I met another widow. Well; scratch that: I learned a new friend of mine is a widow. She is someone I've seen around occasionally at parties, but finally connected with individually this past month or so. Her first husband was killed in an accident when they were very young; she had two babies at the time, one was two, the other only three months old.
I hadn't known that about her because all I did know was that she was fun to be around, happily married and a wonderful chef; you always looked forward to seeing what she brought to the potluck because you knew it's going to be something scrumptious. Turns out her loss was 33 years ago. She has since raised three boys into men, and found a happy, fulfilling life. But she told me that the couple years after it happened was horrifying. She walked around in a fog and most of her friends disappeared from her life.
But she has survived. She will never stop missing him, but she has managed to find a good life. She will never stop talking about him and remembering, but she’s ok.
I am 30 years behind her in my grief. That is a long time…on the one hand I look at a possible 30 more years of grief and it makes me shudder…but seeing her, how she is, what she has accomplished since then, is another great indicator that 1) I’m definitely not alone in this and B, people survive, and even thrive. It won't ever be easy; the missing him won't ever go away, but I'm going to survive. Maybe someday, I’ll even be great. And the idea that it would be ok to be great someday comes from seeing the survivors before me. To be around people like is just paramount.
When Michele first contacted me here at Soaring Spirits to write for this blog I was just over a year into my grief and jumped at the opportunity. I was already writing about it; I couldn't help myself, it's the way I process things anyway, and having a meaningful outlet for it was the best thing I could have dreamed of. And now I am just about a month over two years into this journey here at Widow's Voice. And Soaring Spirits International just celebrated eight years this past week. Eight years ago, our founder, Michele Neff Hernandez, write down the idea for this beautiful nonprofit on a napkin. So I want to join a few of our other writers this week in expressing our gratitude.
I'm not sure if I could have made it to this point without Soaring Spirits. No: I know I wouldn't have. It has made me feel so much less alone; so much more understood, and so much more part of a community. And it's not just my own writing, but interacting with the comments, and reading the other writers here and what they go through has meant so much. To hear the voices of other widows. I am less shaky. I am less fragile. I feel stronger. And I am wiser.
My new friend and I exchanged stories about our experiences. And then we moved into that next phase; that next level that happens in a widowed friendship…that one where we both continue to talk about this and that and all kinds of things but we find it easy and natural to occasionally slide in references to our husbands. We relate this story or that one to something he might have done; we laugh about it, or nod sadly, knowingly… and we never think twice that the other person won’t get it. That shared intimacy of both having dead husbands bonds us. We don’t have to stop and explain why our being widowed matters so much; why we relate so much of our life to when he was alive and after he died. Why grief is a perpetual state, even if we’re not crying all the time. We are able to just be us - so perfectly stated in Kelley’s blog this week. We don’t have to worry about making anyone uncomfortable, and we don’t have to pretend.
Don’t get me wrong. I have wonderful, compassionate and understanding friends who are not widowed. Those people do exist. But when we are alone with our widowed friends, we never have to stop and think if we’re talking about him too much. We don’t have to worry that anyone is judging you for decisions you’ve made since he died. We don’t have to worry about that look you get, say, at a party in mixed company…that is, widowed and non-widowed…when we inadvertently create that awkward pause and get that look people give when they hear your husband died…that pitiful, how terrible I’m so sorry you poor thing but please don’t bring everyone down look.
I'm still in limbo. I still don't know which direction my future will take me. But my support network has grown, both through this blog, and through my circle of friends and family in my personal life. I understand now that none of us really know what direction our lives will take, whether widowed or not. I've learned I can't take anything for granted. And I am deeply grateful for Widow’s Voice and the Soaring Spirits International Foundation, and all my widowed friends, all the members of this most terrible club, both far and near. It’s because of you I’m still here walking.