Since I joined the Widows Club last August and even since I started this blog last month, many people have approached me about friends of theirs who have become young widows. (Nothing against the guys but there seems to be a lot more of us younger widows. I hear that the statistics back that up but I am too lazy to research it.) It breaks my heart that so many people have been joining the club that no one wants to be a part of. I am about five and a half months into my widowhood and I wanted to give some unsolicited advice, widow to widow(er).
First of all, I am sad that you are part of this club. You have just lost the love of your life, your best friend, other half, soulmate and partner in crime. I don’t know the circumstances whether it was a long illness or a sudden accident but either way, it isn’t fair. None of this makes sense. You were supposed to grow old together. Grief is rough regardless of who you lose but you will probably find that this is the worst grief you have ever had. Whether your spouse may have died suddenly or been sick but there is nothing to prepare you for this. My husband was sick for five months and came close to dying several times and I still wasn’t prepared for it. I thought I was but I wasn’t. Nothing can prepare you for the void you are going to be feeling.
You may not want to get out of bed. You may not want to shower. You may not be able to sleep. You may need to be told where to sit and when to eat. You may forget things. This is called “Widow Fog” and it is real. My parents and I spent an hour looking for my phone only to find that I had put it in the fridge. I am sure I must have had a good reason for that.
You might hear a lot of about stages of grief. It is total B.S. First off, the emotions of denial, anger, bargaining, desperation and acceptance are only a fraction of the emotions you will feel and those feelings will not come packaged to you in perfect little stages. You will probably have periods where you feel numb as well as periods where you feel every emotion at the same time. You may feel emotions you never knew existed. There is no textbook process of grief. This will be unique to you.
Don’t listen to people who tell you how to grieve. You will grieve in your own way, on your timeline. You can wear your rings for as long as you want and there is no rush to clean your spouse’s clothes out of the closet.
People are going to say things that don’t make sense and may upset you. Just remember that people mean well. They want to help the situation but they don’t know the right words. So if their words upset you, just try to remember that. I know right now you don’t care if “this is part of God’s plan” or that “you will find love again” or that “you should be thankful for what you have” and you know very well that sometimes God does give you more than you can handle. There might be truth to those words (except that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I vehemently disagree with that one), people don’t understand that that isn’t what you need to hear right now.
Widowhood is lonely. In addition to losing your spouse, your friends that have been checking up on you will thin out as time passes. They might see you and think you are doing okay. They may think you need your space. They might not know what to say or do. They may be afraid to bring up your spouse in conversation because they will be afraid it will make you sad.
For the friends that do stay around, take comfort and spend time with them. Try to engage as much as possible. Try not to isolate yourself. Remember that those friends are grieving your spouse too.
Grief shopping is a real thing. I know I got too familiar with Target and Amazon Prime. Santa may have taken his grief out on Amazon this year but my daughter didn’t seem to mind. It was to numb my emotions and it is important to not let it get out of hand. This goes the same for other destructive behaviors. Do what you need to do to take the edge off but just make sure you are still taking care of yourself and those around you.
You will feel like you are going through the motions. I still feel this way. But many experienced widows have told me that you need to fake it until you make it. Continue living your life and someday you will be happy again. Again, I haven’t gotten there yet but I am trying because I figure it is better than letting life pass by.
Seek out others who have gone through this. There are tons of groups on Facebook. There are also a lot of books written by widows and you can get many of them used for a penny on Amazon (with $3.99 shipping.) I read as many as I could get my hands on because I wanted an idea of what to expect.
It is okay to cry and scream. It is okay to smile and laugh. It’s okay to pamper yourself. It’s okay to spend time doing things you enjoy. It is okay to not be okay. It is okay to let people know you are not okay. I know that one is easier said than done. I am one of those people who feels that I have reassure everyone that I am okay even when I am not.
If it is all too much to handle, it is okay to see a grief counselor or therapist.
You are going to feel lost. You were part of a couple, a unit. Now you need to figure out who you are as an individual. I imagine this is a long process as I am still figuring it out. Don’t be afraid to try new hobbies or pursue new interests.
And lastly, you will never look at the world the same way again. You will learn not to take certain things for granted. While the world will be a sadder place, you will see more beauty in it.