At some point during my first year of (at times) paralyzing grief, I sought out opportunities to address it. At no point did I feel like I hid from my grief. Because I knew my husband would die, I made the decision during our “long goodbye” that I would confront my grief and the aftermath and fall-out however I needed to do it. After my husband passed, I was determined to accept wherever my grief road led me and would embrace all the gains and losses along the way.
That was really the only decision I made.
My grief road eventually led me out from underneath my covers and husbandless king-sized bed and back to my job, to a small, new place to live, and to new friends. It led me to continue working on my writing “career,” to publishing my second novel, to applying for jobs I was probably just too old for – but applied anyway. It led me to making it to the top 29 out of 450 applicants for that new job, to falling just short of an offer…because they took only 18 (much younger applicants) in the final running, to having to accept that some things in life have simply passed me by…and that’s okay.
It led me to support groups and to skydiving, to grief writing and to art classes, to therapy, and to a grief recovery retreat in Alaska. It led me to travel 8,500 miles across the world by myself to see my baby daughter serving with the Peace Corps in Africa, to see that she is on and plowing through her own grief road, to truly believe for the first time that she is going to be okay, to know that her dad IS so.damn. proud of her…wherever he is. It led me to sit and listen to a young man ask for my blessing before he asked for my oldest daughter’s hand in marriage, and to being both mother and father to two girls who no longer have their dad for some of the most critical times in their young adult lives. It led me to restaurants and bars and nooks and crannies, to place I’d never think of entering into on my own. It led me to shedding furniture and clothes and books and VHS tapes and that big bin of worthless wires and cables, and to putting away pictures and certificates and mementoes.
My grief road has led me lots of places. Some, sought out. Some, very hurtful and grueling. Some, full of hope and laughter. Some, quite unexpected. And I am accepting it all. What other choice do I have?
Using writing to help myself cope with my husband’s illness and subsequent death, I found that others benefitted from some of the stories I shared. This eventually led me to share some of these stories and insights into my widow experiences with the Hope for Widows Foundation as a contributing blogger. I know when I write a blog post and share it with this community of grieving women, someone out there who is also struggling is likely to relate to it.
After going through a grief writing program and attending several sessions as a seeker and participant in my own healing process, I found that there is a great need for such writing programs in the wider community. I had never heard of these writing programs until I became a woman in the grief trenches myself.
One important lesson of grief is that we are only one grieving person in an endless sea of people who are also grieving. A huge Life Rule is: if you’ve never known grief, you will someday. And then, and only then, you will understand that you will feel an isolation you’ve never known…as well as form a connection with others…just like you…that you’ve never known.
Loss comes in many forms, and it is as individual an experience as you are an individual human being.
When I looked around in my own community, I had a difficult time finding other grief writing programs. Realizing that there was a great need for these workshops…I thought…well, if there aren’t any visible opportunities to me – a person who is searching for them – maybe there aren’t many at all and I should just put myself out there…and do them myself.
I began to use the tools and methods that I learned during the grief writing programs I attended to develop my own. I knew that at a minimum, I wanted to do my part in helping others by providing something that has been so crucial in dealing with the death of my husband as well as a life full of various other types of losses over time. And this is when my grief road took me…to develop Grieve the Write Way writing workshops.
I have done several of my workshops now, free of charge, as my way to give back. A local mental health group has asked me to (possibly) provide the workshop for their clinicians so they can bring this concept to their patients within their practices. Recently, our local community college has asked me to conduct the workshop in their continuing education branch. I have provided it to death and dying groups and to others just looking for an evening of working on this part of themselves. There is clearly a great need for this type of workshop to be offered to people on a wider basis.
I don’t know what will come of this new endeavor, and maybe not much will come of it at all…but if anything I do while trying helps someone work through his/her pain, I will accept that my grief road led me to the right things.
As a contributing blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation for well over a year, I am grateful for the opportunity to share about my experiences and to say my husband’s name. I’ve been honored and humbled to be a part of such a diverse, strong, brave, and resilient group of women. And while I still hope to be a part of this amazing organization in some way, it’s time for me back away from this particular leg of my grief road and allow other women with their own stories and insights to share them here as bloggers.
Thank you, Hope Sisters, for all you have meant to me…and for all you will continue to mean to me.