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’!
I am fortunate to have wonderfully supporting family and friends, however regardless of how hard they try to understand or sympathize, they will never truly get it. At social events or family functions, when people are arriving or leaving with their partners, complaining about something their husbands did to bug them or sharing the ‘we’ stories about their holidays plans, I’m still the one with the dead husband who can’t quite participate on the same level. It’s subtle – and my friends probably don’t even realise it anymore – but it’s always there. Except when I’m with my widows.
Not only was it incredibly therapeutic to spend time with my widow friends, but it was also ridiculously good fun! I honestly can’t believe how much I laugh and smile when I’m with them. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of inhibition and relief that comes from dropping that ‘I’m ok’ mask, or the fact that after being through something so difficult and challenging, we know how to let go of our fears and live in the moment. But there is an ease that comes in being around these ladies. A sense of sisterhood that bridges our differences.
Even with my closest friends, I can only talk freely about Dan’s death for so long. Eventually, I get to the point where I feel compelled to pack it back away and let the conversation swing to other matters that are not so morbid or uncomfortable. However, with my widows, I don’t need to hold anything back. The most outrageous and intimate topics of discussion are laid out bare on the table and I can talk about my husband’s death for hours upon end, without fear or making anyone uncomfortable or bored.
As I looked around at these women who I now care about so much, it felt surreal to me that I’ve only met them because I lost Dan. They are some of the strongest, bravest and most awesome people I’ve known, and it’s only because the love of my life died that I got to meet them. What a bizarre trade off. When I think about how much my world has expanded since his life ended, well, it’s hard to make sense of.
When depression stole Dan from me, right at the beginning of our life together, it robbed me of the future I had dreamed of, the children we couldn’t wait to love and the chance to grow old with a wonderful man.
I couldn’t imagine anything good ever coming after such a tragedy. I couldn’t imagine finding an alternative that would bring me even a fraction of the happiness that he did. I couldn’t imagine ever feeling ‘ok’ again.
Yet, here I am, a fortnight shy of two-years later. My grief has lead me to travel around the world; to re-learn who I am and who I want to be; and to meet many new people (I now have collected almost 50 widows from around the world who I can call friends).
I thought my life would end when his did. But it didn’t. Not really. I mean, my life as I knew it ended, but I now have a new life that I would never have dreamt of. The impact of that course of events has sent my entire existence off on an alternative trajectory where I now feel valued, happy and content in a different way.
I would never choose this life over my old life, but that’s the point. There is no choice. I was never asked and had no control over his death. Accepting that – and learning how to want to live again were my first steps to finding peace.
Now, as I look at what I’ve built since he’s been gone, I know he would be proud but I also wonder, would he recognise me? Would he like my new life and my new friends? Would it be obvious that I am not the woman he knew… would he see the ways in which I am different? How would he feel about me making the choice to live again?