I'm feeling very flat tonight. It's been a long day. My office was closed due to bad weather and while, at first, I was excited at the thought of spending a day at home with no agenda, it has dragged and the quiet stillness has started to seep in under my skin.
It's a strange feeling to go to bed at night realising you haven't spoken a single word all day. It happens to me often. I've had a few text messages from friends and family checking in but there's been no human contact, no physical energy in the room to stir with mine and remind me that I'm not alone.
The quiet generally doesn't bother me. I'm an introvert and a homebody, comfortable in my own company. I usually not only relish time on my own, I need it to recharge. But today, the quietness felt heavy. And I've sat down at my laptop tonight to write this entry for Widow's Voice thinking, as I do often, what on earth do I have to say today that anyone will find interesting. Let alone helpful. It's an incredible honour to write for this website and not a responsibility that I take lightly, however sometimes that sense of duty can feel almost intimidating.
Am I being honest and raw enough? On the days that I'm feeling positive and upbeat, will I alienate the readers who find my outlook irritating or unrealistic? If I tell a personal anecdote am I comfortable sharing a part of my life that is very private, or will I feel ok if someone in my real life stumbles upon it and possibly reads something that upsets them? Incase you haven't worked it out by now, I can be an over-thinker and quite hard on myself!
However this week I received an email from someone I met at Camp Widow in Tampa who also lost her husband to depression, only a few months ago. Her kind words meant more than she could know.
She wrote, among other things, that she had spent a lot of time over the weekend reading my blog posts and Facebook fee, soaking up some of my stories about Dan and everything I had experienced since he died. She told me that it had been helpful for her to hear from other widows and said, "I appreciate your example and your grace and your honesty."
It is messages like this that make the scariness of sharing your personal thoughts with the internet worth it. Every time, over the post 19 months, that I've posted a sad, grief-related post on my Facebook, talking about how much I miss Dan or describing the extreme agony in my heart, I've instantly felt that fear and vulnerability that comes with opening yourself up to judgement.
Our culture is such that people aren't comfortable talking about death. They're sure as hell not comfortable talking about suicide. And this is precisely why I've felt the need, since Dan died, to talk about it. As soon as the police told me how he'd died I thought 'oh no, he's going to be judged. I'm going to be judged. People are going to make assumptions about our relationship or his character...' and then I realised how unfair and WRONG that was.
I mean, of course I knew that Dan's death was caused by a disease - not a character flaw or because of any unhappiness he felt with his life. So I was determined to help others understand that too.
The same goes for grief. Before Dan died the only widow I knew was my then-90-year-old grandmother (who lost her husband at 49). I had seen friends mourn parents who had been taking too soon by cancer but I didn't have any understanding of how that actually felt. Let alone, the loss of a spouse. So I spoke about my feelings. I wanted people to grasp what was happening to me.
Maybe, so they'd be a bit gentle and avoid any unrealistic expectations about this being a 'phase' that I would go through. Maybe because I wanted them to appreciate their own partners and their own good health. Most likely, it was a form of therapy for me. I needed to purge the pain and get it out of my head.
Writing has helped me cope with, and process, my loss. But I share it with others because I hope to help someone else the way the Widow's Voice writers coaxed me through each day of my own pain, when I become a widow.
On the days that I post and there are no comments, it's easy to wonder if I'm missing the mark. If I'm writing such nonsense that no one was able to relate. Then, there are days where someone tells me that I've made a difference to them. And that one message makes it all worth while. So thank you to those of you who reach back. It really does keep us going.