A few days ago I was chatting to a good friend of mine who recently lost a friend to cancer. This young man fought a long, hard battle, and left behind a huge community of friends and family who were missing him very much - including his newly-wedded wife.
My friend told me about the steps she’d been taking to reach out to the young widow and asked if I had any suggestions on how she could be supportive during this difficult time.
As we talked about my experience of losing Dan to depression six weeks after our own wedding, my friend started crying.
She explained that she was upset for me; for her friend’s wife; and also for herself because the thought of her own husband dying just made her so sad that she couldn’t bear to imagine how she’d cope.
My first instinct was to say ‘its ok, it probably won’t happen to you’… but then I realised that I really didn’t know that.
I mean, if anyone had of told me that my husband would suddenly take his life I would never have believed it. I just didn’t think it was a possibility and thought we were way too young to consider how I’d go on without him. So I couldn’t, in all fairness, assure my friend she’d never face the loss of her husband.
However, what I did tell her, was that I understood the feeling of not being able to face the thought. Before Dan died, I would instantly tear up at the notion of anything happening to him. We didn’t discuss death often, but we’d had a few conversations - like whether we believed in heaven or when we drove past the local cemetery, chatting about whether we’d prefer to be buried or cremated. Every time the conversation came up, I’d start to cry and tell him that I didn’t like imagining what life would be like without him.
I think about that sometimes... in particular, about the days before he died. He’d been diagnosed with depression four weeks earlier and while I knew he was struggling to adjust to his new medication and was a bit disheartened that he hadn’t yet started to feel more focussed and energetic, I had no idea that he might have been suicidal. I didn’t know that he was trying not to worry me by not sharing just how bad he was feeling.
I wonder if I hadn’t of cried whenever we spoke about death, would he have felt like he could talk to me rather than wanting to not upset me and keep it to himself?
Most of the time I still can't believe it happened and he died like that. It's just so surreal. Two years and still, if someone said to me a week prior that it would happen, I would say no freaking way. So when people say to me 'I don't know how you do it, I wouldn't cope if my partner died' I admit that I felt 100% the same before it happened to me.
The weekend before he died we were talking about our wills and I said to Dan, 'I would just die if anything happened to you, I would just not be able to go on'. But it's one of those things that you don't chose to survive, you just get through one hour, and then another hour, and then another hour... and the next thing you know months have gone past and you're still breathing and you have no idea how (and you probably don't even want to be here) but... it just happens.
I really hope my friend never finds out what it’s like to be a widow, well, at least until she’s well in her to 80’s or so. I hope that no one I love has too, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. But one thing that I do know is that if any of them are unfortunate to join our little club, there is a supportive community ready to welcome them with open arms and carry them through. For that I am so grateful.