The end of 2016, and all of 2017 was not kind to me.  I was lost and eventually lost everything.  My passion to create faded away.  Anxiety and depression became the norm.    Shunning social activities and other people was easier than pretending to be OK.  And then my husband suddenly died and my world was destroyed.  Everything I knew and loved was gone and I was shell-shocked and left standing in the ruin of my old life, with no idea how to continue on without the man of my dreams by my side.

It’s been over six months since Charlie died.  200 days of just . . . me.  Charlie was my best friend.  The love of my life.  My everything.  And we did everything together.  There was never Kelly without Chuck.  We went to work together, we went shopping together, we dreamed together.  And now, it’s just me.  I’m figuring out my new normal and how to deal with a grief that will never leave me.  I feel lost.   I cry a lot, usually in my car when no one can see me, or when memories creep in with the stillness of the night.  Some days I get angry and want to scream.  I can’t believe he’s gone.

One unexpected challenge I’m facing is my identity.  For the past several years, I was Kelly E Schultz, photographer.  I had the tag line Artist, Photographer, Cat Lover.  Now, I’m not sure who I am.  I have an extremely difficult time pursuing concert photography, because it was something I did with Chuck.  He was the one that would schedule my gigs and get my images in front of people.  Now, not only am I not interested in concert photography, I don’ t even know how to start it up again if I were.  In fact, I’m not really interested in photography at all in this moment of my life.  And it concerns me.  I don’t want to lose my gift, but I feel so lost without his guidance.  I love him and miss him so much.

These 200 days have been difficult for me, but I have amazing friends and family who are supporting me in many ways as I navigate my new normal.  I have a wonderful Church family, and a strong support system.  I am trying to be courageous and strong, and some days I actually smile.  It’s been a tough road with many heartbreaking revelations.  But I know Charlie would want me to live fearlessly.  I must have courage.

So who am I now?  The answer is more than a tag line.  I’m sure I’ll re-invent myself countless times like I have before.  My name is Kelly and I am a widow.  My name is Kelly and I will have courage.  My name is Kelly, and ‘Kelly’ means ‘Warrior Woman’.  My name is Kelly and I refuse to be defeated by my grief.