You may scoff like many people have, but it’s true. Social media, mostly Facebook, saved my life. No, they are NOT paying me to say it either. I still hear that I spend too much time online, but being online has helped me through some rough moments. The problem is, I don’t have many friends I can go see and talk to. One of the pitfalls of being your husband’s closest friend and you being his. 

Social media first started out as entertainment for me and a way to stay connected to family and old friends. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how much more being on social media was going to mean to me.

You see, when my husband grew sick and I would post about it, I had a great deal of support and encouragement from my Facebook family and friends. Every single post gave me a worried, “Oh no!” or an “I’m praying for you” or an “I hope he’s feeling better” type of comment.  However, I wasn’t doing it for comments.

I also posted about the last days of his life. I needed to communicate to the outside world my fear and pain about what was going on with him in the hospital. It was often hard for me to talk on the phone, but I could post a few sentences on Facebook.

Then he died. When I finally arrived home to sink into my lonely bed, before I gave myself over to one of many nights of crying, I posted:

“My Hub is gone, I am lost.”

Those seven words brought an outpouring of sympathy, support, offers of assistance and undying love for me and our boys. Their words expressed the same shock I was feeling. Their words, pictures, and songs grabbed ahold of my heart and tried to soothe me. I felt their love coming toward me through these posts.

When I posted his obituary, many expressed their sincere sorrow at not being able to comfort me in person by coming to the funeral. I was reassured that they were all with me in spirit. I accepted that and carried them with me as we gave final tribute to my beloved Tony. Their well wishes and concern carried me through many rough days and rougher nights.

Then.

About a month or so later, the words of support became fewer and further between. As the holidays approached, I mentioned how sad and difficult they were for me. People remembered me with thoughtful holiday greetings, eCards, and prayers for me to “have the strength” to “get through this.”

As if I were simply having trouble walking through a door.

That’s when I started getting annoyed. Their concern was beginning to sound automatic and less sincere. I also started getting “advice” on how much longer I should grieve, what Tony wanted me to do; how my boys needed me; oh goodness, why am I so sad; golly gee, I’m so strong…blah blah blah. My favorite was that I needed to stop crying so much.

What? Excuse me?

Still, I continued to post about my pain, getting less of a response each time.  My annoyance morphed into anger.

I started communicating my anger, couching it in vague statements like “someone said something stupid to me today” or “ people at work are pretending nothing has happened to me”. No one knew I wasn’t just talking about co-workers or absent friends. I meant some of my social media friends too.

Then, I had an idea.

I decided to start looking for groups of widows on Facebook. Surely they had groups like that. They have groups for people who collect shoes, for God’s sake.

I found groups….boy did I find groups! Groups for younger widows, groups for widows who want to date, groups for widows who don’t want to date, widows who just need a sympathetic ear, groups for widows who want to rant, groups for widows who have kids, groups of local widows, groups for national widows’ organizations, groups for widows who want to take cruises together, Christian widow groups, agnostic widow groups, Black women widow groups and more.

I was so excited to find so many that I joined every single one that pertained to me.  I joined so many that I began to lose track!

In these groups, I found kindred spirits. On a day I wanted to be angry and rant, I went to one group, On a night where I couldn’t sleep, I went to a group I knew would be up chatting late. On a good day, I visited another group.  Finally, at last, I could go “be” with people who understood my pain and my ups and downs. No longer did I have to put on a brave face on social media, like I did in real life.  I found so many stories like mine, it was a huge relief to realize I wasn’t alone. 

One group helped me recognize that I was sinking into a severe depression and advised me to go to the doctor for help. Another group’s members read my posts and considered me well written enough to start my own blog for widows. A third group keeps me laughing at their hilariously dirty posts when I don’t feel at all like laughing. I get advice, tips, and encouragement from people who understand the problems widows have.

I also contribute a little myself.  Being three or more years into the widowed life, I have experiences to offer to widows who are recently beginning the journey. I try to give back everything I’ve been given.  For example, there is a group who takes advice from me in how to handle anger in grief. (that’s another blog for another day). I feel free to talk about my husband and my grief in each one.  I can say exactly what I want and at least one person completely understands.

That is all every widow truly needs…peeps to understand. Understanding is comforting. Understanding is a love thing, pure and simple. I feel loved in my groups and I do my best to love on my widow peeps.

The most beautiful thing I have gotten from my memberships in widows’ groups: new friends who get it. I now have several close friends I can reach in personal messages any place and anytime. I call them my Widow Posse because we ride and die for each other.

So that is how social media, Facebook really, saved me.

But don’t get me started on Instagram!

 

[image credit:shutterstock.com]

About 

Cheryl Barnes was born in Atlanta, Georgia and after several moves with her family, settled in Indianapolis, Indiana. She attended college at Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in Public and Environmental Affairs Management. While she attended college, she laid eyes on Martin “Tony” Barnes and was completely lost. They became inseparable and were married on December 24th, 1991. After five years of marriage, their first son, Malcolm, was born on New Year’s Eve, 1991. After Tony obtained his Master’s Degree in Social Work, the family moved to Orlando, Florida. Tony worked as a counselor, while Cheryl got her dream job working at Walt Disney World. Two years later, their second son, Miles, was born in July 2004. Cheryl left Disney and took a job in accounting at a property management company. Everything seemed to be going well for the family and Cheryl made plans to attend nursing school. However, in July 2011, Tony was diagnosed with end stage renal failure caused by lupus. For the next three years, Cheryl cared for her husband while taking care of the boys and working. Tony’s health deteriorated as a result of several complications until he passed away on August 29, 2014. Thus began her new journey as a widow and single parent.
Cheryl was devastated at the loss of her beloved Tony, but continued to work and care for their sons as she had before. As a way to work through her grief, she started writing, at first, only for herself. But, being encouraged by others, she began publishing her blog, “Widowness and Light.” Along with writing and being involved with several widows groups on Facebook while raising her boys, she works as a training bookkeeper at an association management company. She plans to go back to school and obtain a Master’s in Social Work so that she can help other widowed persons cope with their losses. She also plans to write a book on her grief journey.
Her hobbies are reading, attending Orlando Magic games, yoga, going to the beach, and just chilling with her boys.