What about the widow who was NOT married to her soul mate? What about the widow whose marriage was a challenge? Or, what about the widow who, after her husband died, had to grieve not only him, but who also had to grieve what didn't happen in her marriage? Who faces the reality of missed opportunities?
There are those women among us who married their soul mate, and there are those women among us who married a good mate, a mate who was right for them but about whom we might not use the word soul mate. Grief for these women is no less challenging.
Recovery is complicated for the widow who experienced major imperfections in herself, her man, and/or in their relationship and for the widow who experienced deep pain during her marriage, not just after he died.
My marriage was full of imperfections. Truthfully, most of them were mine. Or, at least those are the ones I am talking about.
There were opportunities for intimacy that I did not take. Mike was diagnosed with breast cancer (yes breast cancer) a month before we got married and for the whole of our marriage we never spoke about the possibility that I would out live him.
I wanted to communicate. I wanted to talk about my fears, my confusion, the affect cancer had on me, my concerns for our daughter and my concerns about what cancer was doing to our family. I wanted to share but I didn't take the opportunity. I was unable to screw up the courage needed to break the silence. Both out of loyalty to Mike who did not want to talk and because I was afraid of opening a Pandora's box filled with unknown terrors.
For the 10 years of our marriage I struggled with the dichotomy of living with Mike as if he would live forever and knowing deep in my heart, if I had had the courage to look there, that he was dying.
I told myself that I was doing it for him, protecting him. But that is only half of the truth. I was really protecting myself from the intimacy that could come from ‘digging in’, from facing that of which I was most afraid.
My greatest regret is that I failed both myself and my husband; that I did not have the courage to speak up.
I have compassion for the woman I was. I understand what I was up against, my personality, Mike’s personality and long family histories of silence. I understand and I hold in high regard the people we were, all those years ago. It is hard to speak up when your growing up was about keeping silent.
But I tell my partner now that the good wife is gone. She quit.
When I am upset, he will know. When I am afraid, he will know. When I am happy, he will know. I will do it warmly and compassionately, but I will talk. No more Mrs. Nice Guy! No more secrets just too scary to talk about. I want intimacy. And in order to get what I want, I will have to talk.
“Be afraid” I tell him, “Be very Afraid.” He laughs, ready for whatever it is I have to offer.
Dear Widows - What will you have to offer???