Grief Awareness Day. Yes, there really is such a thing. A day to educate others about grief. About love, loss, and loneliness.
Until you have experienced grief from your losing your spouse, you cannot understand it. Until you become a member of the club you never wanted to join, you cannot understand it Until your world changes in the blink of an eye, you can not understand it. And even though I have the most amazing friends who were there to comfort me and help me, they couldn’t understand. Because they were not widowed. They tried. But they couldn’t understand how I felt. And I didn’t have the words to explain it to them.
One of the hardest parts of being widowed was the loneliness. Not just the loneliness that came from missing my love but the feeling that I was all alone in the world. That there was no one else like me. Feeling like I was the only person in the world suffering from such grief. Thinking there is no one else like me. To me widowed meant someone older with gray hair who had spent 30 or 40 years with the love of their life. It didn’t mean someone who had held their 37-year-old husband as he took his last breath. It didn’t mean someone who would overnight became a solo mom to an elementary school aged son. I didn’t know any widows like me. And it was a very lonely existence. Even though I was surrounded by amazing friends and family, I was lonely. I finally understood how someone could feel all alone in a room full of people.
But then I found people like me. A friend told me about One Fit Widow (onefitwidow.com) who then led me to Soaring Spirits International (soaringspirits.org). Soaring Spirits International hosts a Camp Widow (campwidow.org) three times a year. I attended my first Camp Widow when I was only four months out. And it changed my life. Gave me hope. I attended workshops on grief, solo parenting, and so much more. I met a room full of people just like me. And the ache of the loneliness of being a young widow with a small child diminished just a little bit.
But I still needed some reassurance that I was going to be ok so I started researching blogs. I wanted to read about others like me. How they had survived. What had given them hope. I needed to know that someday life could be good again. With that I found Hope for Widow’s Foundation (hopeforwidows.org) and their Facebook page Hope Connect. And their blogs had women from all walks of widow life. Widows who were new on their widowed journey. Widows who had been widowed for longer and were enjoying life again. Widows who were dating and some who had remarried. Widows who were solo moms just like me. So many different perspectives to give me hope and let me know I was not alone on this widow journey.
Suddenly I was not so lonely. I had found my tribe. People who “got it.” People who understood the deep ache losing my love left in my life. People who encouraged me to live again. People who completely understood the bittersweet moments that this widowed life can bring. People who understood that I would never be over it, that grief doesn’t have an end date. People who understood that unexpected grief triggers could knock me to my knees years later.
Grief is a widow’s constant companion. In the beginning, you’re not sure how you will ever survive. How you will get through each day. But eventually you look back and realize you did it, you are surviving the unimaginable. And I am doing just that with the help of my widow tribe.
I will always miss my love. Carry him in my heart. The ache of losing him will never go away. But the loneliness is much less than it was before. Grief encompasses love, loss, and loneliness. But it can also include hope, friendship, and new adventures. Find your tribe. Do the grief work. And be a light in the world of loneliness for a widow that comes after you.