Fear May Be My New Favourite Emotion

Red Light or Yellow? There’s a difference, and it’s a big one.

Alexandra Stacey

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A chair sits in the open door at the end of a dark enclosed alley that promises light outside.
Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

Not to be confused with the panic of immediate threat to life and limb, nor with the anxiety and paranoia that accompany so many debilitating mental illnesses, fear — the kind of dread that stops us from stepping forward into an unknown future — is one powerful emotion.

I have never been more terrified than I was in the days and weeks after my husband died. I was 48 years old. I had five teenagers. No friends. No job. Ancient credentials. I was overweight and out of shape. (Yeah, and he was the one who died.) And now I had to face life without the only person I ever trusted, my best friend, number one cheerleader, and pretty much the only thing holding me up.

I spent 23½ hours out of every 24 trying to figure out how to swap places with him.

I’m sure there was sadness, and grief, anger, and frustration. But every emotion I might have had during that first year was eclipsed in spectacular fashion by a pure black and palpable fear.

For a while I was distracted by the busy — the phone calls and letters and shutting down accounts and filing this, that, and the other thing. I was nothing if not organized and competent. The tedium of having to close his life kept my mind occupied.

Struggling teenagers ruled my heart.

Each processed their own grief in completely different ways on completely different schedules. Looking back, I learned more about my own grief by trying to explain theirs to them than I did through therapy, self-help, and time.

But a year in, my family was disconnected, quiet. Siblings, who had once turned to each other for everything they wouldn’t bring to me, now avoided conversation, ditched family dinners, and hid behind screens and closed doors.

I’d lost my husband, and now I was losing my kids, too.

One thought led to another, and I was struck with an outrageous idea: an idea that had me wondering if I’d lost my mind.

An idea that saw me purchase a 31’ motorhome, pack up all five kids and my 75-year-old mother, and head west. We live in Southern Ontario, more or less in the middle, at the…

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Alexandra Stacey

woman, mother, publisher, designer, artist, potter, builder, inventor, writer, voter, widow ~ so many stories, so little time. http://alexstacey.com