Being widowed is no picnic…
I was widowed over ten years ago and now days I can talk about it more easily. At the time our dreams for the future were shattered.
If your husband (wife/partner) dies suddenly, that is quite different from someone dying from the ghastly cancer. I wouldn’t dare suggest how others might respond. They are all totally different journeys. I nursed my husband for months, and this article is about how I managed my grief.
If these words help even one of you I will be pleased. Everyone’s experience is quite different so we mustn’t judge others on our own journey, it seems to me that our lives prior to this tragic event have a huge bearing on our ability to deal with this and move forward. Some folk are not emotionally able to move on and hit a brick wall. What goes before has a huge bearing on who we are and how we cope with life’s curve balls People don’t choose to react negatively, I’m sure of that. They just cannot see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not talking about the elderly here, more about people in their prime of life. Make no mistake, it’s tough.
For me, after my husband died, I had this strong believe that I had to make my life count, I owed it to my husband who was taken far too young. I have no idea when my number will be up so I get on with it and more or less live life as though there is no tomorrow (or at least like there may be no next week, month or year). Easier said than done for sure, but time does heal all wounds and it is possible to create a new and definitely different existence. Some folk re-marry, most don’t. It’s not so much about getting over it, as getting on with it.
Life does change – when looking back, I compartmentalise my life into stages, my childhood /pre-marriage; marriage/ motherhood/ family era and then ‘widowhood’ – all totally different stages, all with their highs and their lows. I hate the word widow but we seem to be stuck with it! Latin -videre to separate 12th century.
I had to stop myself saying ” it isn’t fair” and say “well wasn’t I lucky to have thirty wonderful years with a man I loved and who loved me. Many people never have this”. I told myself how lucky I was to have two children who needed a Mother from time to time and really cared for me. I told myself how lucky I was to have such supportive friends and family. I told myself how lucky I was not to be poor. I told myself these things over and over and over so I chased away the self-pity eventually. It seemed to work.
I now have so much to look forward to. I have grandchildren to watch grow up. I have family and friends who include me in so many events. If I’m feeling low I contact them and arrange to have coffee or see a movie, or just chat. I’m pro-active. My solo existence is better than just existing, I can enjoy many things either with friends or on my own. I’m happy to go by myself to a movie and shed a tear in the darkness of the theatre. I see people having marriage crisis and ultimately divorce, in some ways worse than being widowed. At least I don’t have anger and bitterness to contend with.
There are times when dark clouds come across my sky and I will cry and feel lonely, but I know these will pass over so I no longer panic when I’m having a bad day. I’ve learnt it will definitely not linger long. Talk to someone understanding when these times strike, these moods often arrive without warning. A book or a movie might set you off, who knows but the triggers are always there. Tears are never far away, one doesn’t forget, one just makes the most of one’s situation and you learn to live with the feelings. Tears are good, it means we are alive and have feelings.
I should celebrate a new grandchild, and I do, but they are bitter-sweet times. Or when a child does well in life, I want to celebrate the pride I feel, and I do, but it is always bitter-sweet. When I see an elderly couple holding hands I think this should be us, I’m sad, yet happy for them, and so it goes on.
A major point in grieving is to avoid negative people. People who always say things like ”I don’t know how you cope, it must be terrible for you”. These comments achieve nothing. People who are always complaining about their lot, avoid them, they drag you down. One copes because there is no choice. You cope out of respect to your husband or wife’s memory. You cope because you don’t want to burden your children. There are many reasons why one copes. I don’t think it matters why people struggle with grief so much as what can be done to help. It is often the little things that help. So my friends if you are in this situation or know someone grieving, be positive to them. Reassure them that life will improve. Be there for them, hold their hand on occasions, remind them how lucky they are compared to … we all know people worse off than us, ( choose your timing on this one), a phone call saying “I’m thinking of you ” is always appreciated. But reiterate the positives. Give them a hug, they will be missing hugs.. and keep in touch, especially that first year or two. Weekends can be the worst time I find, families are busy and you are often sitting at home alone. Yesterday someone asked me why I didn’t go somewhere one night recently, I wouldn’t ever go some places on my own at night! One has to be aware and show caution when on ones own; life is different.
Anyway, have faith, time heals. Buy yourself flowers. Create some happiness around you, it is contagious. Stay positive. Also cry, laugh, sing, and remember you were lucky to have had this special person in your life. A friend of mine bought a cat from the SPCA and that has helped her.
Imagine a life with no love. Now that would be tragic. Comments welcome, either privately or on site.
Please share with anyone who might get comfort… at least, hopefully, they will realise they are not unusual in their feelings.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN 2014 by Lynn Clayton