Being a widow is hard. We have to navigate a world that is not designed for us. One of my online widow friends, Michelle, wrote a blog post about being Wonder Widow and Widow Super Powers. (Check out her blog, she doesn’t bite). Michelle writes about her experience when she was newly widowed and she was at a party and once people learned that she was a widow, they ignored her. She says that a widow may feel invisible when around the NORMS. The NORMS being “Normal people living normal, non-traumatized lives.” She and I had an exchange on Facebook where I may have ranted a little bit about the course of events in my life. I apologized and she said not to apologize because ranting is good for the soul and I should just let it out.
So I am going to let it all out.
I will let you in on a dirty little secret of mine. I am jealous of the NORMS.
I am jealous of people who have their spouses and are living a normal life. I am jealous when I see anniversary posts on social media, especially for any anniversary after the 3 year mark because Bryon and I never got to celebrate our fourth anniversary. I am jealous that happily married couples who get have the support of their best friends because my best friend is gone. I am jealous of their intimacy. I am not talking about sex though I am jealous of that too. I am referring to the day to day comfortable intimacy that happily married couples have.
I am jealous of the families at my daughter’s daycare who are able to (or are planning on) giving their kids a little sibling. My daughter will never become an older sister. We will never be the perfect family with a mom and a dad and 2.5 kids and a dog. I am jealous that there are so many other families where the kids will grow up with their fathers because my daughter won’t have that.
I am jealous of new couples who get to embark on their life together, full of hope. Jealous because I am not sure I will ever be healed enough to love again. I am jealous of the innocence other couples can have. Maybe someday I will find a man that can look past my wounded heart and deal with all the complications that come with loving someone who has been through this kind of trauma. But even if I let another man into my heart, I am always going live with the fear of him dying too. The constant fear of “what if it happens again”?
I am jealous of older widows. I am jealous that they got to spend decades with their spouses. And I am jealous that all the widow resources in the community are geared towards them and not to young widows. Older widows had decades to prepare for this, young widows have not. And young widows oftentimes have small children to take care of on top of dealing with their grief but so much emphasis seems to be on older widows.
I even find myself jealous of other widows at times. Sometimes I look at widows who lost their spouses suddenly and I am jealous because they didn’t have to watch their spouse suffer for five months like I did. Sometimes I look at widows who lost their spouse after a long illness and I am jealous because they were able to talk to their spouses about dying. Bryon was on a ventilator for the five months he was in the ICU and we weren’t able to discuss any of this. We had so many things that went unsaid. But I know deep down there is no good way to watch your spouse die. It’s horrible no matter how it happens.
I am jealous of the NORMS who leave those comments on social media statuses. The comments that are benign on the surface but stab a widow in the heart. I am jealous that they get to live in a life where they don’t feel the need exercise that extra level of empathy. I am jealous that they live in a world where they can be clueless to those suffering grief and heartbreak. Though part of me is glad that they can be clueless because it means they don’t know this pain. And if someone is a repeat offender, I actually begin to feel sorry for them they can live their lives being oblivious to the feelings of other people.
I am jealous of people who have their faith. I am jealous because my Catholic faith was a big part of my life and I lost that too when Bryon died. I am jealous of those who have never had to have their faith tested. And I am jealous of the people who have experienced trauma like I have and still have their faith. Because right now I relate to C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed where he asks where God is and why did God slam the door on him? I am jealous of all the people that God did not slam the door on. I am also jealous of the naivete of people who think I can just turn my faith back on, like it’s a simple light switch.
Why am I sharing this dirty little secret? It’s human nature to want to put your best foot forward but my desire to be honest is stronger than my desire to put my best foot forward. I need to be honest for everyone who thinks I am strong even if that means sharing feelings that portray myself in a less positive light. I need to share my story as authentically as possible because other widows may be reading this and I want them to know that it is okay to feel this way.
But despite all these pangs of jealousy I feel, the happiness I feel is ten times as strong. The joys greatly outweighs my jealous feelings. Yes I have these jealous feelings but they subside very quickly. And my feelings of jealousy are not because I don’t want others to be happy. I want everyone to be happy. I don’t wish my situation or the feelings that come with being in my situation on even my worst enemy. My feelings of jealousy are about the reality of what I have lost, mostly my lost dreams. For the most part, my anger seems to have subsided so I will think occasional bouts of jealousy are an improvement to being full of anger as long as the bouts of jealousy don’t get out of hand.
My life didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to but I do have reasons to be grateful. I have an amazing daughter. I have friends and family who aren’t freaked out by my widow status and include me in their lives. I have friends who aren’t going to be put off that I might be jealous of them because they are patient and understanding of my grief and stick by me as I weather all the ups and downs. At least the ones who really love me do.
I can’t complain because even nine months later, my core group of friends are still supportive of me. They spent 5 months helping me survive when Bryon was in the ICU and they have spent the past 9 months holding me up. I hope I am healed enough and can give back before the next big crisis in our group happens.
But until then, whether you are a NORM or not, please just remember to be kind and understanding. It’s okay to talk to us. Widows don’t bite. We just might be sad. We are dealing with some major emotions. But we’d probably be the first one to be there to help you if something bad happens.