Widow. A few days after my husband’s passing someone told me “well you are a widow now.” I remember thinking, “No, I’m young. We were special. We are still married.” It was so foreign to me. Widow. I refused to let anyone refer to it that way, preferring to be called “Steveless”. (My husband’s name.) I was afraid to refer to myself that way. I wanted to remember him and to honor him and continue to love him – as his wife. Wife, not widow. Wife meaning we were still connected, he was still somehow with me. To me widow meant alone. I was so wrong, I am thankfully never alone.
As the hours, days, months, and eventually first year progressed I began to understand exactly what this word meant and how I am not alone. He is always with me, in many different ways. He is part of who I am, part of why I make the choices I make, part of my parenting style. In those ways his memory is an influence. He is also somehow there with me in spirit, cheering me on, lifting me up, helping me find my way. I will always continue to expand on the definition of this word as I become the very definition itself. How I began on my journey has already been decided, how I will continue my journey is up to me. Who I become because of the love I shared with a man no longer with me physically, is an amazing journey I know he shares somehow with me still. But those beginning moments on this journey, those are moments you can’t prepare yourself for.
When our friends brought me back to our home, only hours after he was gone. My god, was it only hours? Hours? I had been in a fog and been a ping pong ball set off out of a cannon at light-speed, bouncing off of every inch of the room he passed away in. Back and forth from reality to chaos, to an odd sense of peace I can only describe as a knowing that he was no longer suffering, back to chaos, sorrow, pain and destruction. Trying to fight my way through the fog in order to muster the words to tell my children the man who had loved them, protected them, provided for them, adored them, fought for them, the man they knew was fine and getting ready to travel for the week only hours before, was GONE. It is not something you prepare yourself for, telling your children their father has died. Your 13 year old son whose birthday present boxes were still on the table, who hadn’t had his party yet because we had been at a lacrosse tournament, your 20 year old daughter away at college, studying for finals, who had just told her dad she wanted to transfer to his alma mater, who was in Hawaii leaving an ocean between you, who wouldn’t have anyone to hug her for at least 24 hours. How do you prepare yourself to destroy them? How? What kind of mother even knows what she will say when her children’s father suddenly and without warning, passes away? I have thought about those moments for 428 days. How did I find the words? I don’t really have proof how I did, but I do feel that I loved him so much, so real and raw, that something inside me somewhere connected to something that helped me find those words. One of the new meanings of the word “widow” for me, is “one who must break their children’s hearts in ways that will only be healed over time, through love, and with patience.”
Back to the moment I walked into our home, for the first time without him. I remember seeing his watch on the counter. I still haven’t moved that watch. It comforts me. He left it there to grab on his way out the door. That is where it will stay. His glasses, beside the bed. They haven’t been moved either. His shirts I brought him a handful of moments before he would fall forward from a heart attack, they are still in the bag, folded, from the dry cleaner. Add the line “one who will memorialize moments in time to remember the mundane tasks of a life well lived” to that new definition.
I can’t use my first blog post to go through each of my firsts as there isn’t enough time to chronicle them all and their unique piercing pain and how they expand my understanding of this word. Each of those new additions to a definition of a word I had so poorly understood. But I hope to use this blog to help others understand how I now define all the layers of the meaning of the word widow. I will dive deep into what those layers of being a widow mean to me, how it spurs me to be healthier and then back to reality, who has time to only be healthy? Where is the happy medium? How I have learned more about how teenagers and young adults process grief than I could have ever imagined and yet I still don’t know enough. How I am learning to find myself and embrace my talents to create a new life for myself and our two children – a life I never wanted but must embrace – a life that brings his honor and meaning and brings us the joy he would expect me to create. The deep chasms left by his absence and the new islands of ourselves which have emerged bright and full of possibility. There are so many layers of this journey. I hope some will help you, help you find your own healing, help you find the desire to become something amazing, and learn to embrace all that life has to offer. The sorrow, the love, the peace, the chaos, the spirit, the joy, the humor, the sorrow.
Today though, it’s about the beginning of the evolution of the layers of the definition of “widow”. There is so much depth, so much pain, so much love, so much grace. For me, being brave enough to dive into that pain, to go through each of the layers, to study them, to feel them, to live them. In doing this I have really found a beauty in the love we shared. How deep I am willing to go, I don’t know yet but I know I am willing to continue to follow where I am lead. I know that for me, moving through the grief requires feeling the grief. Loving him means I am going to be teary, I am going to cry out in pain, I am going to cry myself to sleep, I am going to learn to live with a void in my heart. But it also means that in living through that grief I come out the other side with a more profound understanding of love. Of how deep the bond between two people can go, of who I have the courage to become in order the honor the man I love. Because it takes an incredible fortitude of mind and heart to find your way back through the fog of the loss of your spouse. To me widow now means “a fierce and audacious woman capable of great love and honor, living a dual life – one of courage and hope and one of a crumbling heart full of sorrow and loss.” Being a widow is living each day to its fullest while mourning a life no longer possible. Being a widow is to stare fear in the eyes and stand boldly in triumph all the while your legs are so numb you don’t know how you are standing at all. And being a widow means having hope and faith in the grace of a future while fumbling through the ruins of your past. But there is that hope and faith, that is the seed of new beginnings and finding your calling, living a life worth living, and honoring who you were while honoring who you are excited to become.
I also wanted to take a moment to honor my hero, my “Superman”. This is a post I wrote to explain why I was calling my personal Facebook blog about my husband, “Waiting on Superman”.
January 17, 2018
Today I took a step – albeit a baby step- towards creating something for myself. Details to come in the future when it makes sense to tell everyone. And in organizing my thoughts and making a plan of action I simultaneously miss him and pick up the phone to call him and tell him all about it. It’s confusing, it’s shattering, it’s heartbreaking, its infuriating all at once. But I have had 22,463,537 seconds to ponder why I am here without him, how to be a mother to two fatherless kids and how to live in a world where he isn’t somewhere walking on this planet. Nothing I write is meant to be inspiring, insightful, angry, in judgement of others, or directional. It’s just life. It’s real and raw. I am fortunate to live in a time where I can document, publicly, what we are going through. Where my kids and grandkids can look back and see a glimpse of the sorrow and grief, hope and love we lived through and created. I don’t edit these posts I don’t search for inspiring quotes to uplift anyone. I write them in real time, post them and occasionally notice a grammatical error which I will edit after the fact. Because I can’t stand it if I made an error. Which is frankly part of the mental gymnastics I play with myself daily. I just want to handle this horrible curve ball with grace and dignity. Some days I am a rockstar, or badass as I have affectionately referred to myself, but many days I fail to live up to my standards. Only superheroes can get through strife seamlessly.
It’s funny, right after we got married I read an article, probably in Cosmo, that as adults we will seek out attributes in our significant other which remind us of our favorite superheroes. I remember telling Steve about it and asking if he by chance loved Wonder Woman – hoping that was who I reminded him of. He of course ignored me until I told him my favorite superhero was Superman. He scoffed at me and let me know that he felt I had fallen short in my choice if I was seeking Superman. It’s funny though, because that is exactly how I always thought of him. Even when things weren’t perfect, even when everything was falling apart I believed in him like everyone believed in Christopher Reeve in all those movies. Like he could do anything, he would make it better, he would shoulder the burdens. He loved the three of us so much he just wanted to take care of us. I can’t adequately detail what is to lose him. I hope I told him enough how much I loved and appreciated him, I hope I wasn’t Lois falling off every building he left me on. These are some deep thoughts and feelings to share, they are complicated and require introspective thought. Most of the time, I am not sure Facebook is the right forum for these posts. So I have decided to start a blog, which I am calling Waiting On Superman. That is after all what I spent my entire life doing. From the moment I was born until the moment I am no longer on this Earth. He was always who I was waiting for. Whether it was physically waiting for him to show up in my life or figuratively waiting for him, or now spiritually waiting to hear him and feel his guidance. I have always been proudly waiting for his attention, his presence, his laughter, his hugs, his humor, his answers, his children. Now I get to wait to see what he has in store for me. Because while I know it is God who has a plan for me, I would be a fool to not understand that Steve is giving his input at what the next steps look like for me, Tara and Shrub. So I will wait, wait to see where life is going to take us and stay engaged, open to what comes our way, and work hard while I am traveling this path.
Lastly, earlier today as I was leaving to work on the beginnings of my next adventure, I had asked for guidance about it. Was this right for me, was I on the right track? And as he has so often, he answered me with song. While as a grieving heartbroken widow I can find something in everything to link to him, there are moments when I just know in my heart, he means the message for me. I can’t explain it, I just know. So I post one last song for your enjoyment, one last song which I think reflects the love we had for each other and how much I know he now believes in my ability to pick up where he left off and create the world he would want for us. If you would like to follow my blog you can PM me and I will send you the link when it is active. I can’t promise that it will be anything but what it will become. It will probably make you cry sometimes, laugh others and want to yell at me occasionally. But that is ok, because that is after all life and I have never been known for keeping it simple.
“No Stopping You” – Brett Eldredge