Not too long ago, I was trying to explain to a friend how I don’t cry anymore. I don’t shed tears. It’s like my eyes have run out of tears after the death of my husband. I explained to my friend that I feel sadness but I just don’t express it outwardly.

My friend replied with something like, “So you’re always crying on the inside?”

I paused.

Actually, I laughed because I laugh a lot when I feel awkward.

But yes, yes! I cry all the time…on the inside. I want to cry. I feel like crying. My throat gets tight, my cheeks warm, and my eyes water.

However, tears never seem to roll down my flushed cheeks.

After my husband passed away, I cried all the time. I’m sure I literally cried over spilled milk at one point. I mostly cried alone at night after my children fell asleep. I cried in the car as certain songs would come on. I once cried at my husband’s grave after the news of a great aunt passing away. I cried because I envied women I knew who had their husbands here on Earth. I cried in anger. I cried in sorrow.

Then for some reason, the tears just stopped coming as often.

I was constantly crying on the inside.

I guess in a way, I got used to the sadness. I got used to the pain. I got used to the grief.

But you know what I learned?

It’s okay to cry.

And it’s okay not to cry.

Widowhood is a life full of uncharted territory. Yes, we have our awesome tribe of other widows and widowers. We can learn from others who have walked through our shoes. We can take their advice and do what they do. Or we can do it differently. Either way, our widowhood journey is our own. It is unique.

We can cry if we want to.

Or we can not cry if we want to.

No matter how we express our grief and our feelings, it’s important that we do. Take time to sit in your feelings, the good and the bad. Feel the pain. Express the pain. Write, sing, cry, scream, exercise, paint, call a friend, invite a parent over, go to church, read a book, sit in the quiet, take a walk, rearrange furniture, punch a pillow.

No matter how you express your grief, the simple fact that you are still going, living each day as well as you can, moving forward, breathing… that all makes you a warrior. That makes you amazing. That makes you strong.

Widow sister, embrace the pain because it’s unfortunately here to stay. Some days it will seem unbearable, and on those days, cry if you want to. On the days when it seems okay, smile if you want to. And on the days when you almost forget, embrace the joy.

It’s okay.