Olivia Arnold

Vacation Reflection

Well, I’m back from vacation. It was really good. I knew it would be. I also knew there would be some tough moments and there were. For starters, on the plane as I sat in the first row with the only TV in the plane directly in front of me the movie “Coco” played. I had been warned by other widows that it was a good but heart wrenching movie that tricks you by seeming like a harmless kids’ cartoon. I hadn’t had a chance to watch it yet. Ideally, I would have watched it on my own in my house but here it was in front of me. So I thought, “let’s do this,” and plugged in my headphones. If you haven’t watched it, I do recommend it. Be prepared to be emotional though. It’s basically about the importance of remembering people who have died and how you give them a second life by remembering them. It included some “insight” into an after-life showing how you will die and disappear completely once no one living remembers you. If you aren’t a widow then I guess there could be a different storyline but this is what I saw. So yes, I sat in the first row of the plane and I cried and I didn’t really care. Maybe in a way starting my trip with this movie was needed for me to acknowledge the grief I carry and release it right from the start. It let me feel so I could then be free to enjoy. I stepped off the plane ready for vacation.

The islands were hot, sunny, and beautiful. I can now remember which ones I visited (St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia, Barbados) and I enjoyed my time with my friend Heather. On the islands, we went on a catamaran, tried Snuba, went snorkeling (and saw the cutest turtles - eeeek), went to multiple beaches, met up with one of her family friends, explored some historical sites and explored local towns and shops. There was always lots to do on the ship as well in the evenings including a Whitney Houston tribute show. The singer acknowledged people who are grieving and have loved and lost someone too soon before singing, “I Will Always Love You” (exceptionally well, I might add). I cried (and again, didn’t care that I was crying). I appreciated it. Those little moments where I can acknowledge my grief seem to help me and provide the little release I need to keep moving forward. Heather was an amazing friend, as always, and was supportive of me when I needed it. It’s so nice to have good friends.

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Vulnerability

When I started this journey as a young widow I felt extremely alone. I didn’t know anyone anywhere near my age that had been through anything close to what I was experiencing. I didn’t know if what I was feeling was normal or insane. I kept a lot to myself. I started researching books and reading about others’ experiences. That was so very helpful but I still needed more. I wanted people currently experiencing the balance of death and life. I eventually found people online (e.g., Instagram, Facebook groups) and I can’t explain to you the difference it made connecting with people. Many times it really wasn’t connecting; it was reading other people’s posts and not having the courage, words, or energy to respond. It still helped me though. To know that other people right here and right now were experiencing something similar to what I was experiencing made me feel less crazy and less alone.

Eventually, just over a year ago I decided that I wanted to contribute to this community. I felt like I was in a space that I could start to give back, even just a little bit, to maybe help even just one person. I started my personal blog not knowing where it would go. I wasn’t afraid of failure but I was afraid of opening up and letting others see and respond to my thoughts and feelings that I protected so closely inside of me. Maybe you wouldn’t know it from my writing but I’m actually a very private person. I’ve always kept a lot to myself; so guarded that sometimes I think I was so good at it that I was able to hide my feelings and thoughts from myself as well. My mind started to protect myself from myself.  Moving from that mindset to share my thoughts with others was scary. Still, I knew I wanted to do it and I wanted to find the courage to be be in touch with my thoughts and share them. I had gained so much from others who shared their innermost thinking and I wanted to do the same.

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Doing things a late twenty-something woman does...as a widow. Re-creating my life and identity, being outdoors, adventurous and active, teaching, laughing and crying, and living my new life a little less seriously.
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