I was invited to a wedding this week, one of my husband Dan’s good friends is marrying his long-time love. They live in a different state and I only got to meet them a couple of times while Dan was alive, at our engagement party and our wedding. Since his funeral I’ve also caught up with them at a fundraising event we held on his birthday, in March this year, and even though they are really nice people, we’ve never quite had the opportunity to form a friendship of our own.
I’m honoured that they invited me to join them on their special day, it’s really thoughtful and lovely of them to include me in an event that I would most definitely have attended if Dan were still here.
When I thought about going to their wedding I felt so many different emotions. For a start, most widowed people would agree that any wedding is going to be a tough ask, particularly in those first couple of years. Three weeks after Dan’s death I was faced with my first big hurdle when I attended my best friends’ wedding as her bridesmaid. It feels so surreal to me now that I did that. She had been my bridesmaid only a couple of months earlier and was with me the night that the police told me that Dan had taken his own life (and by my side almost every day after). I knew no one expected it of me and my friend and her fiancé basically let me decide on every element of how I wanted to be involved. It was difficult but I was driven by wanting to be there for my friend – even if it was just sitting quietly in a corner, I wanted to be present for her. I actually think I was still in such deep shock that the reality of what I was doing didn’t really sink in, enabling me to get through the day in my zombie-like armour. This event would be very different.
I also felt some sense of duty to represent my husband by attending his friends’ wedding. I’m not sure why. I mean, there’s no way I could fill his shoes. He was loved and admired by all of his friends for his wonderful, cheeky sense of humour, his positive outlook and his kind, caring nature. He was like a big brother, the one they went to for advice. I could never be that for this couple – even if I had of been given the chance to grow closer to them before we lost our common denominator.
I wondered what they expected of me. Did they genuinely hope I’d make the trip and maybe forge a stronger friendship that would carry us forward without Dan’s presence to bond us? Or were they being polite, assuming it would hurt my feelings to be overlooked and excluded (which it most likely would have) but not expecting my attendance.
Eventually I stopped wondering what I SHOULD do or guessing what people WANTED me to do and just looked at what felt right. I sent them an RSVP thanking them for being so kind and thoughtful. I told them that I thought they were beautiful people and was genuinely happy that they were coming together to build a life. I told them that I wished, so much, that Dan and I would have been able to join them in celebrating their love but that unfortunately it would just be too difficult for me to be there without him.
That’s what it came down to. Sitting there, amongst his friends, in a room filled with love and laughter – knowing he was meant to be by my side, holding my hand was just too much. It wasn’t a place that I belonged without him. It’s a celebration that I would have loved to attend as Dan’s wife. But just couldn’t bring myself to go as his widow.