This is not how I imagined my life.
We should have been in our new house for over two years now.
Mike and I should be celebrating our two year Wedding Anniversary
August 20th, 2019.
But, he died. And, none of this happened or will happen.
There is no shared home.
There will not be a Wedding Anniversary.
There won’t be anything.
There is nothing more.
Not one thing will be added to our story.
He is my heart. But, Mike is the past.
Even though this is my story, it seems surreal to me most of the time. I have to continually remind myself that this is actually real. He is really gone from here. Mike really died. Ugh, I think I type this so often because I am desperately hoping that it will finally imprint onto my heart. Cognitively I get it. I know he’s gone, but on a heart level I still struggle to accept this; but, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I am working on it. This third year of widowhood I will work on accepting his death on a heart level. I have to do this in order to live without him. For me, it is not possible to fully engage in my own life until I can accept that our life together is over.
As every widowed person knows, acceptance takes time, hard work and a consistent effort. Acceptance does not just magically occur with the passage of time. When ready, we, the bereaved, need to actively work to accept the death of our beloveds. For the first year, I could not even consider accepting his death. I hated it. I think I hoped against hope that Mike would somehow come back to life and we would resume where we left off. When Mike suddenly died, all our hopes and dreams died with him and I was left here to kick the tires without him.
In the last few years, I recognize that I am doing a decent job of surviving his death, but it has not been easy. Being Mike’s widow is easily the hardest thing I have ever done. Widowhood itself has not necessarily gotten “easier” with time, but it has become different. My grief has definitely changed. Now, it is no longer primal. It is not as gutting. Instead, my grief has become a permanent dull ache inside me. My grief is softer around the edges, but it continues to take up a lot of space in my heart. It still keeps me from actively and fully engaging in my life. I half-heartedly go through the motions; but, I still feel somewhat detached from my own life. Yet, I sense change. I feel that this will change for the better, eventually.
I’ve survived my first two years of widowhood because of the strong connections I made with other widowed people. I have been helped through the longest days and loneliest nights of my life by fellow widows and widowers. These people have become my Lifelines – the people who have been present in his absence. I’m still standing because of human beings who, despite their own heartache, chose to support me in my grief. Several widows and widowers have come into my life and loved me when Mike is no longer here to do this for himself. The impact their presence has made in my life is beyond measure. I have managed to survive Mike’s death, in large part, because of the continual support of these kind people. A strong kinship exists in the widowed community because we know the ugliness of grief and we come together to hold space for each other.
When I suddenly became a widow I had no idea how I would survive without him. When Mike died, almost everything about our old life eroded in short order. Many of the people I had built my life around vanished once his headstone was put in place.
His death changed everything. Not one thing remained the same.
I have learned that nothing is sacred in grief.
Initially, I was shocked, but I have come to accept the changes in my social circle. The people who were in my life when Mike was alive do not understand my alternate life. I understand that they can not understand. Widowhood is something that can not be comprehended in it’s totality until it is experienced first hand. Many, if not all, of my old acquaintances can not relate to me. And, likewise, I can not relate to them anymore. We are left in an awkward place. Without Mike things don’t fit together like they once did. So, without any formal proclamation, most of us have mutually decided to part ways. And, it is for the best for everyone involved.
Fortunately, for me, new people came into my life when others stepped away. Not surprisingly, many of my new acquaintances are widowed people who speak the language of my heart. We share a lot in common because we are all fluent in grief. Our dialects are similar so we can easily understand one another.
It feels good to be in the company of other widows and widowers because we share so many common feelings. In grief, people become fast friends because we recognize so much of ourselves in others who are also bereaved. In fact, many of the widowed people I have friended online share more in common with me than most of the people in my proximity. Due to my age, nearly all the women in my former social circle still have their husbands. They don’t understand my life or relate to me. And, really, how can they.
I felt very isolated and alone when Mike died. I wasn’t surrounded by anyone else who was grieving their spouse. I didn’t personally know anyone who shared my widow’s heart, but I knew that I needed to be in the company of another person who intimately understood my feelings. Desperately, I needed to recognize my thoughts and emotions in someone else so that we could share our experience.
I needed to know that what I was feeling was ‘normal’. I needed to find other human beings who felt what my heart felt and I needed to interact with them. So, I began to research grief. Soon I found local grief support groups in my area; and, shortly after, I discovered various online grief communities. Then, I began to voraciously read the blogs of other widowed people. Immediately, I felt a strong kinship with those who were also navigating widowhood. Their words were my words. What they blogged about encouraged and comforted me. And, with time, their friendships helped steady me as I attempted to stand on my own without Mike.
In these last few years, I have looked into the eyes of many widowed people. Doing so, I have recognized their brokenness because this exact brokenness exists in me too. I know their hearts. I am not afraid to meet their gazes because I am not frightened by their fragility. I know what breaks them because these very same things shatter me too. I recognize their fears because I share them. In the company of other widowed people my complicated and complex feelings are validated. In their arms, I can rest. In their presence, I can let my grief and fear hang outside of me because they understand it. They don’t try to fix me; instead, they simply bear witness to my grief in all it’s glory. And, this, in and of itself, is liberating. Other widows and widowers are my Lifelines and I am so very grateful to them.
Thank you. Again and again.