ON All Souls’ Day this year, a friend asked me how I was doing, if I was okay. I answered, “Honestly, All Souls’ Day feels superfluous to me now, because I miss Kidlat every damn day.” I put a laughing emoji at the end of the sentence to lighten the mood.
It’s been a year and eight months since Kidlat passed away suddenly halfway around the world from us. In some ways, things have become easier, more routine. I have taken over his chores at home, and found that it’s not as taxing as I thought it would be. What was more challenging was taking on some of his roles in our little family, such as managing and paying for home repairs. The challenge was in facing my fear of making mistakes, as I know next to nothing about it. I realized that I just had to take the plunge, make a choice, and forgive myself if things didn’t go as planned. I allowed myself to ask for advice from people who knew more about such things than me. And I gave myself permission to fumble and find my way through, to be human.
Another role I took on was being the sole breadwinner of my family unit. At the beginning of 2023, my inner guidance told me, “You can be the ‘sole breadwinner’ without taking on the implied stress and sacrifice of that phrase. You can support your family from a space of trust, trust that you are always loved and supported. You can do this peacefully and joyfully.” This advice felt good and right, so I decided to follow it. Suddenly, my having so many interests and talents paid off! I enjoy all my jobs, and best of all, I get to work from home and be present for my children.
My grief counselor told me that she believes that when a person loses a spouse, God steps in and takes the place of that spouse. I believe her, for I continue to be the recipient of so much grace. Family and friends would extend help in unexpected yet timely moments. I would think of something I needed, and before I could say or do anything, someone would catch my thought and do it, like the time my brother-in-law Kawayan had the walls of my compost corner repaired, and had fresh gravel spread on my parking spot. Or when a friend messaged me out of the blue and offered to help communicate with the Manila-based printer so I could get the second print run of my book going.
Being the recipient of so many random acts of kindness has made me softer, more humble. When you trust in Divine love and support, it frees you up to reach out to offer help to someone in need. When you let go of the need to be in “survival mode” and allow yourself to relax, when you surrender to the possibility that you don’t need to do anything to deserve being loved unconditionally, guess what happens? More love and more support rushes toward you.
“Surrender” has been a huge word for me in the past 20 months. One meaning of the word is as I mentioned above, surrendering to Source, Universe, God, however you want to call the Oneness to which we all belong. Yet the other meaning of surrender for me has been in allowing myself to feel and be whatever is true for me at any given moment. I don’t just surrender to God and then put on this fake smile and positive attitude (although I am generally a smiley person). Surrender means that I no longer feel the need to force myself to be what I think others may expect me to be -“fixed,” balanced, happy, successful, strong, etc. Surrender means that I have been allowing my own self judgment (and the opinion and judgment of others) to melt away more and more each day.
I have stopped asking myself, “Why am I still crying over Kidlat? Why do I still miss him? Why does this still feel surreal?”
I simply cry. I simply allow myself to miss Kidlat. Yes, I know that death is a part of life. It’s one of the parameters of Earth School. Yet to miss him is not the denial of truth, but rather, it is diving into truth’s very core.
Lately, I’ve been decluttering our library. I wanted to delay doing this as long as I possibly could, but living in Baguio – the country’s wettest city – has forced me to face the music. I mean, face the mold.
Going through Kidlat’s books is an emotional minefield. Deciding what to keep (will the kids want to know what he was interested in? what he liked reading?) and what to give away is not always such a clear cut choice. And then, while wading through piles of books and folders and papers, it happened – I found his dialogue notebook, the one we started keeping after going through an online Marriage Encounter near the end of 2020. We would choose a question, then take ten minutes to scribble our thoughts and feelings on our own, and when the ten minutes were over we’d exchange notebooks. The last entry, dated just a few months before he passed, we chose the question, “What are your reasons to go on living?”
Kidlat filled four pages answering this question. In a letter addressed to me, he outlined his plans for home renovation, family holidays, personal projects, etc. But what I found so touching was how much love he expressed all throughout the letter, how happy he was about our growth as a couple, and his own personal journey into loving and appreciating himself more. The letter was shining with hope. And it absolutely ripped me apart.
People often ask me, “How do you cope?” And my answer is, “I don’t.” I allow myself to feel. And in that moment, I just cried and cried. I wept over the unfairness of it all. Why did he have to die at this very moment, when things were getting better, when we had so much to look forward to? I cried over our lost dreams of growing old together, happily and contentedly, watching our children grow up together, living out our days in the house that faced the rising sun. I didn’t hold back. I was in the car, driving to my children’s school to fetch them at dismissal time, and I didn’t care if my co-parents were going to see me with puffy red eyes.
I allowed myself to slide into the depths of my despair. And as I did so, the pain and grief unexpectedly transformed. I realized that Kidlat was still here, with me, in spirit form. And I started telling him, “I love you. I love you. I love you.” And I just let that love flow toward him. I felt like something opened up inside me, I felt the love flow out and toward him. In surrendering control and allowing all that love to flow where it wanted to go, I felt whole. I felt like I was receiving a healing.
And in that moment, the truth hit me. So many people misunderstand grief. They are afraid of feeling it, of what it will do to them, that they will lose control, that they will lose face, that they won’t be able to function, yada yada yada. Many are afraid that they will lose who they are to grief. But what I realized in that moment is – that is the point! When I allowed myself to dive into my grief, to slide into the abyss, I realized it wasn’t just this downward, endless spiral. When I surrendered to my grief, my grief turned into love, and I found that I could continue loving Kidlat. I could continue sending him that love. It is not this clingy love that tries to hold on to what was, for we all know that death (in this timeline) is irreversible. But I discovered that it was okay to continue loving him, that I was free to continue loving him. I didn’t have to hold it in.
“Moving on” from loss doesn’t mean that we force ourselves to stop thinking about our loved ones, or to put on this stoic countenance and get on with our lives in a “business as usual” manner. When we are brave enough to be our authentic selves from moment to moment, then we can “move forward” with our hearts opened wide by love. That is the gift of grief, of vulnerability, of relinquishing the need for or illusion of control. Letting go has given me the wholeness that I have been striving all my life to achieve. It doesn’t matter what I am feeling, whether sad or happy, because I can embrace myself in whatever state I am in.
In my grief and in my love, I am whole.