I became a widow at about 7:45am on Friday the 30th of March 2018. It was Good Friday and my husband became an Easter weekend road toll statistic. I was 42, my husband was 43. The entire family was in the car, our twins aged 13 and eldest aged 17. I was injured fairly seriously but the boys escaped with minor cuts and bruises. The boys pulled me from the wreckage. My husband, their dad died instantly. That's the bare facts of how I joined the "widow/er club".
As a new member, I knew immediately that I needed to speak to others in the club. I needed to know that other people understood. Very few of my friends were in the club, one - an older lady in her 70's (but that's kind of expected right?) and a woman who I knew when we were girls had lost her husband from cancer. That was it. Surely there had to be more? So I went online and searched. Well I was horrified and heartened that there were so many of us. We are young and old, parents and those with no kids, married or engaged or long term partnered, we had experienced sudden passings and slow painful ones, long timers and newbies, and we live all over the world. It turned out that this a a really big club to be a part of. I had no idea! I had lived in my comfortable little bubble never realising for a moment how many people were out there mourning the loss of their life partner. I had thought I was a compassionate sort of person, but here is a whole new group of people who I had largely ignored and certainly not done much to support. This club is massive. It almost feels like an underworld group. We are living in plain sight but are largely unnoticed by the general public. they don't "get it". Mostly they don't want to "get it" and I don't think they should either. It makes them feel uncomfortable - thinking about their mortality or their partners mortality. We widow/ers are a reminder that life doesn't always go to plan. Mine certainly hasn't!
I haven't learnt yet if there is a secret handshake - known by club members only. What I have discovered is that there is a sort of secret head nod, a certain look in the eye, a particularly warm hug. It doesn't seem to matter what our other differences are, the one massive thing we have in common far out weighs our differences. I have also learnt that once you are a member you kind of always are. It doesn't seem to matter if you find a new partner and "move on", you still went through that experience of loss and will never be the same again. I am still a newbie and probably will be for a while yet, but there are so many more coming in after me. I'm still learning the ropes, still making the first steps on this new journey. The nice thing is, I can now reach back and help those behind, just as I reach forward for help from those who go ahead. I don't think we need an handshake. We just have each other.