Updated: Sep 3
I became a widow on Christmas Eve, 2016. I was 35, a new mom to a 16 month old baby girl, and as paramedics attempted to revive my husband Jamie’s heart on our bedroom floor, I sat and watched as life as I knew it slipped away. To say his death came as a surprise is an understatement. The shock and pain of what transpired that morning was beyond anything I could have imagined, and two and a half years later, I still wake up some mornings surprised that that he is really gone.
But what hits me the most in reflecting on my experience is how many surprises followed in the wake of that terrible day. I wasn’t expecting grief to be so non-linear, to be filled with unpredictable ups and down, to be cloaked in sorrow and laughter, anger and love. I wasn’t expecting to find best friends in the other young widows I met in those awful early days. I wasn’t expecting my community to step up in such a major way to offer help and support. I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about resilience from a grieving child. I wasn’t expecting my heart to grow to make room for new love. I wasn’t expecting to meet a man who would love and accept me and my daughter so wholeheartedly and compassionately, all while making space for the life we have lost. I wasn’t expecting to find out so much about myself, to be more surefooted and more willing to take chances.
This wasn’t the life I was expecting, but each day I choose to live it, with all of its uncertainty, eager to find out what happens next.
ABOUT EMILY D for CHANGE
EmilyD4Change celebrates people's stories and provides a window for people to share their personal experiences. It's about the unsung heroes who are left behind, the caregivers, the support people.
As a photographer Emily has had the honour of photographing key life stages - the joy of birth and the anguish of a persons final hours. Her understanding of the depths of love and the pain of loss expanded after those experiences. Instead of focusing only on what was lost, Emily learned that in many cases the people left behind want to focus on what was and what was gained from loving.
EmilyD4Change invites people to share their stories of love and love lost. Through stories and images, EmilyD4Change brings seemingly ordinary people forward to showcase how extraordinary they are, bravely facing loss and demonstrating the strength and remarkability of the human spirit. Each story is unedited and shared based on what the survivor wants you, the reader, to know.
by Emily Doukogiannis
Emily Doukogiannis is a Toronto-based portrait photographer, expert storyteller and compulsive photo book maker. Her commitment to telling people's stories is something Emily does in her spare time via Emily D 4 Change and countless media outlets.
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