There was a time when the idea of "living my life" was an oxymoron. How could I take the advice to live my life when a huge section had been torn out and I was staring in disbelief at the gaping hole left behind? Why make life plans when they can be swept away permanently by a suburban going 50 MPH one summer evening at 5 o'clock? If life is supposed to be lived out loud, what happens when you've lost your voice? As my world tilted on a new axis that was both foreign and surreal, my enthusiasm for waking up each morning lasted only until the inevitable moment when I realized that Phil was still dead.
My personal tragedy was the only lens through which I could see the world. No matter which way I turned my soul's camera, the picture was the same. The daily emptiness I felt filled every frame and became my entire focus. I needed help adjusting my lens, but didn't have any idea where to start.
Then other widowed people entered my life, and I began to see things from a different perspective. Realizing that I was not the only one struggling to accept an unwanted life had an immediate effect on my outlook. Somehow I felt a little less out of control. The fact that other people who had been sentenced to outlive their spouses were managing to find joy in unexpected places proved that glimpses of happiness did exist in the darkness. Candle points of light began appearing on the horizon in the form of other widowed people, and slowly I began rediscovering the gifts that had been sitting quietly beside me in the inky blackness.
There is often an assumption that when widowed people get together we host cry fests and curse the heavens in unison. While I will admit to some cleansing crying/cursing, the thing I value most about my widowed friends is the fact that they encourage me to live my life. In fact, they often dare me to. These are the people who remind me that life is short, in case I'd forgotten. These are the people who both acknowledge my life altering loss, but also refuse to allow me to use that void as an excuse to hide under my bed. My widowed community confirms that life is not fair, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't still participate. People who have loved and lost know the value of a friend, no matter what time of day that friend is needed. In some ways death trumps all, and in other ways life trumps all. I learned that from my widowed friends.
No, I don't need a widowed community so that I can talk about death. I need my widowed community to inspire me to really live my life.