I always knew I would be a widow.
When I decided to marry Jared, I knew that unless some unforeseen tragedy struck, I would someday be a widow. I knew because of his cystic fibrosis, CF, I would most likely outlive him. Jared was waiting on a lung transplant when we started dating. In my head, I always knew the day would come but my heart never believed it.
I always knew I would be a widow, but I had no idea how it would feel.
I had no idea how hard it would be to have last days so full of heartache. To have my husband make me promise to live. To live and not just survive. Or how hard it would be to keep that promise.
I had no idea how it would feel to watch my husband die. To see his slow decline for months and then a rapid decline and death just 6 weeks later. To watch him put on a brave face everyday until the end.
I had no idea how it would feel to hear my husband say “I’m sorry you have to watch me die.”. Or worse “Carla, I’m dying.”. And then to hold him as he took his last breath.
I had absolutely no idea how hard it would be to tell our son his dad had gone to heaven. There is nothing that can prepare you for the heart wrenching sobs as your child’s heart breaks. And I was not prepared for the helpless feeling as I watched my child grieve.
I had no idea that I would want to strangle the hospice nurse who showed up hours late because my husband’s death was deemed not urgent enough.
I had no idea how it would feel when the funeral home told me I had to leave Jared’s side so they could prepare my beloved husband.
I had no idea that when I walked out of our bedroom and left Jared with the funeral home, that I would literally slide down the hallway wall and minutes later be physically sick.
I had no idea that after walking my husband to the hearse and seeing the doors close that I would fall to my knees because the pain was so great.
I had no idea that during this time, I would need others to provide my son sanctuary and not just while the funeral home was at my house but for months to come.
I had no idea that my kitchen would be full of friends who are like family to support me and my son.
I had no idea one friend would suggest a toast to Jared’s life and because of his suggestion, we started talking about Jared’s life and not just his tragic death.
I had no idea the anger I would feel because a few, well meaning souls decided to change my bedsheets. I needed to feel close to Jared and I didn’t care that the sheets were dirty. I had no idea I would grab his pillowcase out of the laundry and sleep on it for weeks.
I had no idea that planning a funeral to honor my husband’s wishes would cause so much strife. Ones who felt I included the wrong people. Ones who felt I should have had a viewing for those who needed closure. Ones who felt I had a celebration of life to soon. Everyone offering their unsolicited opinion without considering my husband’s wishes.
I had no idea how it would feel to celebrate our anniversary without him exactly one week after his death. Or how it would feel when I found out he had planned ahead for the date..
I had no idea how it would feel to realize that some I had counted on to always be there, were not. No calls, no text messages, no just wanted to see how you were doing. I had no idea the pain I would feel knowing they cared so little. Or that we could be so easily forgotten.
I had no idea how it would feel to have so many people wrap us in love and support. Feed us, make sure we were not alone, and continue to invite us to be part of their lives.
I had no idea I could feel so loved and completely alone at the same time. I had no idea the hole losing Jared would leave not just in my heart but in my life. A hole that can never be filled.
I had no idea that the widow fog was a blessing, protecting me when I was unable to handle the pain. And that at 6 months, the fog would lift and I would feel completely hopeless. I had no idea a wonderful support system of friends and fellow widows would reach out to ensure I knew that feeling hopeless and being hopeless are two different things.
I had no idea just how painful all the firsts would be. Or that I could survive and still celebrate the holidays and special occasions. And that our friends and family would ensure that we did not celebrate alone.
I had no idea just how lonely and painful the nights would be.
I had no idea that people would judge me for how I grieved. I had no idea that people who loved Jared wouldn’t want to say his name. Or that my grief would send some running for the hills. I had no idea that some would view me as a threat. No idea that my grief, my horrible loss would be used against me.
I had no idea how it would feel to be a solo parent. I had been the only parent at home when Jared was sick and in the hospital. But that in no way prepared me to be the only parent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with absolutely no relief in sight. I had no idea how heartbreaking it is to parent a grieving child. How often my own grief would have to be put on hold to care for my child. Or how when I was doing OK, that his grief would knock me right back down again.
I had no idea how scared I would be of doing it wrong. Of completely screwing up my kid. Of worrying that I was grieving to much. Not enough. Worrying that this horrible loss would permanently scar my child. That this loss would rob him of his childhood. I had no idea the lack of patience I would have. And that impatience would be due to being tired. All the time! How quickly I would lose my temper. How many times I would have to apologize. I had no idea how it would feel to be the responsible parent all the time. And it sucks!
I had no idea how difficult it would be to try and live. Live and not just survive. To honor the promise I made my husband.
I had no idea how hard it would be to discover who I am now. So much of my adult life was spent as Jared’s wife and caregiver. So, who am I now? Where is that happy go lucky girl who loved to dance and was truly happy? She is in there, somewhere. I just have to find her.
I had no idea how my friends would handle their new widow friend. Would I still be included? Would I only be invited to group events? Would they eventually get tired of hearing about Jared and my loss and stop inviting me?
I had no idea just how useless all the typical sympathy statements really are. “He’s in a better place”. “At least he’s not suffering anymore.” And my favorite, “call if you need anything.” I could barely function, let alone know what I needed or wanted. I had no idea how thankful I would be for the friends who just listened. Who didn’t try to fix me. Who said and still say his name.
I had no idea that Jared’s death would shatter me to the core. That his death would forever change my life. I had buried my dad, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends but those deaths did not prepare me for a loss of this magnitude. I felt like I had truly lost a part of myself. A part of my soul. And I was in no way prepared to deal with that.
My future is ever changing. But one thing that will not change is my love for Jared. He will always be a part of my soul. There will always be a part of my heart reserved just for him. Our life together, our love shaped who I am today. And will continue to shape my future.
I always knew I would be a widow but I had no idea how it would feel. I was not prepared for it. I was not ready for it.