This post was inspired by someone asking me how it felt to surround myself with widows for the weekend when technically I couldn't call myself one anymore. I know it came from a place of love and empathy. She really wanted to know if I was uncomfortable. It reminded me that we have a lot of educating to do ...
The Widow Within
I have often said that when Wing died " I went to bed a wife and woke up a widow"
When I got remarried I wondered if the reverse was true. Did I wake up a widow and go to bed a wife? I suppose in the most literal sense that is true. But here's the thing I have learned. The two are not mutually exclusive. Nothing is that black and white in a life touched by grief. For as blessed as I am to be Darren's wife, and believe me I know I am blessed, I will always be Wing's widow. Being widowed is not simply something that happened to me. It is me. It has forced me to remake myself, and that process does not end with remarriage. In fact how I carry all that I have learned in my widowhood is in large part responsible for allowing me to once again have the courage to be a wife, so why would I want to deny that part of me?
The concept of embracing my continued widowhood was reinforced when I attended Camp Widow in Toronto last month. I will admit I felt awkward at first to be there. Having been used to being part of our grief avoidant society I felt myself wondering did I still belong? Did I have a right to be there? Could I wear a badge proclaiming my 8 years, knowing that for 3 of those years I have been a wife, and not feel out of place? Could I embrace where I was in my life without worrying that I would be a painful presence to those still fresh on the journey? But I also wondered was there a part of me that still needed to be there and was I okay with that? What revealed itself to me in the course of the weekend was that I was where needed to be. I suppose if I had been paying attention I would have realized that right off the bat. After all they asked me as I was registering how many years have I been a widow. They didn't ask me if I was still a widow or expect me to recalculate the years based on when I remarried. No. They welcomed me and embraced me for what I am- someone who has suffered the loss of the person they loved. A widow. It's extremely empowering to be in a community that gets that. That accepts it. That isn't uncomfortable with the seeming contradiction.
It went a long way in helping me feel comfortable with the whole environment. I was able to be less self conscious of my new life and at times even go so far as to share it with the intent that perhaps it could give hope and encouragement to those contemplating their own next steps. But more than that it allowed me to be comfortable with the widow within the wife. Within me. The one that neither time nor the gift of new love can erase. The one who still longs for what I lost but is grateful for what I have found. The one who still has to find a way to live all the moments we should have shared while sharing them with someone else. And the one who is still in the process of learning to accept the coexistence and the beauty of love both old and new.
It was an experience unlike any other I have had. A beautiful example of the power of shared experience and a wonderful affirmation that it doesn't matter how far " out" I am in my journey-sorry Kelly Lynn to use that dreaded term but this is a good analogy to educate-I am not "cured" of my widowhood. I can not change it. It is a much a part of me as my heart and my soul -for that is where it lives. It will always be a part of my identity and I will always benefit from surrounding myself with those who share that. So yes I am a widow who is also remarkably and somewhat inexplicably a wife. I long. I live. I love. To use the words of Bono that I have used before " I've seen for myself that there is no end to grief and that's why I know there is no end to love " I count myself as fortunate to have found a community where that is understood. Where they believe in the truth and the continuity of the sentiment as it was intended " Long live love!"
Thanks to Michele and Marny and Beth and to everyone who made Camp Widow possible. And a special thanks to everyone who had the courage to attend. To quote Bono one more time " free yourself to be yourself. If only you could see yourself".
It was through witnessing the pain and the honesty and the camaraderie and the undeniable spirit that was so openly shared by everyone that I felt free enough to be able to see and to understand that I do have much to share and even more to learn. I always will.