Move On

Erin Britt essays

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“Larissa, it's time for you to move on.”

If only I had a dime for every time I heard that phrase; I would be a wealthy woman. The phrase was uttered by strangers and friends alike, always with the kindest of intentions in mind. There was never any forethought of malice, yet the words stung like the most intentionally malicious attack I had ever endured. A bonus side effect of hearing those jarring words? The immediate sense of anxiety and guilt that swept over me. Why hadn't I moved on? Why couldn't I?

At the ripe old age of 29, my husband passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He was the picture of health: athletic, careful with his diet, good about the required eight hours of sleep per night. But there was a blood clot lurking in the shadows of his brain, a silent ninja waiting to strike. It struck, and I was struck down. Brian's death literally brought me to my knees. I couldn't quite fill my lungs with enough air to breathe and the simple activities of daily living we take for granted were tossed by the wayside. I had to leave myself post-it notes with reminders to eat, to shower, to brush my teeth. Fortunately, a strong maternal instinct kicked in, allowing me to expend every ounce of my energy caring for our infant son, who would grow up never knowing his father.

Move on.

What does that even mean?

I tried to define it for myself. I made every attempt at giving off the appearance that I was moving on; I ate well. I slept as much as I could. I even exercised daily. I left my house. I spent time with friends. I smiled and I chatted and I laughed. I took my son to the pool, the park, the bounce house. I was dying inside.

I finally agreed to spend much more time seeing a trusted therapist and even to take a pill or two to make it through the day. At first I was ashamed. Now I am proud. It is a brave thing to decide to survive. Little by little, things got better and a strange sort of “new normal” was established.

But I hadn't moved on.

What does that even mean?

Flash forward nearly 10 years and I am a happily re-married mother of three. I have a terrific husband who brings me joy and constant laughter. I am engaged in a career that fulfills me. I have a fantastic network of loved ones and even a hobby or two just for myself. Does that mean I have moved on? Have I met the unwritten criteria?

I love Brian, to this very day. We celebrate his birthday and we watch our wedding video together on our anniversary (yes, my second husband is that wonderful and loving and understanding…he sits with me and with my son and watches me marry the man who shared our bed before we met). I die a little all over again on the anniversary of his death each year. I search our son for signs that his father left an indelible genetic stamp and am pleased to note that my boy wears his father's smile and has inherited his dad's signature gait.

I have not moved on. I will never move on, though life is truly grand.

A friend lost her husband a few years back in a similarly unexpected way. Everyone, including me, assumed I would know just what to say. I didn't. But I knew what not to say. And now, so do you.

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Erin Britt

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