthia you seem to be doing so great!” is the comment I get on a daily basis. Just because I feel pretty good one day or week it doesn’t mean I am no longer grieving.
Right after Ryan’s death I shut down, emotionally, mentally and physically. I didn’t do this on purpose either. I just didn’t know how to live a life with just me in it again. The only piece of my life that did not change was my career. Everything else had changed too quickly, But my work, it was the one thing I could still hold on, I could still go to, teach, work in teams, make plans with clients. As I look back at it now, it was what saved me because my career reminded me of who I wanted to be, a person that creates sustainable & positive impact in the world. As I focused on my career, adding the missing pieces of my new life became a bit easier to bare. However when Fall and Winter came around, it all came crashing down. I had pushed myself to the point of extreme fatigue. I just didn’t know it but my body did. I began losing weight, having headaches, blurry vision, and even experienced an episode of vertigo which resulted in a hospital trip. I remember when the ER Doctor asked me if I had any recent trauma, I don’t know why but I had forgotten to mention “yes, my fiancé died.” I instead said “nope”.
Sitting in that hospital bed looking around the ER, I began to feel this sense of hope that it all would be okay and that I just needed to trust the universe. It’s easy to feel hopeless and fear in the darkest moments in your life but if you feel hope well that is strength and courage you have there. If I felt hope than that must mean I still have more strength in me and because of that I have faith that it all will be okay.
Having started to live my life with hope has given me a new love for life again. Even though, there are still moments of pain they are just that moments which I use to remind myself that I was once deeply loved and because of that I learned how to love another human being. Knowing this has helped me and still is helping me cope grief along with a global pandemic, protests, and riots in what will always be my favorite city in the world.