That’s how long I have been a widower, as of this very moment. It’s an arbitrary number...over 1,000, not quite 1500. Not an even number, nor a prime number. It doesn’t signify a specific milestone or even an approaching one. It’s just Tuesday, 1,273 days since Megan’s death.
I’ve now been through 3 of her birthdays, 3 anniversaries, 4 Mothers’ days, and 4 Christmases. Shelby is 4 grades ahead in her schooling, Megan’s brother is married, with two children, and I’m closer to 40 than 30. I’ve met and fallen in love with a wonderful woman that is now just as much part of our family as Megan was, and as much a mother to Shelby. There are at least 1,273 things that have happened since her death. I’ve mowed the lawn probably 80 times. I’ve went to work for 800 or so days. The trash has been taken out on sunday 180 times, and we’ve bought at least 45 bags of dog food. I’ve hiked over 100 miles. Many of these things are significant as it relates to widowerhood, most of them not.
On second thought...they’re all significant.
For 1,273 days, I’ve wandered through the confusion, grief, frustration, longing, apathy, acceptance, anger, guilt, and yes, pride of being a widower. I’m not proud that Megan died, of course, but I’m proud that I’ve been able to navigate adult life for over 1,200 days without really skipping a beat.
At what point do I feel I can call myself an “expert”? Is there an apprenticeship or probationary period one has to go through, and then suddenly, we’re handed a certificate of completion? When I hit 5 years (1,826 days), is it like a graduation? I can suddenly hand down advice and instruction to others as if I have “seen it all before” and know the correct way for them to navigate their own widowhood. You can sign up for my seminars and you will no longer be sad. Bring me your story, and in 500 words or less, I will analyze what you’re doing wrong.
It simply doesn’t work like that. Unless your wife died of organ transplant rejection, due to a lung transplant she received, due to a genetic mutation causing Cystic Fibrosis, my situation is not the same as yours. Unless you had an 8 year old girl, live in Ohio, own a small house, 2 dogs, and work in IT, I cannot give you a roadmap. If you haven’t met and live with your second person, themself a widow that has also lost both of their parents, I’m not going to be your owner’s manual.
All I can do is tell you that for 1,273 days, I have lived that particular situation. I’ve written about it over 150 times here. I’ve experienced multitudes of different milestones, events, anniversaries, and emotions, and I’m still here. This “far out”, I oftentimes struggle to find meaning or purpose in an everyday event as it relates to Megan and her death, but in the grand scheme of things, just having “everyday events” is in and of itself meaningful.
Time has marched on. I’ve been through the “5 stages of grief” over, and over, and over again. I’ve had enough days to be able to clearly identify that grief is occurring, but I will never be able to prevent them. I shouldn’t try. I shouldn’t tell anyone else to try.
Have your goddamn grief, whether you’re 3 days in, or 3000 days. Think, dream, remember, self-sabotage, and cry. Go hug your children, new person, friend, or dog. Cry some more. It’ll probably pass. When Mother’s (or Father’s) day approaches, think long and hard about the fact that your children have lost a parent...cry. Acknowledge it if your person never got to BE a parent...cry. Hell, enjoy Mother’s or Father’s day simply because your person doesn’t or didn’t have to BE a parent...smile and drink some wine. Do your grief the way you want to do your grief, and however it presents itself. Personally, I had a moment a few days before Mother’s day, last week, where I really, really missed Megan and wished she could be here with Shelby, Sarah and I. I cried. Then I made dinner and went to bed.
If you did anything differently than I, you are wrong, and you should feel bad about yourself.
But there’s more to that statement if you really read into it. After 1,273 days, all I did was let my own heart do the talking and went along for whatever ride it took me on. It's exactly what I did over 1,000 days ago, and it’s exactly what I’ll be doing thousands of days into the future. Regardless of situation or history, that’s all any of us can really do. We can’t turn a switch on or off, and we have no instruction manuals to go by. Every single one of us widowed persons have been dealt a hand, and it's up to luck and fate how we play it.
Mike Welker is a self-proclaimed expert on grief and widowerhood. He has over 1,273 days of experience in the field, and has successfully guided one person, himself, through the (in)correct method of being sad. He has received an honorary master’s degree in widow studies from nobody, and graduated summa cum laude from NEU (Non-Existent University) with a doctorate in applied feelings. He is the celebrated and awarded author of “This Book Doesn’t Exist - Your Instruction Manual for the First 1,273 Days After Death”. Mike lives in Ohio with another widow and an 11 year-old daughter that lost her mother, so he really, really knows what he’s doing, and you should listen to him.