Last week I called Veronica and offered to write her post this week...seeing as it is Thanksgiving and she was going to have just given birth...I thought she *may* be a bit busy! (She, and her big loving family, welcomed a baby boy on Monday. Bayor Matthias weighed in at 9lb 15oz, he measured 20 inches long...and he is absolutely gorgeous!)
Initially I thought I'd share some Thanksgiving words of comfort for those of you who are missing your love desperately today. I just wanted to tell you that it is okay to feel bitter today, and that feeling awash in bitterness today won't mean that you will feel bitter forever.
I also thought I'd reach out to those of you who are feeling good about this holiday season for the first time since the loss that changed your life forever. I wanted to remind you to allow that goodness into your heart. Swim in it. Wrap it around yourself in every way possible, because having known great despair, experiencing real joy again is a priceless gift.
All of these thoughts were sort of swirling in my head. The week got away from me, and I ended up sitting at my desk this morning composing this blog. The thing is, I have something totally different to say.
Last night I received a message from a colleague in the grief recovery field. She and I don't know each other extremely well, but we've worked together a few times. We've used each other as resources in our work, and have enjoyed the sort of rapport you have with someone who does the same thing you do in the same spirit. There is one major difference between us. She works with widowed people helping them to find the best support program to meet their individual need, but is not widowed herself.
Well, she wasn't until Monday. So, on the same day Veronica was welcoming her beautiful baby (a gift post loss that she could never have imagined on the day her Jeremy died) this woman I admire took her first step onto this widowed road.
You'd imagine that I would be less shocked by death, since I lead an International organization whose main purpose is to help widowed people recreate their lives. You might think I am even sort of "used to" the stories that come to me through every available communication channel each and every day. You may also have wondered how I can stand to witness the pain of so many people...an endless stream of those who mourn the loss of an irreplaceable person and whose loss I can't fix, and pain I can't heal.
The truth is I am convinced that I will never, ever be used to death. Every time I am introduced to a newly widowed person my heart twists in my chest. Partly because of what they have lost, and partly because of what I know that they don't yet know. I know how long the road ahead can be. I know that today is not the worst or hardest day. I know that there is NO fixing this problem. I know that there is no way out of this gut-wrenching pain, but through. I know that her body will literally ache for his touch. I know that every fiber of her being will long to be with him, wherever she believes he is now, at some point in the future. I know that she will never be the same woman she was the day she married her husband.
What makes living with all that I know about grieving the loss of a spouse or partner possible, the way I wake up every day and do what I do, is by reminding myself of the others things I know. I know that I can connect her to a huge community of widowed people within seconds of her asking. I know that widowed people are by far the most generous people I have ever known. I know that at some point she will be shown a kindness by a stranger that leaves her speechless. I know that the love she shared with her husband will never die. I know that someday she will be able to see a photo of him without wanting to throw up. I know that she doesn't have to walk through this loss alone. I know that the bridge between despair and joy is hope. I know that bridge is built daily by widowed people who take care of each other day after day after day with compassion and understanding. But, the most important bit of knowledge I possess that allows me to stand in this loss with her, is knowing without a doubt that she hasus.
On this Thanksgiving Day, as I am personally surrounded by my own unbelievable gifts, I will think of her, and of you, and of this community. I will acknowledge the power of the hope we keep alive for so many widowed people around the world, and I will allow myself to be wrapped in gratitude. We hold out a lifeline of hope for each other, sometimes even when we can't quite hold that hope for ourselves.
What an amazing gift.