I wondered why going back to work during a new school year (where I used to work with my husband before he passed away) was harder than when the first anniversary we spent apart. What exactly about the first day of work after the summer was sadder than a lonely anniversary?

And then it hit me.

It felt just like the day I had to leave the hospital after giving birth to a premature baby. The day I left behind my 29 weeker in the NICU and was discharged, wheeled out of the hospital empty-handed, passing everyone else with their balloons and flowers and healthy babies and somehow becoming even more aware of my empty, soft belly, and feeling the ache of a broken heart. Life was moving forward. Somebody else needed my hospital bed. Business as usual. I had to leave. I had to continue living even though my first child, my baby, was left behind in the hospital and would stay there until he was well enough to leave too.

I cried that day. And night. I cried tears I had never cried before. A part of me was left behind. I was missing something.

And that’s exactly how I felt the first day back at work. A part of me was missing. My husband. The little things we did together, like sit through those boring in-service days, filling out paperwork, going to lunch together before the students would come for a new school year. All of that was over. I was alone. Forced to live my life. Nothing was going to stop for this. Business as usual.

And sometimes that’s what hurts the most. You feel like you got left behind while everyone else continues living their lives.

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