The journey into widowhood has been the most challenging chapter of my 31 years. For obvious reasons, I feel sad more then I do happy, I battle depression on a daily basis, I am constantly running through a mental checklist of things that need to get done and then work extremely hard to muster up enough energy to do them…I run on fumes most days and truly live life in a bit of a haze with the thought “whoa…this really happened” running through my head the majority of the day. Because of all of these reasons, and so many more, I have spent the past year trying to find ways to just feel better. Even if its only for a few hours or if I am lucky, a whole day…The following, in no particular order, are some ways I focus on self care and working towards a path of healing.
I put on makeup, do my hair and….
Grocery shop. Or something else mundane like that. Being stuck at home a good majority of the day with a four year old as a single mommy and as a fulltime student in an online program, frumpiness can take over. You know, sporting oversized t-shirts, yoga pants, big ol’ messy bun on top of my head on a daily basis…It doesn’t quite help with the depression I have been batteling since losing my husband last year. As ridiculous as it sounds, slathering on some makeup, styling my hair and getting out of the house to do something as simple as grocery shop, helps me to feel human again. I’ll look in the mirror and think “oh hey, there is still a woman in there!” So yeah, if you see me in Wal-Mart pushing around my cart looking as though I am headed out for a night on the town at 1 in the afternoon, just know I am simply trying to feel more like the me that existed before I lost him.
I love romance novels. Yep, I am that girl who has always been stuck with my nose in a cheesy romance novel getting all giddy and giggling like a schoolgirl during the love scenes that make my heart pitter patter. Nate used to laugh out loud watching me read next to him in bed…(However I caught him peeking over my shoulder more than once during those heated love scenes). After he passed away however, I stopped reading for a while. I couldn’t read those same beautiful love stories when what was supposed to be my happily ever after, died. After a few months living day in and day out with this grief, I realized I still needed the escape books have always given me. So I took a chance and jumped back into reading. The first few stories I read were horror and post apocalyptic themed, a far cry from my romance, but eventually I was brave enough to open back up some of my favorite author’s stories…Pleasantly surprised that they warmed my heart as much as before. There is still a sadness each time I finish a story as I desperately miss my own love, but I have come to realize that I still love the idea of love itself.
If you can’t tell by now, I write a lot. But not just blogs…I write to Nate, I write poems and stories…I write my thoughts down when I am angry, sad, confused, and everything in between. I don’t always write with the intention of sharing my thoughts with the world. In fact, the majority of the time I write it is simply because I have too many thoughts and emotions soaring through my head at once, and writing is the only way I find clarity. It’s my therapy, my sounding board, and my joy. There’s no judgements, no opinions…Only me and my pen. Or laptop.
Widowhood and death make laughing tough. Which sucks, because its always been one of my favorite pastimes, ever. Ask anyone who knows me, my nickname has always been hippy. Well, my husband dying made the whole laughing, hippy thing quite difficult for a while. The grief is all consuming. Sadness takes over and depression eats you alive after the loss of your person. I don’t remember when it was, but a few weeks after Nate died, I turned on one of our favorite shows, “Impractical Jokers”. I was a zombie laying in bed, and before I knew it I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt. And boy, did it feel good. I make it a point each week, especially if it’s a particularly tough week, to turn on Impractical Jokers, or something similar in its mindless hilarity, and laugh. It’s good for the soul.
Find a way to laugh.
Yup, I cry a lot. During the winter months, especially around the holidays, I closed myself off from feeling pretty much anything. I went numb… And I just remember feeling like a dam ready to burst at the seams. I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t want to hurt. And so I intentionally shut my mind down from any sorts of feelings. My anxiety kicked in tenfold…I was short fused, burned out, and numb. One night in particular, I drank a bit too much wine after putting Ian to bed and just went into rage mode about life. I was angry…No, actually I was pissed at myself for falling in love, God for taking my love, and Nate for making me love him (totally unreasonable, I know). I was SO livid, I began yelling at….
His memorial chimes.
Yup, I went all out, freaking crazy on those damn wind chimes and before I knew it, that rage turned into tears…Oh how I cried that night. I fell to my knees and sadness consumed me…The tears I had so desperately kept at bay, poured over and it hurt...but I also felt an unexpected relief. That night will forever be seared into my mind as the night I finally allowed myself to feel again. Whenever I find myself consumed by the craziness that is my life these days, or whenever I feel that dam teetering on a flood, I “have a night with Nate”. I look back at pictures, snuggle his shirt, listen to our favorite songs and freaking cry. Those nights are excruciating, but it’s also in those moments of extreme forlorn that I feel closest to Nate and allow myself to remember that it hurts this much because we loved so deeply. As important as it is to find reasons to laugh, it’s imperative to allow yourself to cry as well.
I work out.
I have never been an exercise guru. I was involved with travel soccer for 15 years, but I wouldn’t say I ever really enjoyed the training part. Before losing Nate, I would go on “workout kicks”. I was one of those people who would only eat carrots for a week and workout 18 times in one day in hopes that I would be a size 0 by the weekend. During those times, Nate would always say “Marissa, it’s about finding balance,” to which I would reply something along the lines of “I know! I’m eating only celery all day so we can booze it up tonight with pizza!” I never found that balance he so easily acquired on a daily basis. However, seeing my healthy, active hubby die from a fatal arrhythmia caused by undiagnosed heart disease was the wakeup call of a lifetime. The past year I have tried to take myself out of my comfort zone and find that balance with health and fitness that my hubby always tried to talk to me about. And guess what? Surprisingly it’s become another source of therapy and another avenue of healing. When I work out, it’s my time. My time to get stronger, my time to challenge myself, my time to heal. I want to live a long life for our son. I want to live a long life and make Nate proud. I want to live a long life for myself.
I get my hair did.
The past year I have gotten my hair done more times then I have in the past five years combined. I kid you not. As ridiculous as this is going to sound, those few hours in the chair help to make me feel human. Like a woman. Nobody knows my story (gasp- I request a new hairdresser every time)…And for a few hours, I am just Marissa. For a few hours, a million different thoughts are free to soar through my head, with only background noise and simple conversation available to lull me into a world where things aren’t so complicated and husbands don’t die. Its amazing how something so small (and something I used to have no interest in, honestly…) Has become one of my favorite things to do.
I go out with friends.
It is really freaking hard being a widow. But I also realize how hard it has to be to be a friend of a widow. What do you say? What do you do? Yeah, I get how it would be hard finding a balance between wanting to be there for your friend but not wanting to push. Many of my friendships have changed since losing Nate…Fortunately, more for the better but yes, I have lost a few too…Which makes me appreciate the friends who continue making an effort to be there for me, ask me to go out or do things despite their uncertainty of how to respond to a friend who has gone through something so traumatic. The first couple of months after losing Nate, I wasn’t so keen on going out with friends… But after a while I found that being around them helped to get me out of my little grief bubble. It’s not always easy getting up the energy to get dressed up and do something, but it is worth it in the end to blow off some steam and feel like a “normal” girl for a little while. I am so, so grateful for my people.
Let’s face it, this club sucks. But damn, am I beyond thankful for the army of widows I have met over the past year. The men and women of Hot Young Widows, the ladies of Hope for Widows, and the ladies I have met through Young Widows of Central Ohio….So many great people dealt this same awful hand of cards. Talking with others who understand this grief, this life, this pain…It is probably what has helped me get through this past year the most. And boy do we talk…We talk, we vent, we listen…
Whoever you choose to talk to, just talk.
When necessary, drink the wine. All of the wine. Or don’t…it’s most definitely your prerogative, but Lord knows for me personally, nothing’s quite as great as a big ol’ glass of Merlot after a shitty day.
I ask for help.
This is probably the hardest task in my journey towards healing. I am surrounded by so many great people…my parents, my family, my sister, my friends…And one thing I have had to learn to do is ask for help when needed. I am still not the best at it, but I am learning that when I need to take a moment for myself, finish schoolwork, workout, I am blessed to have good people in my life who are willing to stand in for me while I get my shit together.
I plan things.
During my grief journey, I have definitely learned how important it is to have things to look forward to. No matter how small or big, trying to plan fun things to do has been a saving grace. From the Justin Timberlake concert in May to a night out with friends, even though its often tough, I try to make sure I have something to get excited about.
I get out with my boy.
This is one of the most important tasks on my self care list of things to do. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my daily stressors, I neglect the fact that my son is also living without his father and could probably use a break from our day-to-day routine that we have been adjusting to. So we go on what we call “Mommy and Ian Adventures”. Whether it’s to a park, to the zoo, hiking in the woods, or just swimming in the pool together…We get out together. It’s so important that I nurture my relationship with our son, for him and for myself. I don’t always have “winning” days as a single parent…But when I do, it really helps my mindset.
Most importantly, I dream about a day when my life isn’t such a chaotic mess of unknowns. I dream about the day that I am living the life I am working so hard towards giving my son and I. I dream about a day when grief and widowhood isn’t all of me, but rather a part of me. I dream about the house I want to get for Ian and I when I am done with school and working full time. I dream about the time when happiness may surpass my sadness. I dream about plans for me and Ian’s future to try and build excitement for a life we have yet to live. It helps to dream because as much as I miss Nate, my story isn’t over yet, and I need to hope that there will be a better tomorrow…So I dream about that tomorrow as much as possible.