The relationships that I have formed with other widowed people are by far the quickest bonding experiences of my life. Somehow the kinship of loss has regularly transcended the other differences that are often obvious between me and a new widowed friend. Before Phil died there were a variety of things that might influence how long I spent getting to know someone...do we share a passion for the same music, are our children the same ages, is there a recreational activity that we have in common? But once I was widowed, I really just wanted to meet other people who were also living with the daily reality that their spouse wasn't coming home.
I never imagined that people would look to me to provide a road map for surviving the death of a spouse, in fact, I don't believe one exists...and if you know differently please don't be greedy!! My experience so far convinces me that every single person has to navigate their own personal grief journey. No one can tell you how, no one knows EXACTLY how you feel (though so many times other widowed authors seemed to have pulled words right out of my head!), no one but you can read the signals your gut sends when decisions need to be made, tasks need to be accomplished, and moving forward needs to somehow be done. This is why widowhood is so lonely. The buck stops with me. Every single time.
But meeting other widowed people, even though they didn't have all the answers to the hundreds of questions I asked, changed my life. These fellow widowed people seemed to hear me in a way others could not. I so often felt that they listened with their hearts instead of their ears. Just being heard was enough to get me through the next tough day. Feeling free to rage or cry or laugh or to say out loud that I was giving up was a purging that I valued in the early stages of my widowhood, and that I still value today. Issues change, triggers change, but my need for a widowed heart to heart still comes up now and again.
Having been heard, I now seek to hear others. But not just to listen to the words they say, but also to notice the ones that stick in their throat. Though I am sure that I can't tell you or anyone else HOW to survive, I can tell you that people do. Though I can't give you a prescription for grief recovery, I can assure you that recovery is possible. Though I can't walk in your shoes, I can definitely walk beside you for as long as our paths head in the same direction. And when we part, if nothing else, we will both know that we are not alone.
To all of the widowed people who visit this blog; who participate in the programs of SSLF; who I was able to wrap my arms around in person last weekend; those I never had to chance to greet; those who feel misunderstood or judged, those who feel lifted by the spirits of their fellow widowed peers...I don't claim to have the perfect grieving recipe, but I do believe that we are stronger together.