Last week, a friend shared with me his heartache concerning the passing of one of his friends. He was overwhelmed with emotions; however, more notably, he was worried about what to say to his friend’s widow. He felt lost, almost alien to the grief journey. He could not process or relate to her anguish. He desired to be supportive and uplifting; but, he felt he would do more harm than good. He asked me for advice. I wanted to flee and not answer, as my pain is still raw while I crawl and scratch my way back to life, and yet, I also wanted to shout out suggestions, protect and harbor her.

As grief is an individualized process, one that takes time and has no dictated rules, I explained that I really couldn’t elaborate on what to say specifically for her situation; I simply only know what has nurtured my spirit. For me, having others acknowledge and validate the magnitude of my loss and actively and without judgment listen has been beneficial.  Nevertheless, having others speak my husband’s name and tell stories related to him have therapeutically been my language of healing and cornerstone to my survival.

It all began at my beloved husband’s funeral and celebration of life; the time to honor, symbolize our everlasting love, to remember God’s mercy in the life of my husband, and to commemorate eternal life.  As various friends and family members got up to pay tribute and reflect on my husband, their words spoke volumes to my soul. I desired to hear how he impacted and touched lives. I wanted to bring to light the ripple effect. In addition, as my dear friend and chaplain read what I had written about my soul mate, capturing the essence of our irrefutable adoration and glimpses of our life together, I felt comforted even amidst the shock and fog.

Now, as three years have passed since my husband’s death, with each breath that escapes my lips, I still need to speak his name. I still need to tell our story, and keep telling it. Just saying David’s name allows me to feel his abiding love reaching down from heaven, engulfing me, and prompting me forward.  Hearing others call my husband, by his name, is one of the kindest gifts. It tells me that they remember.  Hearing them recollect fond memories, details, and flashbacks to specific moments, are just pure gems.

As I elaborated a little more to my friend, I attempted to reiterate how sorrow can be so isolating. When someone dies conversations are stirred, unfortunately, shortly after, everyone goes back to their own lives.  In contrast, the bereaved are still mourning and yearning for their loved one and for me, as a widow, every facet of my life has been altered making it so vital to not allow my husband’s name to be a taboo or off- limit subject.  Have you experienced this?

Over this past weekend, my husband’s best friend came over to just talk.  He gave me such a restorative treasure, as he recalled random, funny moments with my husband.  We joyfully reminisced. Yes, even though every ounce of my being felt anguish as I looked over at the empty chair, I also laughed and smiled.

Many years ago, I read an article in USA Weekend by Amy Yasbeck, John Ritter’s widow. One of her quotes stood out to me and as I recollect it now, as a widow, it is so profound, “…Stella, 6, has deep and vivid memories of her father. Out of the blue, she’ll recall something specific. Sometimes it’s something I’ve forgotten about until her sweet, little voice jogs my memory. Stella still feels completely connected to her dad. Retelling the stories of their adventures is her way of reliving pieces of her life she knows can never come back.”

Dear Heavenly Father, Since my husband’s passing, my life has suddenly been divided into before and after. I know I have a choice to live in the “after.” As I merge my former life into my new one, my constant prayer is that I can keep the memories alive as they lead me through the gates of thanksgiving and reverence.  Please surround me with friends and family that want to speak my husband’s name and cultivate my growth. I know that memories are the building blocks that lovingly and delicately usher us into the future. Amen

I would be so touched to read a memory about your beloved. Please feel free to comment/ and or share.

You are in my heart and prayers, widow sisters!

Lisa Dempsey Bargewell