For months now I have written about how much I have learned about myself through the passing of my husband, or more importantly, through his life. But I have also learned so much about the world around me along with the many people who make up my life. One of many reality checks we go through after a significant loss involves the evolution of relationships in our lives.
Very quickly do people step up for us.
Or they step to the sidelines.
And sadly in some cases, they even step out.
The majority of people who walk out of a funeral are able to return to their life as it was…Yes, they will obviously feel a significant depth of sadness about the loss, but for widows and for close loved ones, a whole new journey is just beginning. Truthfully, the second Nate’s funeral and burial was over, and I began hugging people goodbye, the grieving process had just fully started. Learning how to live without him on a daily basis has been the hardest challenge of my life.
After your love dies, the real pain doesn’t lie in picking out a casket or deciding what shirt he’s going to wear as people pay their respects…Oh no…The real pain begins when you begin the process of living life without them.
The past 17 months has taught me the importance of the word village. You know that phrase…”it takes a village”. Before Ian was born, so many parents shared that small bit of wisdom when it came to the journey of first time parenthood. Little did I know then that I would refer to that idea more during this past almost year in a half then I ever did during the first few years as a new mom.
But guys? Surviving death takes a fucking village.
After Nate’s passing, I quickly learned just how much life altering moments, such as the death of a spouse, reveal who your true loved ones are. Death strengthens, weakens, or simply changes the roles people play in your life…And sometimes, in ways you were least expecting. Some in amazing ways, and some in not so amazing ways. I could go into details about some of those not so amazing, personal times the past 17 months (as I’m sure many of us could), but I have come to realize how much of a waste of time it is to focus on the people whose actions (or lack thereof) have caused suprise or disappointment. The truth is that they don’t know what it’s like on “this side of things” and so you almost can’t blame them for perhaps stepping out (I am not saying it makes it right)…Death for both insiders and outsiders is extremely difficult to comprehend and understand. Our lives have taken a drastic, terrible turn and as hard as it is to accept, I can now understand how it may be too much for some to handle having to witness our new reality. The shock of being ghosted by people you thought were more of something in your life hurts…But truly? If they have either consciously or unconsciously stepped out…Are they really worth your time as you begin this new journey in life?
No. No they aren’t. And that’s a hard pill to swallow, but true nonetheless.
Death of a spouse shows you in the most real way ever how valuable time is. And if there is ONE good thing that comes out of death, it’s been being able to see through people’s bullshit…that, and being able to see time for what it is.
So my mentality has been this…Let them go. And focus your energy on what deserves it…Which is YOU. And your journey towards healing.
It is so important to surround yourself with people who aren’t scared of our reality. People who will time and time again step. up…
Goodness, how fortunate am I to say that I have had far more people step up then step out. People who read what I have to say and want to listen to me simply because they want to hear what I have to say no matter how gloomy, confusing or lost my writings may convey. People who understand that my life is a roller coaster of ups and downs, and that sometimes I get stuck on those downs…but instead of disappearing, try to lift me back up. People who have helped time and time again to remind me of how lucky I still am.
People like my parents. Who when I told them I couldn’t stay in my house hours after only walking back inside after Nate died, so lovingly opened their arms and their front door and invited us to live with them. My parents who should be enjoying their “empty nest” years and their role of being “fun grandparents” but are instead helping to raise my boy into a young man…And they do so never making me feel guilty or unwelcome. They have a front row seat to my grief and do everything in their power to support Ian and I.
My sister for stepping up anytime I need a breather and for being such an incredible aunt to Ian. My son counts down the days when he knows he has a date planned with his aunt Angie.
My aunt and uncle. Who even from a distance do their best to support Ian and I by offering to watch him for a weekend so I can get a break…or even inviting us both to stay a a few days to offer us a change of scenery when needed. My uncle has become such a wonderful male figure to Ian, and he adores them both so much.
My mother and father in law. I’ll never forget the moment on my parents deck a few days before Nate’s funeral…My dad was explaining one of the many phone calls he had with the funeral director when my father in law interrupted kindly by saying…”I don’t mean to interrupt. But I just want you to know that that girl right there”-pointed to me-”will always be our daughter in-law”. And they have never made me feel like anything less.
All of my in laws. Each and every one. Growing up I always wanted my parents to give my sister and I more siblings. I wanted a bigger family. So when I married Nate, I remember just feeling such an overwhelming amount of love and excitement knowing I had just inherited such an incredible family. Nate was one of nine kids…So it’s safe to say I got my dream of being a part of a big family. And each of them have continue to keep Ian and I securely under their wings since the moment Nate passed.
My friends. Each and every one (I hope and pray you know who you are)…Yes, I have had a handful of people who I thought were closer disappear after Nate passed, but in totality, so many more of my relationships with friends have been strengthened. Friends who aren’t scared of listening to me talk about Nate but will also share their own stories of him and cry and laugh alongside me. Friends who understand my dark sense of humor. Friends who will stand in as Nate for me when I need someone to accompany me to something. Friends who encourage, support and strengthen me. I am so, so grateful.
My widow community. Goodness, I have met so many incredible people who share this journey with me. All of our stories are different, but at the core is our shared broken hearts. I’ve been inspired and I’ve been quite literally blown away by the strength of the people in the widowed community. This journey of widowhood is more painful than anyone could possibly put into words…which is why it’s so important to not feel so alone. I hate that we share the same membership to this shitty club, my fellow wids, but I’m so grateful for you.
Whenever I meet someone who has recently lost someone they love, whether it be a spouse or whatnot, one of the first pieces of advice I recommend is to surround yourself with people who will be there for you when needed and even when you don’t know or think that you need them.
People will inevitably step out of your life, and it will hurt. Not everyone will understand the times you want to be left alone and may take offense, and stop reaching out. Others may be terrified to be around you because our reality is just that sad to them. But the people who step up in your darkest moments are the only ones worthy of witnessing the moment when you begin to soar again. Because we will soar again. I’m not certain of most things in my life these days, but I’m certain of that… And it will be because of the strength we have built from within along with the support of the people who make up our village.
Find your village. And hold them as closely to your heart as you possibly can.