Updated: Sep 3
I met Bryan just after I turned 30. Up until that point I hadn’t been what you would call overly “lucky in love”. I dated, but never found that person that I felt I was meant to be with or could envision any type of long term future with. The same was true of Bryan on the first 30 minutes of our date. I was standoffish, and thinking of my exit strategy. But then something happened and I became strangely enamoured to his brash and bigger than life personality.
That first date ended up lasting 3 days, and from that point on, I don’t think we spent a total of 10 days apart until he died a year later. When he died, I understood what it felt like to have the rug pulled out from under you. We had recently (formally) moved in together and were planning our future together. His death was totally unexpected and a complete shock to myself and all of those around us. My visions of the future died when he did. I was left in this crazy limbo of grief and finding my place in it; I didn’t understand where I fit in this new
world. We weren’t married, we hadn’t been together for years and didn’t have children and for whatever reason this left me with a feeling of not being “worthy” of feeling the grief that I was feeling.
So I did what every grieving person does and made a couple of irrational decisions; I uprooted my life by moving across the country and by starting a new business. Through my new business, I do a lot of speaking to other widows on financial planning, and this involves first and foremost sharing my story of loss. Every time I do it, I think “who am I to be giving this talk?”, “who am I to represent these people?”
The truth is I’m the only one who is thinking that. The women who I speak with are so grateful to have someone who “gets it”; gets the tidal wave of grief that is associated with losing the one you thought you would spend your life with. I still struggle with telling myself I am worthy of my grief. Especially when friends and family ask “aren’t you over it yet?”, or “that was a long time ago, right?” Or worse when they say nothing at all but you can see in their eyes they think that you are dwelling.
I am here to tell you, you never get over it, but you can (and do) move on. I am so proud of the work that I am doing and the widows that I am able to help through my business. If I can turn my pain onto something that can help even a few people who are struggling with the emotional chaos that I went through, then it’s worth sharing my story.
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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