How Grief Made Me A Better Pilot Wife

How Grief Made Me A Better Pilot Wife

When I was 25, my partner of 4 1/2 years (James) was killed in a motorcycle accident. There was no warning, no time to prepare and certainly no expectation when he left for work that morning that my life was about to be turned on its head.

Now, just over 15 years since his death, I'd like to share with you some of the lessons I learned and I how believe they help me be a better pilot wife.

When He's Gone, He's Not Really Gone

When my pilot is away, I miss him. I miss snuggling with him, I miss his presence and help around the house, I miss being able to chat with him easily. But he's still here. I know that at some stage, I can chat to him about our days. I can ask his advice to help me solve a problem. That he will be home for cuddles eventually. 

Having experienced the finality that is death, I have incredible gratitude that missing my pilot is only temporary. A fleeting moment that I know will pass and we will again be back in each others arms - even if only for short periods at times.​

How Grief Made Me A Better Pilot Wife Choose Gratitude

I Don't Sweat The Small Stuff​

Sure I get annoyed and frustrated by things. I yell at the kids, I get cranky at my pilot - sometimes for silly things...but I don't let it stay. These little annoyances that crop up in life on a regular basis are just that. Minor blips on the radar that I let pass through as quickly as possible. 

This is the man I have chosen to spend my life with and raise a family with. We don't always agree with each other but we love each other so we choose to let the little things (and sometimes even big things) pass us by. ​

I'm not saying you shouldn't address issues that bother you or upset you. This is not about sweeping everything under the carpet, more about making a choice to deal with it then leave it behind.

We have had counselling at times to help us find balance and compromise and to overcome hurdles we struggled to do alone. And then we moved forward, stronger and happier than before and if we need to, we will do so again.

When something is bothering you, ask yourself is this "small stuff"? Can I let this pass me by and move forward? ​Seek help if you need it when you feel it's not the small stuff, but ask yourself honestly if your concerns really matter in the bigger picture.

You may like to watch the interview I did with a relationship counsellor addressing some common issues in aviation relationships here.

​Life Is Short

​Life is really short. If you're lucky you'll get a good 80+ years out of it. If not, it could be a lot less. Seize every moment you have. I used to be so focussed on the future that I forgot to live in the moment. Funnily enough, James (who lost his Mum when he was only 17) was always the one to say to me "life is short, you never know what's in your future so live for now". How right he was and yet I never fully comprehended his words until I lived it.

I'm not suggesting you completely throw all future planning to the wind, but take a moment to reflect. Are you living in the moment? Can you take a moment out to leaves the dishes in the sink a little longer and snuggle the kids, jump on a flight and surprise your pilot on an overnight, dance in the rain and have a warm shower after?

I'm sure you've heard it before but it's so true. These little moments make the memories of a lifetime. One of my favourite photos and memories of James is of him sitting on the front porch, brushing his daughter's hair while she read him a story. A moment of peace and connectedness in an often busy life.

How Grief Made Me A Better Pilot Wife Choose Peace

I Don't Jump To Conclusions

I know a lot of wives fret when they can't contact their pilot, or the flight does something weird on the flight radar. Please let me save you a lot of stress and worry. The majority of the time, you will be notified if something bad has happened before you've even had time to consider it.

Early in my relationship with James he went missing one night. He rode home from my house and never called me when he arrived as he usually would. I was be​side myself with worry. Mum and I called hospitals and police stations trying to find out if something has happened to him. Eventually with no news, I had to assume the best and get some sleep. He called me the next day. He'd stopped at a friend's house, had a few drinks and fallen asleep. I had worked myself into a complete state for no reason.

The morning he died, he left for work as usual. About 20 minutes later I heard sirens. Lots of sirens. I thought nothing of it. About another 20 minutes later, I received a phone call telling me there'd been an accident. I still didn't associate it with James as he'd only just left. His work hadn't called to tell me that he hadn't arrived and there was zero reason for me to think that anything could possibly be wrong. 

6 months later, my grandparents were involved in a serious accident. Again the call came out of the blue. The majority of people I speak to who have lost someone suddenly have known well before they had time to worry. 

I'm not saying this is the case 100% of the time, but please, for your peace of mind and the peace of your relationship, assume the best when something out of character happens. It is so easy to jump to the worst case scenario then when you finally talk to your pilot, you realise it was all for nothing. 

The same thing goes for when my pilot may not call me as expected, or doesn't answer a text straight away when I know he's around. I always assume the best - he's asleep, the phone's on silent, there was a holdup with transport or the accommodation or any number of little things that can go wrong to mess with the best laid plans. I always give him the benefit of the doubt and know that we will talk when we can - that's just how it goes when you're a pilot wife. 

How Grief Made Me A Better Pilot Wife - Choose Happiness

It Is Easier To Find Things To Be Grateful For

I know lots of people are into Gratitude Journalling these days. I have to confess I'm not much of a journaller. However I am grateful every single day. I can find gratitude in the smallest of things. 

I am grateful when my kids wake me up at night because they're alive to wake me.

I am grateful when my pilot's away because he has a job that he's worked hard for and that helps support us as a family.

I am grateful when we get bumped off a flight because we even have the opportunity to travel like we do when thousands don't.

I'm not perfect (woah...so far from it!) and I don't always see the positive side straight away, but I do choose to take a step back and look at what good can come of a tough situation. I know things could be better, but they could be so much worse. So I invite you to choose gratitude. Choose happiness. Choose peace.

A Pilot Wife talks about her experience with losing her partner and how that shaped her views on the pilot wife lifestyle.

Ericam

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Anne - last year Reply

What beautiful writing Erica! It’s sad that we have to learn life lessons the hard way at times, but you have wonderful memories, and it has made you into the gorgeous person you are today.

Leaving stuff behind is one of the best lessons I learned earlier this year from a course I did. What a difference it makes to life overall. You really shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, and the stories we tell ourselves in our head can destroy us for no reason. Learning to let things go has really changed my relationship with my partner.

Thank you so much for sharing x

    Ericam - last year Reply

    Thanks Anne. I agree, it’s so important to be able to not sweat the small stuff however not always that easy to do. I have to regularly pull myself up on things!

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