By YEG Widow
Grief is an individual journey, defined by the traveller carving the path. No one chooses to be on this new road, but what each of us can choose is how we walk it, dance it, and move forward on it.
My widowhood journey began on August 10, 2021. My husband passed away from a heart attack on his way home from dialysis. He was stable, near the top of the transplant list and his passing was unexpected. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say it brought me to my knees.
Comparisons can be a dangerous trap to fall into at the best of times. Comparing my grief to the grief of other widows always leads to the worst of times.
I’m not proud of the fact I’ve done this. I don’t know why I’ve done this. Grief is an individual journey; one where the milestones or benchmarks in healing are determined by the individual travelling it. I know all of this. And know where I am in my healing journey. I’m confident in my progress. But, fuck it, I hear or read about someone else’s journey and wonder if I’m doing this widowhood thing right.
Often what spirals me into this thinking pattern is when I read about how bereft some people are by the loss of part of their heart. I miss My Favourite Husband (MFH) as well. We were together for 27 years — almost half my life — so how can I not miss him?
For the months immediately following his death, I was lost. Broken. My heart was beaten to a pulp and I wasn’t sure if my life had meaning without him. All the dreams we had and all the plans we’d made were gone in the blink of an eye. Nothing made sense and nothing mattered. I truly didn’t care what happened to me or anything else in my world. Why should I? My world ended.
I’ve always been a person who has tried to live in the light. Sunshine is where I thrive. Sunshine makes me a better person. But after his death, I dwelled in the dark. I craved the shadows. My dark was where my pain could always be sharp and raw. Darkness had no expectations of me. I didn’t have to move forward in the dark. I could curl up and just exist.
But the light is part of who I am and the light always finds its way to me. The light propels me forward. My light heals. And so I began my healing journey in earnest; not to forget my past but to blend it with my future.
This moving forward has caused some people to wonder if I’ve “moved on” from MFH. It’s caused them to question my love for him if I’m “getting over him so quickly.” And this has caused me to wonder if I’m moving quickly in my journey. It causes me to question my love for him. Was it deep enough? Strong enough? Was my marriage what I thought it was if I was no longer shattered into slivers? Should I be building a life without him? Or should I still be living in the dark?
When these thoughts take over, it sets me on edge. I stumble and fight to regain my balance. I have to remind myself repeatedly that the thoughts that are expressed by others I’ve also thought and their feelings I’ve also felt in my early grief. Yes, I’ve loved deeply enough, hard enough and I still do — but that love has expanded to include another person: me. That love is softer and its edges are smoother. I’ve worked hard to gain the perspective that I have and I love that I’m laughing and living 15 months into my journey.
So instead of comparing sorrows, I’m working on supporting in the only way I know: offering words of comfort, not advice, and being available if anyone wants to connect. I own no one’s grief but my own and I can understand the thoughts and feelings that go along with loss.
With the help of a close circle of family and friends along with an amazing grief counsellor, I was able to navigate the rough waters of early grief without drowning. Oh, I submerged several times when grief pulled me under, but I found the surface by following the light at the top.
I began journaling my widowhood journey early on but never considered the idea of blogging. One of my close friends, who happens to be a communications expert, talked about the idea with me when we had a conversation about support groups for widows. I mentioned to him that I wished I had access to one because none of my friends are widows. He suggested blogging as a way to connect with other widows and share experiences. I initially balked at the idea, but a few months down the road re-evaluated and started sharing.
Widowed Tango Foxtrot (a play on one of my favourite expressions) was born. My only goal for my blog has been — and will continue to be —to share my experiences with other grievers and hopefully connect us together so each of us feels just a little less alone. My blog is not about advice; the tagline on my blog is “the story of a woman just trying to get her shit together,” so clearly I’m not setting myself up to offer advice. But I’m deeply humbled and grateful for the thousands of readers who’ve participated in dialogues and shared experiences in the nearly 50 posts I’ve published in my first five months of blogging. I’m also humbled and grateful to the hundreds of people who follow me on Twitter. That participation — the voices of others in addition to mine — is what makes the blog so meaningful to me.
I try and keep my outlook focused on gratitude. Between dating and marriage, we were together for 27 years. I made the decision to do my best to be grateful for the years and memories we had and not mourn what I could never have. It’s not easy and there are times when grief washes over me in waves, but I’ve always been able to find my way back to the love.
These are a few of the things I tell myself when moving forward is a little tricky: “I can’t have what I want but I can want what I have.”
“Life can be different but life can still be beautiful.”
For more information about YEG Widow, you can check out her website.
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