Three months ago John Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston passed away. How is he handling this tragic event and what is it like losing the person closest to you?
We spoke with Tanya Unkovich, a world leading counsellor who has helped hundreds of widows, widowers, and families journey through a loved one’s transcendence from this life. As a CEO, published author, Unplanned Journey and expert in dealing with grief, after her husband died, she has incredible insight on the topic. Tanya offered thoughts on John Travolta’s emotional state.
And this is what she said:
The 12th of the month will not be the same for John Travolta for many months. It will be another trigger, a subtle reminder of the day that his beloved wife, Kelly Preston, passed away following her secret battle with cancer on July 12th this year.
You cannot help but count the months, as I did, after my own husband Phil passed away 16 years ago, on the 12th of the month, from his own secret battle with cancer.
The strange thing is, during that first year, you do not mind being reminded. It is as if you are scared that if they are not in your mind every waking moment, that you might forget them. You want to remain connected to your beloved, and the grief of losing them, in any possible way, even if it something as simple as a number on the calendar.
It is now the 12th of the month, three months after Kelly’s passing. I cannot help but wonder what John is feeling right now?
I too remember the 3-month mark. It is about the time when you are coming out of the haze and the painful reality hits, every day, that for now, this is your life.
The thing is, during those first weeks after the funeral, it is busy. There are people everywhere, you have urgent matters to deal with, all of which can be a helpful distraction of the darkness that lies beneath the surface.
Soon, family and friends who have been around you more than usual, have lives to go back to, and understandably so, they do. As much as you want to ask them to stay around a little longer, you do your best to smile as you tell them you are fine, and they must return to the normality of their own lives.
What frightens you the most is that you have no idea what normal even looks like any more. There are now more times during your waking hours when it is just you, and you alone. It is just you, and whatever thoughts or feelings you welcome in to your space of silence.
For the spouse, the painful reality once everyone else is gone, is that it feels like half of you has been taken away, you are no longer ‘whole’.
Kelly Preston was a beautiful talented, courageous, beacon of light in the world, and of course John’s world. A world that he may be now trying to redefine.
I cannot help but wonder if this is how John is feeling right now?
Whilst with time on my side I can now say with absolute certainty that you do begin to mend. However, at that 3-month mark, the emptiness is real and the pain, as it begins to surface, is raw.
The journey, a different journey, is only just beginning for the spouse, as you learn to adjust to it being, “just me”, instead of “us”. As you are reminded each day as you open your eyes, that yes, it wasn’t a bad dream, my beloved isn’t lying next to me, it did actually happen.
Each week, each month following, is unchartered territory and brings with its emotions and at times, darkness, that one cannot explain unless you too have walked this road.
The emptiness, the space that once used to be filled by your beloved, no matter how big, feels as though it is suffocating you. All you want to do is run, without knowing what you are even running from.
I wonder what it must feel like for the John, knowing that he is loved by so many, and who are also wondering, how he is doing right now?
What if, something inside tells you to stay still, as no matter how far you run, or how fast, you know that the feeling will be right behind you.
What if, it does not need to remain this way? That there is no ‘perfect’ time to decide to step out of the darkness and face the light, and the world?
What if, no matter how many months had passed, that ‘now’ was the time to embrace what you know, what you love, to begin to embrace life? For John to embrace his children, his flying and everything else that brings him joy and fulfillment.
It is not uncommon to have survivor’s guilt after your young spouse has lost their battle to a terminal illness. I did. Who was I to embrace life again and let the world see that I was not only coming out of the haze, but I was also embracing the sunshine?
Why not allow yourself to feel that joy, to laugh again and believe that it is OK to show the world that you are living again? Who decides anyway?
Whilst the definition of living may not be what it once was for John, there is nothing wrong to begin truly living again, and even showing the world that he is doing so.
At my 3 months mark I had the opportunity to go on an amazing holiday to Europe with family. In a heartbeat I said yes. If the roles were reversed, I would have expected my late husband Phil to have done the same.
Being of Croatian descent, my aunty asked me if I would be wearing black when I arrived at my parent’s home village. I responded that the only black piece of clothing I would be wearing was my bathing suit! I had decided that this was a time of recovery for me, and not to be stuck in the darkness.
I saw that I had two choices at this time. One was to remain in a state of suffering, or secondly, to say “yes” to the beautiful holiday, (and life), ahead of me.
Moving forward can be scary. In fact, you do not know what that even means for a very long time, and like grief, is different for each and every one of us. The thing is, there is no right way and there is no wrong way. You decide.
You do what you feel is right at the time, as you begin on the journey to slowly say “yes” to life, and, to you.
Recently on John’s Instagram account I see him dancing with his daughter Ella, in honor of Kelly. He also posts a video from the cockpit of the aircraft he was flying during takeoff saying, “I love rainy takeoffs”.
It makes me wonder if John too is now beginning to also say “yes” to life.
You take one day at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time, knowing you are doing your best.
After nighttime and darkness, comes dawn and daylight. What follows winter is spring. What follows rain, is sunshine.
Life has shown me that what follows suffering, is a sense of hope. What follows grief is joy, and what once felt like an endless abyss of personal darkness, comes a tinge of light, a belief that one day you too, will feel complete again.
It will not be the same, it will be different, however, you would have come through your dark night of the soul and be able to look back with unspeakable gratitude of the life you once shared with your beloved.
I know that John may not feel like this right now, but one day, hopefully soon, he will.
Photo of Tanya Unkovich