Listen to Others

Seems everyone has an opinion on your life now that you’ve lost a spouse. From parents to in-laws to coworkers and everyone in between. To them, there is an aspect of grief that you aren’t doing quite right. You’re still too sad for it to have been over a year since your hubby died. You’ve started dating too soon. You aren’t acting like a widow.

Many of us are able to tune out this noise but many widows take this messaging to heart, especially when it is given by someone we care about. Maybe I don’t deserve to be happy again? Perhaps it is time for me to let go.

The sad truth is that nothing anyone tells you will take away your grief. They want us to get back to who we were…to the happy times, when life wasn’t so complicated. But how do you ignore that a part of you died? How do you forget having to see the aftermath of a suicide or watching your spouse become a shell of the man he once was?

Your grief will remain with you as long as you’re alive. Perhaps it won’t be that heart-stopping, ugly-cry inducing pain that it once was, but it’ll sneak up on you from time to time when you least expect it. It’ll show up in the lyrics to a new song, at a family gathering or with the birth of a new grandchild.

Your grief is your own. It has no respect for others or their commentary on your life.

Compare your Widowed Journey

You meet the chatty widow from your support group and strike up a conversation. Good, she has been widowed 18 months too. What a coincidence that you’ve both lost your spouse to a brain aneurysm. After chatting for a bit, she mentions that she met the most wonderful man. They are moving in together in a few months.

Now your brain is in overdrive. You still can’t even fathom the thought of dating or being with another man let alone moving in together. But, we’re both a year a half out! What’s wrong with me? Why do I still feel it was just yesterday that I lost my husband. Why is my pain still so raw?

Don’t chart your grief process on someone else’s calendar. Just as no one knew the dynamics of your marriage, you don’t know the journey another widow has taken to get to her place of healing and/or happiness. You don’t know how much therapy she may have had. How dark her nights might have gotten. You’re only seeing the results, not necessarily the process.

While both your spouses may have had cancer, were the same age or even have the length of your marriages in common, understand that no two widowed journeys are the same. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. What worked for her may cause you to regress. What is helping you, may result in adding another layer of complication to her grief.

By all means, encourage your fellow widows but don’t ever compare.

Ignore it

You signed up to volunteer at the kids’ school. You are the cheerleading coach and the chauffeur. You’re taking on a heavier caseload at work. You’re hanging out every weekend with the girls and filling every moment of your day with an activity. You’re constantly on the go. There’s never any down time because you know if you stop, if only briefly, the walls you think you’ve built up will come crashing down.

Maybe you’re the opposite. You’ve checked out of the mainstream of life. Thankfully, the settlement has allowed you to be able to quit your job or take a few years off at least. You’re in bed. Sad, depressed and lacking motivation to even take a shower. The tears are a constant. You can’t focus. You’ve isolated yourself from friends and family. Cabernet Sauvignon is now your bestie and you’re self medicating with over-the-counter sleep aids. Your life is a mess.

Here’s the thing about grief. It demands to be acknowledged and respected. Either it will be on your term or its term. Grief WILL have its time. You can’t outrun it. You can’t outwork it. You can’t out drink it. You can’t out sex it. It needs to have your attention. Grief doesn’t schedule a one-day meeting. It returns over and over again, often unannounced.

One of the characters on OWN’s “Queen Sugar” had one of the best takes on grief:

“When my wife died, I felt like I wanted to run…just pack it all up and run…literally. But you can’t outrun it. I tried. Pretty soon, I realized it was just following me because grief wasn’t done with me. It leaves when it’s done. You have to take the time to feel it all. Don’t let it chase you. Just sit with it. Listen to it. Respect it. It’s the only way to survive it.”

Remember, you can’t ignore grief. It has to be acknowledged before healing can begin.

How have you handled the grieving process? Any hits or misses?

About 

Kerry Phillips’ world was forever changed in March 2012 when just one week after her first wedding anniversary she got the call that no one wants to hear: your husband has died. Determined to not allow grief to drag her under, Kerry chose to become an advocate for the widowed community, sharing her own journey and those of other young widows. She also realized there weren't support groups for widows and widowers wanting to venture back into the world of dating and started Young, Widowed & Dating. It provides a forum for those seeking a new love story to share their dating adventures and insights into life after loss. Her weekly blog covers topics ranging from relationships with in-laws to dating while raising children and everything in between.

She's a contributor to the book, "Widowed But Not Wounded: The Hustle & Flow of 13 Resilient Black Widowed Women", and has authored, "Writing & Widowing: Journaling the Journey", a series of journal prompts for the widowed community. Her new book, "The One Thing: 100 Widows Share Lessons on Love, Loss, and Life", is a resource for new widows told from the vantage point of those who have lived it.

When she’s not blogging, Kerry is busy raising a feisty preschooler and power-walking her way through local 5K races.