In exactly 2 weeks it will be four years since my husband died. I used to love the month of September. And now, now I completely dread it. Not only is my husband’s angelversary in September, exactly one week from that date is our wedding anniversary. When my husband died, I quickly learned I had to take care of myself. That no one was going to come and rescue me. I had a little boy who needed a mom. And it was during those days that I can’t remember, times I’m not even sure how we survived, that I knew I had to start taking the baby steps to find a new normal. To figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. And I knew taking care of myself was the only way my child and I were going to make it through.
When Jared first died, I was not sure how I was going to survive. I had no idea what it meant to be a widow. I had no idea how to be how a widow. I had no idea how to be a solo mom parenting a grieving child. I felt all alone. I felt hopeless. I didn’t know anyone like me. And then I found my tribe. I found Soaring Spirits International and Camp Widow. I attended my first Camp Widow four months after Jared died. And for me, it was life changing. It gave me a group of people who got it. A tribe who understood and never judged. But more importantly, it gave me hope. Hope that not only would I survive but that one day life would be good again. My tribe has held my hand on my worst days and has celebrated my newfound joy. This special group of people are always only a text or phone call away. There are no words to describe the importance of finding your tribe. I cannot imagine life without mine.
Not long after my husband died, I decided to make a huge change. Something that was necessary for my sanity and my survival. See, Jared died on Tuesday and on Friday my office called to see when I would be returning to work. Yes, three days after my husband died and before he was even buried, my office called to see when I would be returning to work. I knew then that I had to do something different. Since quitting my job or finding a new job was not I am viable option, I decided to cut back the hours I worked. Which also meant I cut my paycheck. Maybe not the best financial decision but it was the best decision for me. For my sanity. For my self-care. For my survival. Four years later, I still only work four days a week. Friday is my day to myself. My day for self-care. My day to go get a massage or pedicure. To have lunch with dear friends. Or to go sit at the beach and let the waves soothe my soul. Changing my work schedule, even though it meant taking a pay cut is one of the best decisions I ever made. Taking a day to myself, a day to do whatever I need even if it is to do nothing at all was the best grief filled decision I’ve ever made.
After my husband died, I realized I needed an outlet for all the thoughts running through my head. I needed a way to process everything I was feeling. So I began to write. At first I started out writing letters to Jared. Telling him how much I missed him, how much I needed him, how much I loved him. Then I was journaling, telling him all the things he was missing. And then my journals became a blog. At first I kept my blog private and didn’t share it with anyone. But then I began to share my feelings on Facebook. I knew there had to be other people like me. Other widows who needed support. Other widows who needed someone to hold their hand and help them walk through the fire. Other widows that needed to know there was hope. Through writing, I have found such peace and a purpose. And I have connected with so many other widows. Widows who have shared their thoughts and helped me. And widows who have told me my words have comforted them. Before becoming a widow, I never thought of myself as a writer. But it has become the perfect outlet for me.
The next three weeks will be very rough for me. And I have learned over the last four years that during the times of deep, hard grief, I need to indulge in more self-care. So you might find me getting a massage. Or sitting listening to the ocean. Or sharing my feelings in a blog post. Because I have learned that to survive the hard grief days, I have to take care of me. Self-care is vital to survival. And I don’t want to just survive, I want to thrive.