Just when I find myself moving along a little more effortlessly and thinking, "I'll be damned. I think I've got this handled" ... it happens. WHAM! Grief jumps out of nowhere and slams me so hard in the chest that I find myself gasping for breath and thinking, "What the fuck just happened there?" (Or, "what the heck just happened there?" Depends on how much you curse, I suppose. I enjoy the "F" word at times. It has more oomph.)
That's what happened to me this past week. I had a few really good days, in part because my friend Mary (who I met in San Diego at Camp Widow) came to visit. It was so nice to have adult company around who just "gets it." No explaining required. And it's not as though we spent our days sitting around crying about the fact that our husbands oh-so-rudely decided to up and die on us. On the contrary. We toured Vancouver and did the ride over Canada that I have been wanting to do for quite some time. We ate out (a lot) and watched a movie and just breathed. I loved it.
The nightmare in Vegas happened while Mary was here (did I mention that Mary is from Vegas?) and instead of losing my shit and thinking about all the terrible things that could happen in the future without Ben here, which I would normally do, I just sat with her while she made sure her loved ones were safe. They were. Thank God.
Eventually our visit came to an end and I took Mary to the airport and then drove myself back home. Alone. And that's when Grief came back to pay me another unexpected visit.
I spent last weekend in Melbourne with about a dozen very dear friends. These women have only been in my life for a couple of years now, however it feels like I’ve known them my whole life. They see my soul, in its most bare and vulnerable state, a way that people who have known my most of my life will never understand.
These are my widow sisters. Women who I found when I was thrown into the deepest pain I could imagine, who were battling the storm beside me, trying not to drown. We clung to each other, lifting each other up for air at a time when we were all so close to sinking into the darkness.
We have spent countless sleepless nights sharing thoughts and emotions that our other family and friends could never fully understand. We have shared tears of sadness on the difficult days and celebrated each other’s successes when we’ve taken positive steps forward. The conversation is always easy and open. We have no need to hide or wear a mask with each other.Read more
Today I met up with a couple of my dear widowed friends who I'm working with on a project to support widowed people.
During our discussions, we spoke about how we will need some photographs of widowed people to use in our materials and started brainstorming how we can depict widowedhood - and in particular, a widowed community - with images.
- a person, looking glum and forlorn, while others around them are doing ok...
Unfortunately, I have definitely been this stereotypical widowed person countless times since my husband died. Some days I still am. But today, more than two and a half years on, these images don't reflect the widow I am today.Read more
There have been a few instances over the past week or two where I've opened up to people and shared a grief-related feeling only to have them either change the subject or ignore me.
Approaching the 2 years and 4 month mark, I’m very familiar with this experience. As soon as that initial period of sympathy expires, whether it be a few weeks or a few months, the people around you start to have these awkward, uncomfortable reactions whenever we remind them that our loved one died and the bottom fell out of our world.
Some hate being reminded of their own mortality, many want to comfort us but struggle to know what to say (so instead, panic and run) and others maybe just don’t want to bring a downer to their day by thinking too much about the painful tragedy that we’re trying to navigate. Either way, it hurts a lot when you just want to be heard and have your feelings validated.
When I speak about my grief, just to be shut down, it feeds into the sense of isolation, like I shouldn't be bothering people and bumming them out with sad, death-related talk. It makes me want to withdraw and increases sensations of loneliness, like I’m been cast from common society as punishment for being a ‘Debbie Downer’.Read more
There is something so very unique and special about the friendships that form between widowed people.
Last weekend I got to hang out with some of my favourite people – all widows who I’ve met since Dan’s death. We’ve bonded over our mutual understanding of what it’s like to live this nightmare - through many nights of teary phone calls and online chats; countless ‘me toos’ and that sense of relief that you get when you know you’re not alone and someone else really understands how you feel.
These eleven women (including myself), ranging in ages from late 20’s to mid-40’s, travelled from all over Australia to spend a few days together. This is the second year in a row that we’ve caught up like this and a couple of the newer ladies to the group had never met in person.
They all admitted to being extremely nervous, but even the greatest fears and reluctance to take that step into the unknown had been out-weighed by the desire to connect and feel ‘normal’.
And that’s the best way to sum up the feeling of being surrounded by widowed people. Together, we are ‘normal’!Read more