Grieving has taught me a lot since Charlie was killed. I've learned that the world didn't stop when mine did. I've learned that no matter how many times I pray to hear him walk through the door, hear his laugh, or see him smile just one more time, it will NEVER happen. I've learned that the nightmare I relive everyday will NEVER go away. I've learned that I am not the same person I was before but I'm learning to be okay with that because I need to be who I am now to figure out this new life without the best friend I called my husband.

Grieving has taught me that there are people who will never leave your side or give up on you no matter how hard things get. Then there are some who will just disappear. I've learned that when people don't know what to say to a widow, they just stop calling. When people avoid talking about Charlie or even speaking to me because it's awkward only just pushes me away. I want to know when he's remembered, and I want to keep his memory alive.

I've learned that I'll never get over my loss, and I don't want to. I've learned that Charlie was here long enough to teach us a lot  about life; things I would've never learned on my own - things only he knew without even trying.

I've learned what it feels like to feel SO alone in a crowded room. I've learned that silence can be the loudest sound when you just want to hear their voice. I've learned that when you find another widow, you don't need words to explain the constant ache inside or how hard it is to breathe sometimes.

I've learned that as a widow I'm judged for every decision I make by those who don't know this new life I'm forced to live.  I've learned that some people expect widows to always be sad, alone, and helpless. I've also learned that when it's time to build a new life and find my new place, I will lose a few more friends who seem to know what I need more than myself. I will not allow that to keep me from being who and what I want to be. 

After all, it's me who wakes up and goes to bed wishing for my old life back. It's me that will always have an empty feeling without him. It's me who feels like I want to quit most days and just crawl in hole and cry. It's me who looks at our children and sees the empty spot where their father once was. It's me who carries this loss and no one knows that pain but ME.

Grieving has taught me that tears aren't always a bad thing. I've learned that crying ends with laughing and bad days bring better days. If I had the chance, I'd marry Charlie a hundred times; even if he was taken each time. Being his wife and the mother of his children is worth this lifetime of grief without him and I owe it to him to keep our family the way we intended it to be.

Grieving has brought new people into my life; some good, some bad. I've witnessed the difference between grief and guilt and what it can do to a person. 

Grieving is healing. Every day is another hard step without Charlie but I know that I'm capable of making it now. He will always be my first choice and my missing piece. He will never be replaced or pushed aside for anyone or anything. I'll always be Charlie's wife and his widow; the one he chose to share his life with and I will always carry him with me. I can't change the fact that he's gone and I can't trade places with him no matter how bad I want to some days. What I can change is how I choose to live from now forward because I know that's what he wants for me. It's what he wants for the five children he hugged so tight before bed.

I've learned that grief can steal ALL the happiness you have left inside if you let it. I've learned to cry, be angry, hurt, lost, and feel defeated but I don't stay in those places too long. It's a constant battle but I'm doing it. I'm doing it for me and I'm doing it for Charlie. 

To honor Charlie and what he taught me in life, I will do my best to be happy for him and for me. I will love the babies we raised and hug them extra tight for him. I will push myself to get up on the days I don't want to and I will let myself say I'm not okay on the days I can't handle.

As for being a LEO's wife, we are made differently. We are a different kind of tough, smart, and self-sufficient. We learn to fix things when they break, hold down the fort when they are gone, vacation alone, celebrate holidays alone, eat alone, sleep alone, and make decisions alone because duty calls and the helpless need them too. We agree to share them with those who hate them and we don't talk about that part...ever.

As a LEO's widow, we are forced to be even stronger. We end one day as their wife and start another as their widow. We pick up the pieces and fight to get back on our feet because we weren't given a choice.

We suddenly realize that all the things we handled before with ease are now the hardest to do just because they're GONE. It's then we realize the reason they chose US to share their journey with. Being married to a LEO isn’t for just anyone; it was for us and now…they know we have THEIR six. 

Teresa Kondek

Proud widow of Officer Charles Kondek, Jr. #285

Tarpon Springs Police Dept., Florida, EOW 12/21/14