A Letter to My Four-Years-Ago Self: What I Want You to Know About What Lies Ahead

I wasn’t planning to post today, but I’ve had one of those days where I feel kind of blah and discouraged and tired. And when those feelings hit, one of two things usually happens: I nap, or I write.

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This is the last photo of me from “before,” blissfully unaware of what’s going to happen in just two days. Two days, four years ago. The anniversary of Dan’s death has come and gone. Every year, it’s a little bit different. This year, I just kept thinking of the days and weeks immediately after. After the funeral, after my mother went back home to Illinois, after I went back to work. When I was just trying to survive but had no idea how I could possibly be okay.

I saw an article online recently where young widows were asked what they’d want to tell themselves at the one-year mark. For me, it goes back further. I have some words for that one-week-after-he-died woman, and I hope they bring her some peace today.

Dear Allyson,

Right now I know you are drowning. You are lost. You cannot fathom what it will be like to live this life without him. You haven’t moved his shoes away from the front door where he left them. You keep thinking of things you need to tell him – important things and silly things and little things – all the things you’d only share with him. The truth, as you already know, is that you’re not going to be able to talk to him again. But you will, in time, be okay.

Last week at the visitation, several people told you that everything would be fine because “you’re young and you’ll find love again and can still be a mom.” You stood there in stunned disbelief. How could someone say that to you when a casket was just a few feet away from where you stood? Four years from now, you will indeed find love again, and it will be strong and powerful and real. Make no mistake, however – this does not mean everything will be fine. All of this is still going to hurt, and if anyone tries to make you feel bad about that, you can just tell them to take a walk. They have no idea what this journey is like. But you will, in time, be okay.

I know you’re going to have to take a pregnancy test tomorrow, and you don’t know what you want it to say. You’d been hoping for a child for SO long, but this wasn’t the way you imagined it. I know that the idea of being pregnant right now and being a single parent is terrifying. Take some deep breaths and trust God on this one. The test will be negative. Four years from now, you still won’t quite know how you feel about this. In all likelihood, you aren’t going to be a parent. I know that seems unfathomable, and you’ll even think about adopting as soon as a month or two from now. But there is a different path ahead for you, and when you get there, you’ll know it’s the right path to take. The loss of the child you never got to have with him is still going to hurt. But you will, in time, be okay.

You still cry every night and wonder if it’s going to stop. It’s going to take about six months, but you will finally have a night where you don’t cry. Once you realize that’s happened, you’ll cry again. Your tears heal. Let them fall. I know it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But you will, in time, be okay.

You wonder what Dan’s death means for your relationship with his family. His family is YOUR family, now and always. Please trust that. You are all grieving, and it’s impossibly hard for all of you right now. There are going to be some times during your grief in which you say things to each other that you don’t mean. In time, you’ll learn that everyone has been hurting, and that you’re stronger together than you are apart. Four years from now, you’ll be chatting with his sister constantly, and you’ll bicker with your father-in-law about Donald Trump. It will almost feel just like it was – perhaps even stronger, somehow. It’s going to be rough in the middle. But you will, in time, be okay.

In about a week, you’re going to find shotgun ammunition in his bedside table drawer. This is going to wreck you. You’ll be able to take the shotgun shells to the police station. You will never be okay with guns again. Four years later, this will still haunt you and this will still hurt. When there are mass shootings and political debates about firearms, it’s going to hurt and bring up many things you won’t want to deal with. Brace yourself, because the next four years are going to be filled with more of these tragedies than you can fathom – starting in just about three weeks in Aurora, Colorado. Do yourself a favor now and in the future. Just turn off the television and don’t engage on Facebook. You do have a valuable perspective. But trying to share it with people who have no interest in hearing it is going to hurt more than it’s going to help. I wish I could provide more comfort to you on this issue. So far, it hasn’t improved – and in many ways, it gets worse. You will start to heal from losing Dan. I don’t yet know if you’re going to heal from finding him. But I have to trust that somehow you will, in time, be okay.

Hold on tight, sweet girl. The road ahead is rough. It will make the other hard things you’ve dealt with in your life look like a walk in the park. You’ll clean up your house in Iowa, paint new rooms, and make it start to feel like a place you can feel at home in once again – only to turn around and decide you need to leave. Moving will be hard. You’ll move away from Iowa not yet knowing where you’re going to live. You’ll have to do a job interview on your wedding anniversary. You will spend those first few weeks in a new state alone wondering if you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life. You haven’t. You will, in time, be okay.

Before I go, there are just a few logistical things I’d like to address:

  • Stop letting Gracie eat cheese with you when you’re sad. She’s already overweight, and it’s going to get worse. It’ll take four years for her to get back to a reasonable weight – in fact, she’ll get to a healthy Beagle weight for the first time ever. When she does, she’ll be more energetic than she has been in years – which is a great thing and an exhausting thing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Just hire Todd now to take care of the lawn. You’ll try. You’ll have to run down the street to get someone to help you start the motor. It will be ridiculously hard for you. You’ll hate it and cry a lot. Save yourself the trouble and let Todd take care of it. He’ll do a great job, and you’ll get to sit on the porch drinking lemonade. It’s a much better deal, I promise.
  • It’s okay if you want to indulge yourself right now. Some VIP seats to see Taylor Swift are going to come up for sale in a few months. Go ahead and splurge. It’ll be the best concert you’ve ever attended.
  • You do not have as much time as you think you do to pack boxes and load them into the POD for the moving truck. Start early or you’ll have to spend three nights in a row sleeping for just two hours, and you’ll be cleaning out a garage at 1 a.m. in tears because it’s still not over. Be thankful, though, for your next door neighbors. They’ve been there for you in 100 ways so far, and they will be there for you right up to the last minute. Those 17 trash bags on your driveway you have no idea what to do with? They’ve got it handled. But really, it would be much easier for you if you just got started on time.

My heart breaks for you right now, and tears run down my cheeks as I write these words. The pain you’re going through is unbearable and unfathomable. And to make it worse, for a while you’re going to try to keep it to yourself. I know that you don’t want people to have to know how bad it is. But they love you. They can handle it, because they know what you don’t know quite yet. That you will, in time, be okay.

Love yourself and trust your gut. It won’t let you down. After all, I’m living proof. Because even though it still hurts like hell and I weep right now as I write to you, I think that maybe, just maybe, I might be okay after all.

16 thoughts on “A Letter to My Four-Years-Ago Self: What I Want You to Know About What Lies Ahead

    • Debbie says:

      Wow thank you so much for your inspiration and for starting this group. Your journey has been incredible and shine you will.

  1. Sandi says:

    I am speechless. I cannot help but cry with you!! Your writing and your understanding is spectacular!! You are a special lady! I feel blessed our paths crossed!

  2. Bev. Wilson says:

    Dear Allyson – such courage and love you show us…and lead us with. What a poignant heart wrenching amazing story. I’m so sorry you have carried this pain. This way. I’m grateful to have found you here. Thank you.

  3. mshathor says:

    Oh my dear,
    You have endured such pain. It will never leave you, but each day it will hurt less. There is so much I want to say. Let me say this. You have grown from this time, in strength, power and knowledge. The best is yet to come. I wish you happiness greater than any sadness you have suffered. <3

  4. Deni says:

    Aw that was so sad and yet its a beautiful thing to do
    I should have done that when my son passed away in 1990, quite awhile ago but still close to my heart, but I made a healing quilt its on my bed right now and I remember the good memories
    I will never meet you but I will say Thank you sweet girl,your beautiful

  5. carolscreativeworkshops.net says:

    Thank you for this Allyson. I’m enrolled in your online workshops but haven’t managed to write anything yet. My daughter died by suicide a year ago last Friday. It’s good to read someone’s perspective from 4 years on. It’s hard to believe it’s possible to reach a time when we, her parents and sister, will be OK, but your experience is reassuring. I’m so glad you’ve found another love in lifexxxxx

  6. Debi says:

    I ache for you, and all that you have endured. I am thankful to you for your insight and determination. I applaud you for your blog, the 30 art journaling, and your inspiration to help others. I am thankful I am on this journey with you. God bless.

  7. Pat Amsden says:

    You’ve written a beautiful piece and undoubtedly, others who are going through such pain will find it. Four years ago I found out I had Parkinsons. It felt like a death to me as well. Of myself. Four years later I’m still here. I’ve just taken time off work because I need to, but I wouldn’t have missed the last four years of my life for anything

  8. Amy says:

    Thank you for being brave enough to share something so personal. I’ve started similar letters a million times and never finish them or just tear them up. I just found you and your site and am looking forward to taking my journey with you. I think it’s time. 😊🤗

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