As far as grandmas go, mine was pretty cool. When I was young, there were so many ways I hoped to grow up like her. There was one way I did not – becoming a young widow.
I was 45 when my husband had a heart attack and died unexpectedly at age 48.
Decades earlier – when I was a two – my grandfather had a heart attack and died unexpectedly at age 50. My grandmother was 47.
Many years apart, my grandmother and I were both left single moms of two daughters.
Our situations were almost eerily similar, but there was one difference. My daughters were 10 and 12 when they lost their father. My mom and my aunt were 19 and 23 when they lost theirs.
Growing up, I never thought too much about the fact that my grandmother was a “widow”. Since I never really knew my grandfather, she was just “Grandma”. She was a loving grandmother, and to me, it never felt as if anything was missing.
Looking back, I am sure she did not feel the same way.
Luckily, she lived to know my husband and become a great-grandmother to my daughters before she passed away at 81, a few years before my husband died.
In the early days of my widowhood, it was pointed out to me that my grandmother had lived through an almost identical tragedy. At that time, I believed that the one difference in our situations made her more fortunate than I was. Her daughters were older, one married with a child, and one in college. My mom and my aunt were luckier than my girls; they experienced their entire childhood with their father. My grandmother did not have to raise her girls alone like I did.
It is difficult to raise children truly alone. Ever decision, every problem, every chore is left to you, and only you.
It is now six years since my husband passed away. My girls are growing up; I now have a freshman in college and a junior in high school. I hated seeing them grow up without the father who loved them so much, and I know how much they miss him. I can’t help but wonder what he would think of the job I have been doing with them, and if my decisions would have been different if he was here.
These years have been difficult, but at the same time, I have relationships with my daughters that I cherish. The loss of their father has bonded the three of us in a very special way. For that I am very grateful. My daughters are doing very well considering the horrible loss they have suffered.
Now that they are getting older, and therefore more independent, my empty nest years are fast approaching.
I cannot diminish the difficulty of raising my girls alone, but I also recognize that it has kept me very busy. My house has been constantly full and active. I have sometimes felt very alone in my situation, but I have not felt lonely. There was no time for it – I had too much to do.
Now that my life will be quieting down, I have been thinking about my grandmother and what life may have been like for her when she lost my grandfather. I have developed a new outlook on her situation. She did not have the hectic life I have had for the past six years. My mom went back to her new family, and my aunt went off to college. She was by herself.
I see now that while her life as a widow was different from mine, it was no better. Caring for my children, although challenging, is what kept me going when I lost my husband. They gave me a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning. I don’t know how I would have done it without them.
My grandmother did not have that. There was no house full of teenage girls or carpools to drive. My grandmother must have been very lonely.
Living through a tragic loss has made me more empathetic. I have learned that there is no “better” or “worse” when it comes to losing a spouse. This was my inspiration to start my own blog, The Widow Wears Pink, to share my story with others. Everyone’s journey through loss is their own and we all do what we can to get through it.