Along the Broken Road

My Expanded Heart

I met Ralf just a few months before my 18th birthday. Even with as young as we were at the time, I knew very early on in our relationship that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. We instantly shared a very special connection that was apparent to our family and closest friends.  Alike in so many ways, to the point that some friends would jokingly say we were the “same person” – just in male and female form. There were definitely differences, though. I was the passionate emotional one, he was patient and level-headed.

One of the biggest obstacles I faced after losing Ralf, was learning who I was without him. I’d been with him for so long; I’d transitioned into adulthood with him. The lines between his likes, his preferences, his dreams and mine now seemed blurred. So much of the person I’d become was because of what he and I had learned and accomplished together. Now I suddenly was forced to discover a new self . A self that would have to exist without Ralf’s presence in the physical form. A self that had no choice but to continue without him. A self that would have to experience initiation into parenthood alone, while simultaneously trying to rediscover my own identity as a newly widowed young woman.

It was hard, and oftentimes still is.

Just the other night at dinner, Vinnie and I were having a conversation about this. I was explaining to him that learning to be in a relationship with a man who isn’t Ralf has been challenging. Not because I’m comparing one man to another, because there is no comparison – they are two completely separate people. Not because I’m lacking any feelings for Vinnie, because I am very much in love with him. Not because of anything Vinnie has or hasn’t done, because he is nothing but patient and understanding of everything I go through. It’s been challenging because I’d only ever experienced a long-term, committed, adult relationship with one other person for nearly 11 years. Grief and life after loss look different for every individual. I imagine, though, that most people who have lost their spouses can relate on at least some level.

You think you’ll never be truly happy again.

You believe that life will never be enjoyed to the same extent it once was.

From my own experience, I’ve learned that it is possible to be truly and equally happy again – just in a different way.

Last weekend, I treated Vinnie to go see Incubus in concert for his birthday. We had such an incredible time together. I had several moments throughout the show where I felt immense gratitude for a great night with my new life partner. And yet, there were many thoughts and memories of Ralf, as Incubus was one of his favorite bands.

At the end of the show, the crowd cheered and the band reappeared on stage for an encore performance. The song they played is not very well-known or popular, and it was one of Ralf’s favorites. It was a regular on his playlist during our boating adventures. When I heard the intro, it brought a smile to my face and tugged at my heart all at once. The next morning, Vinnie and I were reminiscing about all the fun we’d had the night before. I’d already mentioned my memories of that final song to him. He said, “I can’t believe, of all songs, they chose that one for the encore. He is always with you.”

He is always with me. Ralf’s memory and spirit will forever be anchored in the depths of my heart.

And now, Vinnie is with me, too.

Reminding me daily just how much my heart is capable of expanding.

Showing me that it really is possible to love what was while cherishing what is – all the time, every day.

 

concert shot

10 comments

  1. Cristina

    I remember when I found out I was pregnant with Matthew (my 2nd son) I thought, “Geeze, I love Michael so much. How can I give Matthew just as much love?” I literally thought I wouldn’t be capable of loving another child as much as I loved my 1st. Matthew was going to get jipped! And I was proven wrong. Our hearts have an endless supply of love to give. How can they not? That is God’s greatest gift to us. LOVE. Not the people in our lives but the love he gives us, the capacity to endlessly GIVE & RECEIVE love. Look at what Saint Teresa of Calcutta accomplished with her love. Again, I truly enjoyed your post. It reminded me to go love some more! 😚

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  2. Emily

    You are an incredibly strong person. I’d love to hear more about meeting Vinnie and falling in love again. I love reading your posts.

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  3. Juan Carlos Blanco

    All of your posts are heartfelt and extremely well-written, but this one was particularly powerful and insightful. Thank you for being so transparent with your process as you acclimate to all of the changes you’ve gone through, and much respect to Vinnie for being so understanding and even embracing the fact that Ralf continues to inevitably be in your heart and mind, even in times when you are sharing something with your new partner. That takes immense maturity, security in the love you share and an extraordinary level of human empathy and true friendship. Best wishes always to you, your son and Vinnie!

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  4. Teri Carter

    I know you’ve heard finding the right partner has more to do with “being the right partner”. Although you’ve lost Ralf physically that which your heart experienced will never leave you. Vinnie no doubt was sent your way because your heart is open,as is his. Some of the most powerful things we can not see but only feel. Our departed love ones want the best for us and I believe he wants yours and your precious son to be happy and protected. I hope you will write a book on “Stepping through the Grief”. Blessings❤️

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