I recently had dinner with a friend who is also a widow. For those of you how have cobbled together a group of fellow travelers of this widowed path, you understand what sort of balm it can be to spend time with someone who “gets it” and also who doesn’t expect you to pretend you’re okay or to ignore the sadness that lives inside of you often right beside the occasional laughter. Someone who has no judgment about why you cannot part with a loved ones belongings or the dual desires to both find a new life and love, and yet to cling ferociously to the life you loved. Someone who knows intimately the extremely hard learning curve that it can be to balance both- the person you want to be and maybe were- and the widow you think you should be in the face of such loss.
During our time together we talked some about the possibility of someday finding someone else to share our life with. A companion, a partner, someone to be your person at the beginning and end of the day. So much joy and comfort to be had in that, and yet we mused, could we ever give all of ourselves to someone else? Or would we be short changing the person we were with and ourselves by holding back and holding on to what was? We really didn’t come up with an answer for that but what we did establish is that there will always be a part of us that will identify and be a widow. Hopefully, as time moves along, it will become a smaller part of our identity, but the truth is it will always be a significant part of what makes us who we are now.
For me, being widowed has introduced-or more accurately re-introduced, the unwanted element of fear into my daily life. Fear has made me highly aware of the uncertainty of each moment, after all the world proved to me that it can change in a moment and that all of existence, no matter how peaceful or wonderful it is, will be snuffed out eventually. This has made me scared in ways I wasn’t before. For those I love, for myself, for those I may come to love. Fear has become an unwelcomed companion on this path. As comfortable as I have become with walking alongside grief, I am equally miserable traveling with fear.
I know each of us grieves differently, we react differently to the world in the “after” of loss. Some of us become softer, some of us are quieter, some of us angry, some of us bitter, some of us all of those and then some. We grieve differently and what we end up carrying with us from this experience is also different-both the good and the bad. I am far less apt to overreact or worry about little annoyances now, after all what is a string of red lights or worries about politics in the face of losing my best friend? But for me this means I’ve also begun to drag around fear, not because I am want to drag it with me, but because it has tethered itself to me and I can’t shake it loose. I’m fairly certain we each carry something unexpected, something additional to sorrow that we must fight against in the aftermath of this loss that is as unwelcomed as this fear is to me, but of course for each of us it will be different.
That is the gift of a cobbled support system of other widowed people. We carry different challenges, different unwelcomed guests, but in the presence of someone who gets it, we- and all of our unwelcomed grief companions- are accepted as well. It is my hope, for myself, that this cobbled together group will also help me cut loose those things which are not serving me in this grief, not healing me but hindering my healing and that I may do the same for them. Grief is a heavy load to carry, and for many in my life my grief has been too hard to bear witness too, but for others who are living this same sorrow we know that it can be carried, it must be carried, and it is made so much lighter when we all lift together. For those walking with me, thank you for sharing the burden of carrying my grief. I can also say from my deepest self, I am incredibly honored that I have been allow to help carry yours. For those who are traveling this anew, or hesitant to reach out, I urge you to do so-tears literally cleanse the soul, but are even more powerful when shared, between the memories and the laughter, with someone who “gets it”.