01/21/2014 02:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Picking Up the Pieces of Tragedy

What does the picture of your life look like?

Everyone has a picture of their life as they see it. Certain parts of your life are a bigger part of the picture. For me, the biggest parts were my roles as wife, mother, and teacher. I have a definite "before" and "after" in my life. Before the accident, the picture of my life was vibrant, layered, textured. After, in the beginning of my grief, the picture of my life which I saw was dark, one color, flat. To me, my life was defined by the tragedy of being a young widow. I felt like I had to greet people by saying, "Hi, my name's Sandra, and I'm a widow." I felt that if I didn't tell them they would think I was lying, that they could see the weariness of my grieving heart. I wore the title of widow like a scarlet letter.

I stood still. Pulled back from life. Watched. Waited. For my life to go back to the one I knew. Life kept moving forward though. Faster and faster and at some point I stopped standing still. Time passes and the weariness and grief begin to lift. There is a point when tragedy becomes a fact in your life. It doesn't make it easier. It does not take away the fact that this trauma occurred, but the pressure begins to lift.

Adversity, despair, tragedy shatters your life as you knew it. And mine was shattered. I have been left to pick up the pieces. Pick up the pieces of the reality of the tragedy. Not just the knowledge or the words, but the daily reality. The pieces of this enormous and gigantic tragedy have been jumbled among the other pieces of my life. I stared at them for a long while. Watched. Waited again. Waited for them to pick themselves up and reform into my life. They stayed still, so I stared at them without a clue of how they could possibly fit back together and with no intention of trying to do so. They sat in the corner of my mind and life as a constant reminder of the mess that had been made. A mess I did not want to work through or figure out. Then one day, I could not walk past them any longer. I began to pick them up, sometimes willingly, sometimes because I simply had no other choice. For a while, I simply sorted them, moved them, stared at them with absolutely no idea how they belonged to each other and set them aside. Eventually, I began to attempt their reconstruction, to piece them together without knowing how they would fit together. As I began to put them together, I realized what a privilege it was that I had the opportunity to put them back together. The story could have ended so many other ways. I was reminded that they were vibrant, textured, and layered, not purely darkness, not flat. I have begun to piece them together without instructions, without a picture to follow. When I hold this new picture of my life up to the sun, light peeks through. I can see that there are pieces missing, pieces with broken edges, edges made jagged from life's trials. Much like my thoughts, the pieces are disjointed, unable to find a comfortable place to rest. Yet through these disjointed and imperfect pieces, there is light. The light which breathes and pulses with the possibilities of moving forward. I may not have a picture to go by, my picture may never look the way I thought it would, but as I continue to work, the pieces are beginning to form a beautiful new picture, a beautiful new life.