Its been a little over eight years since the sudden death of my husband and my world came crashing down like a tsunami,
and so far, it sure has been one hell of a storm.
Today, for no particular reason at all, I suddenly realized how the word "widow" has shifted and changed for me over these years.
And, Im guessing, how it may continue to shift and change.
Just as there are phases in any new reality,
there are phases of widow, too.
I will try to explain, although Im guessing that in this blog,
Im mostly "preaching to the choir" on this one.
You guys get it.
But for those who don't,
here's a little peek into the phases of the term widow ...
DENIAL / SHOCK:
The death was sudden, but my new reality hit me gradually, in small pieces. For a very long time, my brain and heart simply couldnt comprehend that when people were using the word "widow" or "widowed", or whispering things like: "yes, she just lost her husband - he collapsed and died suddenly", they were talking about me. ME! I had just gotten married not even 5 years ago! He was never even sick. The man never even had a common cold or a headache. HE HAD NEVER HAD A HEADACHE IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE! We were young. We didnt even have life insurance or kids yet or a house we owned together. We were renters! RENTERS! How could death happen before any of those other life milestones? How was this possible or real? This cannot be happening to me.
At some point in time, I dont remember exactly when, but somewhere around having to fill out the 4th or 5th form and check the "widowed" box , or staring down at my 6 ft 3 beautiful husband, reduced to ashes that fit into a canister, or driving home from work for the 10th time that month without a phone call or text asking If I got back safe yet, it started to dawn on me that my person was actually, really, truly, factually, dead. As in forever. The shock of it all began to slowly wear off, and was replaced by this numb feeling all over. Like that feeling you get inside your lips and tongue after the dentist uses novacaine, except the novacaine had been injected straight into my aorta. Now, when people used the word widow and were talking about or even TO me directly, my brain would sort of shut off, or shut down, and I would stare into the thin air with no real response or emotion. I would stare right through them and into the oblivion. It was as if the word widow or the thought of me being that and this all being real, would instantly put my entire body into pause mode. No moving forward. No going back. Where can I exist where this widow thing is not truth? For now, Ill just sit here and stare at the wall.
After some more time had passed, my feelings of numbness began to make a sharp turn into wanting to run as far away from the word "widow" as humanly possible. Widow? Me? No thank you! I had no interest or desire to be a part of that world. This was around the time that private groups for widowed people on Facebook were asking me to join, and I did, but I kept it quiet for awhile, not announcing to the world this awful thing - admitting to being widowed somehow felt like announcing to the world that I was a criminal. Widowed support groups and places whre I was being invited to attend and sit in a large room filled with depressing strangers drinking bad coffee and wearing nametags - it wasnt exactly my idea of a fun Saturday night. About 10 months into my loss, when I received an email from this woman I had never heard of before named Michele Neff Hernandez who ran this weird thing I had never heard of before called Camp Widow, my sense of shame about being widowed was reaching its peak. Hearing this woman who seemed so inspirational and who was also widowed, and who had started a non-profit for widowed people and who was asking me to come give a comedic presentation about grief and death at this weird camp widow thing - it shifted something inside me. And once again, this shift was gradual and over time, but I slowly strted to realize that being widowed was not something to be humiliated or ashamed about. I hadnt done anything wrong. There was no reason to hide away in a dusty closet. I was not alone. In fact, there were hundreds and thousands of people , a lot of them as young as me and younger, who were living with the death of their person too. When I attended my very first Camp Widow, I showed up there still feeling shame about being widowed. 3 days later, when I left there, I felt shame about feeling ashamed that I was widowed. It was a pretty big break-through.
LOUD AND PROUD:
Fast-forward to my umpteenth time attending and presenting at Camp Widow, authoring a book about being widowed, doing a TEDx talk about grief and loss, and pretty much making "helping widowed people heal and live again" one of my life's greatest passions. Somehow, some way, I have gone from hiding in the closet about my widowhood, to shouting it from the nearest support group table that YES, I'M A WIDOW, DAMMIT!!! To say I am proud of the hundreds of widowed people I have met, be-friended, and gotten to know through our mutual losses, is a huge understatement. I dont know of a word that exists that is bigger and larger than PROUD, but I feel whatever that word is, plus 100 times that, for my widowed tribe. Im also proud of myself, for where I was, where I crawled through, where I am now, and where I continue to go. Im proud of this widow title, and its a part of who I am, in the same way that loving Don Shepherd is a part of who I am. His life and his death have both changed me forever, and in almost all positive ways. Love is so much louder than death, and my life goals include making damn sure of that every single day.
My name is Kelley Lynn; and Im a comedian, actor, author, speaker, teacher, grief coach, Real Estate Agent; and yes, I am a widow.
Widowed in July 2011.
Eight years and counting.
Eight years and learning.
Eight years and growing.
Eight years and now living,
one small widowed step at a time.