Let’s talk about being a widow!
Well, sort of. I am a widow, but you might not be. It just so happens that it was my husband that died. For you, it could be a parent, a child, a sibling, a relative, or a close friend. No matter who you have lost in your lifetime, the information that I am about to share is definitely applicable to you. Maybe you have never lost anyone! That is awesome. I am so happy for you and so glad that you have not had to experience that part of grief – yet. Unfortunately, we live in a world where death is the reality and at some point, you will lose someone that you love and care for. I’m here to tell you that it is really going to suck, but you will be okay. In this week’s blog post, I am going to share with you how I learned to become a better widow and what you can do during your time of grieving to be the best version of yourself, for yourself.
I very quickly realized that I was too worried about other people and less focused on myself during my time of grieving. I always knew that I liked making people happy, but it wasn’t until I became a widow that I realized how much of a people pleaser I truly am. One day, during therapy (bless my therapist – she is an angel for dealing with me) my therapist asked me, “Why do you care so much about how you make other people feel?” and it was in that moment that I realized that I had been doing that my whole life.
Don’t get me wrong, it is such a good thing to love people and care about their feelings. However, when you are grieving, you have to start showing up more for yourself and less for other people. At that point in your life, you have to choose to put yourself first. That was really hard for me. I spent 23 years caring a lot about how other people felt and how my actions made people feel, so changing that mindset took a lot of intentionality.
After Will died, people really showed up for me. Dinner was brought to me, my lawn was always cut, and my home stayed full of friends and family that wanted to help me in whatever way they could. My codependence saw this and I began feeling guilty about how much these people were doing for me. I started to tell people that I was okay and that I didn’t need anything, simply because I felt like I was a burden. I felt like I owed these people more than I could give them so I began pushing them away.
This is a problem! As a widow, or while grieving the loss of anyone, we have to prioritize our healing. While I was so thankful for the people in my life that continued to show up for me, I had to train myself to know that I didn’t owe them anything, other than a “thank you.”
How do we do this? To some people, this may come easy and that is great! For many people, though, this is hard and we have to be very intentional with our thoughts and actions. There are two things that have to happen in order for you to start putting yourself first: 1) you have to change your mindset and 2) you have to start being honest with the people in your life.
The most important thing I did during this time, was remind myself daily that I didn’t owe anyone anything and that it was okay for me to prioritize myself. Each day, I made a choice to put myself before anyone or anything else. That may sound harsh. It was hard for me to accept. However, during your time of grief, you are allowed to be a little bit selfish – even if no one understands. The idea of putting yourself first can be an internal battle for some people; it is a battle that no one else sees you fighting. If people see you put yourself and your grief first, and they have a problem with that – that is their problem to deal with. You don’t owe anyone an explanation or a reason for prioritizing yourself.
If you allow yourself to be consumed with the idea of how you are making other people feel during your time of grief, your grieving process can be stunted or put on pause. I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to prolong my grieving process. I don’t want to be stuck in a place of guilt or anger simply because I focused too much on how my emotions were affecting others. Instead, I want to take the time I need to grieve now so that once I am back in a better place, I can begin loving on others again. You see, until we take the time too fully process our grief, we will never truly be the best version of ourselves that we can be.
This may have been the hardest part of grieving for me. Allowing people to know that I was still mourning and trying to navigate this new normal, was incredibly vulnerable. I don’t say this to be rewarded, but to share with you how uncomfortable, yet healing it was. Covering up my pain only made my cuts deeper. Pretending to be okay made my bad days even worse. However, telling people that I was not okay, while it was a scary thing to do, made those bad days more bearable. People wore the burden with me and even though I had bad days, I didn’t walk through those days alone or misunderstood.
I constantly got the question, “how are you doing?” Now, next week we will address more about this question and why it can be triggering – but, right now we are going to talk about how to respond to this question. Initially, when receiving this question I never knew what to say and felt like it was my job to tell the people what they wanted to hear. I usually responded with a simple “fine,” or “good.” We all know that was not true. However, when this question was asked, I always felt like I couldn’t give my true answer, because it just wasn’t something people would have wanted to hear. I often wanted to say, “I’m really not great. Things just are really bad and I’m pretty upset.” No one asks the question, “how are you doing?” and expects that response. So, I covered my emotions and led people to believe that I was doing okay.
After learning that I should be prioritizing myself, I started seeing the weight behind covering up my emotions. Instead of just saying that I was fine, I started accepting how I felt and allowing myself to share that with others. No, not every person wants to hear that I am having a bad day, but it was better for my mental health and my grief to just be honest. Did my answer make some people uncomfortable? Yes, but they asked. It’s not my responsibility to sugar coat my grief nor to make sure my grief doesn’t make you uncomfortable.
I hope you are able to use this information if you are ever in a place of grief. Anyone that is grieving deserves to put themselves first. Grief is fragile and needs to be handled with care. Thankfully, we do not have to walk through our grief alone. Many of us have family and friends that are doing their best to support us through our grief and us through theirs. Next week, we will talk about how we can be the best supporters possible for the grievers in our lives. It’s one thing to show up and be there for someone that has lost a loved one. It is another thing to give unconditional support during that time. Come back next week to discover how we can be unconditional with our love and support to those who have lost a loved one.