Do the hard thing

Custom handlettering by Liss

Six years ago, on Ant’s birthday, I wrote this.

It went low-key viral and because he loved me writing about him, it was the best present I ever gave him.

Today would have been his 42nd birthday.

And of course, the best present I could give him would be to write about him again. Which I’ve done below. I was aiming to share a core belief of his I think could be useful to pretty much anyone, in pretty much any challenging situation – big or small.

What I wrote ended up being much more personal than intended, but hopefully the core message still comes through because I’d love to hear from people in the future that they channelled Ant’s words of ‘do the hard thing’ during a hard time they faced … and it helped them get through that time.

Happy birthday Ant. I love you and miss you more than anyone can imagine.

—-

DO THE HARD THING

What do you do 
when the person 
who has walked beside you 
through every major challenge 
of your adult life
is taken from you?

If you’re me, 
your first response
will be to run.

As far away
from this bullshit challenge
as you can. 

To not even try
to deal
with the undealwithable.

You’ll decide
the only sane thing to do
is check out of this life. 

So you can go join that person.

Wherever it is they are.

Unfortunately.

Fortunately.

You will have other people in your life
who will hold gently
on your shirt
as you try to run away.

Just like he used to.

And those people.
(Damn them.)
Will ask:
Kel, what would Ant want you to do right now?

And you will sob,
with despair and exhaustion
because you know
exactly
what he’d want you to do.

He’d want you to
do the hard thing.

When faced
with the unfaceable
many of us head straight
for the path
of least resistance. 

The easy way out.

This has always
been my first preference.

But Ant knew.

He knew.

The path of least resistance.

Running from your problems.

Those are short term solutions.

He wasn’t interested
in short term solutions. 

He saw great value
in doing the hard thing now
to save you
having to do a harder thing later.

In the past five months,
I’ve had to do many hard things.

But the hardest.

Was deciding to stay.

Here, on earth. 

Without him.

You’d think that would be
the easiest decision.

I mean – the kids, right?

If you think that
you don’t understand
what we had.

23 years of love.         

Yes.

But also
23 years of 
making each other 
a slightly better version of ourselves 
today 
than we were yesterday.

23 years of dreaming.

Of working.

Towards those dreams.

Together, as a team.

Together.

As a team.

So, yes.

The hardest
of all the hard things I had to do
was decide to stay.

Here.

Without him.

And then.

Then

I had to decide …

Who do you want to be,
Kelly,
in the face of this
devastating loss?

Do you want to be bitter?

Angry?

Do you want to be
the person who goes through life 
feeling the world owes you something
because you’ve lost 
the love of your life? 

Because your kids 
have lost their dad?

Their
highly present
utterly devoted
beloved
and loving
dad?

No.

I do not want to be
bitter.

Or angry.

Or entitled.

I want to be the person
I would be becoming
if Ant was still here.

Holding me accountable.

Pushing me always.

To be
a slightly better version of myself today
than I was yesterday. 

A little kinder.

A little more open-minded.

A little more present.

A little more grateful.

A little more generous in spirit.

Ant.

I love you.

I miss you.

I don’t want to
do the hard thing.

I don’t want to do life without you.

But I want to
make you proud.

And I want to be
the person
our kids need me to be.

So, every day
I promise to do the hard things of …

Choosing living over existing.

Finding light in the dark.

And moving forward knowing
that while you will
never again
be by my side
you will always

always

be in my heart.

Comments 78

  1. I don’t know what to say and I can’t even begin to fathom all that you are experiencing after losing your husband. It’s just crap.

    I just wanted you to know that I am sending you so much love. I’m sure there are wise words out there intended to provide comfort. I don’t know them but it seems like you know them already courtesy of Ant.

    The world needs you to live not just exist!

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  2. Oh Kel. There are still no words. I felt your equal parts of pure pain and love shine through in this post and all I can say is I’m so utterly devastated for you. It can’t (and won’t ever) ease the pain but please know you are in my heart, always.

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  3. Oh Kelly, I just can’t imagine what it must be like. Just getting up each day must feel like doing the hard thing. I read that you don’t ever get over it, you just get through it. Keep writing. You are in my thoughts. xx

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      Definitely getting up each day takes a bit of effort. And I too draw comfort from the fact that I don’t ever have to get ‘over’ this, I just have to get through. One day at a time x

  4. Oh Kelly, you have me in tears. I think about you a lot and the loss that you’ve endured. I also see the strength that 23 years in a wonderful partnership has given you and that is the gift that endures in the hard times, the dark spots and the lonely places.

    I do not have advice to give or cannot tell you what to think but only wish to encourage you to keep placing one foot in front of the other. Ant is smiling down at you from his window in heaven and I am sure that he would be very proud of you.

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      Thank you Liz. It is definitely nice to know that our time together was a huge gift and it will endure xx

  5. Kelly. Oh my. So beautifully written and thank you for sharing what is so deeply personal for you right now, especially with a view to helping others in their time.

    Like others, I don’t have any wise words of wisdom, but just so much love, compassion and deep, deep gratitude for you today (and all the days!). What a beautiful gift to Ant and all of us you are.

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  6. Of all the things you could ever write Kelly, these are the words that speak your heart in all its turmoil and openness. May yours and Ant’s kids grow to know they come from parent’s of great integrity. Biggest strength to you.

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  7. My heart skipped a couple of beats while reading the two posts (six years ago and today.)

    This post about doing the hard thing is powerful. Thank you for sharing it, and a piece of your heart.

    I needed a reminder today… this was exactly what I needed. It hit me straight in the gut.

    I’ve been thinking about you. ❤️

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  8. Beautiful Kelly. Thank you for sharing this. I will come back to this piece every time I am faced with ‘the hard thing’. The reminder of Anthony’s advice and your example will guide me make a choice I will be grateful for. X

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  9. Thinking of you both today. The loss of Ant is unbearable, but you haven’t lost all that he has poured into you and the kids. That’s where he lives now, so you have to keep going x

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      This is so true Laney. Thank you for framing it like that. It’s definitely something I can hold on to x

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  10. Thank you for sharing your beautiful intimate words. I feel privileged to have been able to read them.

    Different reasons, but same choice. To choose do the hard things, one day after another.

    I have no doubt that you are making him proud. Every day. Xxx

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  11. This made me cry so hard, because I see so much of myself. In a few days it would have been my late husband’s 42nd Birthday too. And even though he has been gone 10 years now, I still feel him pushing me to “do the hard things” and I have him to truly thank for so many of the hard things I have accomplished in the decade that has passed. I sure as anything still feel the loss, especially when I see how our son grows and changes (he was only 4 months old when his Dad passed and is now an energetic 10 year old). You don’t move on, you just move forward. With that kind of love in your heart, you know that you will find the energy to live the life they would have wished for you and make them proud along the way.

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      Oh Polla. I’m so sorry for your loss. And for finding a way to move forward these past ten years xxxx

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      I always found my brother’s birthday the hardest so I knew this was going to be the worst ‘first’ to get through

  12. Thank you Kelly. I can’t imagine how this loss is – I have never had a relationship that long (and never without massive difficulties) and am a single parent – separating from a love is like a bereavement in a way, certainly it feels like devastating at the time – the loss of hope as well as love. And I’ve had quite a number by now… I envy you a true love of 23 years! And appreciate how horrendous it must be to then lose that. I love ‘Do the hard thing’. Thank you Ant, and you. Lots of love.

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  13. Just wow Kelly 🙂 All else aside, that is such a powerful piece of writing, as is the one from six years ago which I had missed. Love.

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  14. Beautifully written, your heartbreak so poignantly expressed. Wishing you so much love and hope in your desperate days x

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  15. Kel, I think of you all often. This is the most beautiful, powerful and loving thing I have ever read. You, Kelly Exeter, are absolutely amazing. X

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  16. I’ve been thinking of you all day (today would’ve been my Dad’s birthday).

    After these years I would have thought I’d be better, more accepting, more happy to move through these days without him.

    I’m not bitter so much as ripped off.
    And sad.
    So very sad.

    And like Ant, he would not have tolerated anything less than a life full to the brim with love and laughter and stepping up to challenges.

    I’m glad we have the legacy of these amazing men in our lives.

    Even though it hurts like a bitch.

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      I totally know that ripped off feeling from losing my brother. The world has missed out. We have missed out on so much. I try to focus on what we had over what we’ve lost. But sometimes I feel it’s ok to just wallow in the loss and as you say, let it hurt like hell

  17. Beautifully raw thoughts and feelings, beautifully written. Thank you for your vulnerability and candour. Staying is hard but hell yes its the right thing to do.

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      Staying is super hard. And sometimes it feels like more than I have in me. I have much to thank the people I have around me for. They often don’t realise the role they play in keeping me here xx

  18. My heart breaks for you Kelly, and your beautiful words lift my soul, because if you can do the hard things after everything you’ve gone through, then it inspires me to do the hard things too.

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  19. Beautiful Kel, just beautiful. So bloody hard doing the hard thing….thank you for sharing how the pain is because of the love that continues without him here with you…
    Hugs across the continent from me. Xxx

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  20. Kelly, You touched my soul. To love someone this deeply is the greatest gift anyone can ask for in this life and beyond. He lives on thru you and you because of him. Beautifully written. 🎈

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  21. Hi Kelly,

    Thank you for sharing your precious words. It’s a privilege to receive your message. A heartfelt thank you.

    Love & Hugs,

    Gail 💞

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  22. So devastating…you are so strong, and these words are beautifully powerful. I give you so much credit for staying and doing the right thing. I’m sure so many days seem just utterly impossible without him. You are stronger than you will ever give yourself credit for being. Much love from across the world.

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      Thank you Heather. Some days I don’t feel very strong, or don’t want to be strong. But I will take the compliment xx

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  23. I agree with all of the words of love and heartfelt caring above. There are no words to take away your pain or even for any of us to understand what every day must be like to be in your world. Every day is difficult. Every day is painful. But Ant would not want you to be sad forever or unhappy every day -he would want you to be happy, love life with your kids and smile again, no matter how hard it may seem most days. Sadly no one can promise that there will not be hard days: christmas, birthdays, celebrations, days you have things you want to share…just any day really. No one can tell you that the days get easier and the pain will go away -you just learn to deal with them differently. And you become stronger and realise he is still with you always-in your heart and soul, in the kids smiles and reactions. And then one day, the world works ok and the sun comes out. Even if only for a minute. Sending love, hugs and strength, Vx

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