Let’s be honest, there is not a good way to follow up last week’s post.
I know that last week got pretty heavy. If you haven’t read that post, click here to catch up! The response I received was overwhelming. There were many times that I cried just out of gratitude for the people reading and reaching out to me with heart felt comments. I received so many sweet words. So many of you expressed your love for me, love for Will, and lifted me up knowing that writing that part of my story wasn’t easy. I reread that blog post at least a dozen times. It still feels unreal that I was able to post it and share that with so many people.
I struggle with where to go from here. I didn’t plan to do another post about losing my husband at least for the next week or two, but there is just so much to say. Have you ever been so overwhelmed with words, that you’re actually not able to complete your thoughts? I do not know how to describe it, but I feel so overwhelmed with things that I could say, that I don’t even know where to begin.
As I sit here and begin to write, I feel led to talk about the challenges that I faced in those first weeks “on my own,” along with what I learned during that time. The first thing that you need to know is that I was far from “on my own.” Will and I had just bought a house in April of 2018. Will had only lived in our home for about 3 months, so we were still getting settled in and trying to make our house a home. Thankfully, there was plenty of room for my entire family to move in and stay with me for as long as I needed them to. There was more than enough space for guests to come over and keep me company. I was constantly surrounded by many people who hurt for me and only wanted to help me heal in whatever way they could.
The problem was that none of these people were my husband. I felt so alone in a room of so many people. In fact, I could sense that feeling of being alone the second that Will passed away. It was like my body could feel the moment that Will left us. This lasted for months. I tried to fill this Will-shaped hole with friends, family, and any distraction that I could find, but my body knew that something was missing. I remember going to a birthday party about 10 days after Will passed and tried to distract myself with friends and cake. I longed for my partner to be there celebrating with me. I remember walking into church weeks later and turning around to go back home before even getting to the sanctuary, because this was his church as much as it was mine.
I began to feel selfish for feeling so alone when I knew that people were trying to be there for me. I started to feel shame for not showing that I appreciated what others were trying to do for me. On top of dealing with the grief of losing my husband, I started to feel like I was disappointing my friends and family for not grieving faster.
I am going to stop here for a second to talk to those of you who were there during that time. If you were one of those people that stayed over night with me, brought me dinner, offered to just spend time with me – if you are a person who was in my life during this time – thank you! I am not writing this to make you feel bad or feel like what you did for me was not important. No matter how shut down I was during that time, those people that continued to pour into my life and not give up on me are the reason that I was able to keep going. Please, do not see this blog post and think that your efforts were useless or unnoticed.
I felt like the people that were pouring into my life needed to see change. In order for those people to see that their efforts were not pointless, I thought that I needed to show that I was healing. Even when I was grieving the loss of my husband, I felt the need to please others by showing them that their actions were making a difference. It is no one’s fault but my own, but I began prioritizing the way I made other people feel over my own personal grieving process. Now, do I think that grieving gives you the right to be rude and ignore the efforts of your supporters, absolutely not. It does, however, mean that you are allowed to take the time you need to work on yourself regardless of what others are doing for you OR what others think you should be doing to heal.
To clarify, no one told me that I needed to show these people that I was healing. It was my own personal codependence that made me think that if I didn’t validate their efforts, they would feel like they weren’t helping and I didn’t want to make people feel that way. I learned so much during this time. There were two underlying issues here that I quickly realized no one knew how to handle. While I hate that I went through this (because it was honestly mental torture), it taught me so much about how to 1) be a “good” widow and how to 2) be a “good” supporter.
You see, at some point in everyone’s life, you either lose a person you love OR you support a person who has lost a loved one. Chances are, you have been or will be both at some point.
We all experience loss at some point in our life, and that loss has to be processed – no matter the relationship you had with that person. In my experience, it was my husband. But it could be your parent, a child, a sibling, a close friend, or just someone you deeply cared for. As a widow, I didn’t know how to grieve or what to say to people who tried to support me. Regardless of who you lose, my guess is that you are at a loss for words and are walking through your grief blindly.
For supporters, or those of you that are offering love and support to someone who has lost a loved one, you most likely aren’t sure what to say or how you can help. At least in my experience, before going through loss myself, I never knew what to say or what these people needed. Regardless of whether you know how to support or not, if you are in the trenches, loving on a person that is grieving, bravo to you! We need more of these people and we need to help them learn how to give the best support possible.
So how do we become good widows and good supporters? I am not a perfect person and I have a ton of learning to do myself! However, I do want to share with you what I have learned through my experience. Over the next two weeks, I am going to unpack each of these positions. I will explain to you what I did right and what I did wrong as a widow. There is no instruction manual for grieving the loss of someone you love nor supporting someone you love while they grieve. So, let’s make one together.
Tell me your story! If you have lost a loved one, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org about the best thing that someone did for you during your grief. These shares will remain anonymous, but they will allow me to learn from you all so that we can all become better supporters for each other. I’ll go first and share part of my story – the best thing that someone did for me during my early grieving, was showing up to my house with bags of groceries, paper products, and toilet paper. Not to mention, this was all brought to me without me even having to ask! This may seem small, but it was huge for me. Come back next week and I will tell you more about this story and why it was such a big deal for me!