My husband passed away after a long, drawn-out illness over many years. Unlike with a sudden passing, my grief had begun long before my husband’s body finally shut down. I grieved for the person who was no longer the same after illness struck, I grieved for the life we dreamed of but lost together and I grieved for myself - the dreams and goals that had gone unfulfilled due to events completely outside of my control.
I remember the exact moment that I made a very conscious decision. I was in the hallway of the hospital after my husband had passed away. We knew it was coming, so my dearest friends and family were all there, surrounding me and my husbands family with so much love and support. I remember looking out the window and oddly, seeing myself as the heroine in a movie. My movie. I knew that at 38, after everything I had just experienced I had permission from everyone around me, and from society, to just shut down. If I fell apart for a while, or forever, no one would blame me or wonder why. I knew in that moment that I had a decision to make. I decided that I would not do that. I was 38 years old, with a full life ahead of me still. I was going to LIVE. I was going to THRIVE not just survive.
That moment was almost five years ago now. I won’t say that the journey to thriving wasn’t challenging. I took good care of myself during that first year especially. I journaled, I devoured inspiring books, I exercised regularly, I spent time alone, I spent time with friends, and I did hours of therapy too. And of course, there were many moments when I just lay in bed, or sobbed while driving in my car (my sister and I joked that for some reason, the car was my crying spot, which really, was not so safe) or just felt moments of complete dread for the future.
But I always came back to my commitment to live a beautiful life, no matter what. Today, I am remarried with a beautiful two-year-old daughter and a twelve year old stepson. I am living Part Two of my life. Yet every day, I still wake up and make that decision - that I’m going to live and live well. My movie already has a happy ending.
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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