Today is Grief Awareness Day. Yes, there really is such a thing. And I for one find it very sad that we have to have a special day set aside to teach our society about grief. But, until you experienced grief from a deep loss, you cannot understand it. Until you become a member of the club you never wanted to join, you cannot understand. Until your world changes in the blink of an eye, you can not understand it.
I used to be naïve like that, thought I understood but really had no idea. I used to think I knew how to handle grief. What to say or do for a grieving friend. But in reality I said and did all the wrong things. Well meaning but not especially helpful. Even though I had buried my siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, niece, and even my dad I had no idea what it would feel like to bury my spouse. Losing my brother, my grandmother, my father did not prepare me for how it would feel to lose my spouse.
Nothing prepares you to say goodbye to the person you love most. When you bury your spouse, you bury a part of your future. You grieve what was and what will never be. Forever. The future you had mapped out is gone, forever changed. Your life is forever marked before and after. Grief doesn’t end after the first year. You grieve every day for the rest of your life. It doesn’t get easier, you just get better at handling it. And unfortunately you experience firsts all the time. Not just the first holiday, birthday, or anniversary. But the first time you travel alone. The first time your child starts a new school. The first time you have a good day. These firsts trigger such deep grief. And then there’s the unexpected grief triggers that happen when you least expect them. Those damn, come from nowhere triggers that drop you to your knees. Those ones are the hardest for me. Anniversaries, firsts, expected triggers I can handle. Prepare how to handle them. There is no preparing for unexpected triggers. You just have to take them as they come and do the best you can.
Grief is a widows constant companion. In the beginning, you’re not sure how you will ever survive. How you will get thru each day. But eventually you look back and realize you did it, you are surviving the unimaginable.
And when a friend, a colleague, a loved one’s spouse dies, you will be a source of comfort and support for them. You will know there’s nothing you can say to make it better. That there are no words. You will know that sometimes the best thing you can do is just sit in silence and hold them as they cry. You will know never to say let me know if you need anything. Instead you will know to say I’m going to come take the trash out tomorrow and then do it. You will know that everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time frame. And you will be one of the ones that do not judge. Your grief, your unimaginable loss, will give you the tools to hold someone else’s hand as they walk along the path of widowhood.
Today is a day to educate. To bring awareness to the grief widows experience.. But as a widow, I know no one can truly understand the depth of this grief except another widow. And for those who are blissfully naïve, I hope you never know. And at the same time, I hope you take the time today to learn about grief so you can be a better source of comfort and support when someone you know loses the love of their life. And to the widows living this unimaginable grief each day…you are not alone.