My new husband‘s stepfather died this week. And while I am trying to be a good support for his mom, my own emotions are all over the place.  His death has triggered my own grief. My heart breaks that my new mother in law has joined the club with the worst membership criteria. The club which no one ever wants to become a member.  I remember how I felt in the early days of my widow journey and I hate the journey that is come for her.  


The not knowing what to do with yourself because you have been a caregiver for so long.  The long, lonely nights. The crying at the grocery store because he’s not here so you don’t need to buy his favorite food. The heartache at doing laundry to find his clothes in the hamper.  The realization that you have to check the dreaded widow box. The endless phone calls to notify all the companies, medical team, and everyone else that he is “deceased.” And saying no you can’t talk to him because he’s dead.  The trying to figure how to survive when you feel like dying would be easier. The difficulty of making any decisions because your brain is foggy. The hatred of hearing you’re so strong or let me know if you need anything. And wanting to scream I’m not strong and I have no idea what I need. 


My heart aches for my husband’s mother.  For all she is going through. And for the journey for which she is about to embark. The need to make arrangements.  Deal with all the people offering condolences. Figure out how to survive each day when her love is no longer here. I had to go back to work. I had a small child who needed a mother. Those things forced me to get up each day. I don’t know what I would have done if I had been retired with no children at home.


Today we went to the funeral home.  So many triggers. So many emotions.  I realize there are somethings I remember very clearly making the arrangements for my husband‘s funeral service. And there are other things I have no idea that we ever talked about. And as I sat and watched my mother-in-law, I thought I’m so sorry she has to do this.  That she has to plan a funeral for the love of her life. I had to leave the room as my eyes welled with tears remembering that naïve girl sitting at the funeral director trying to plan her husband‘s funeral. And praying I did it right.


There have been other deaths and funerals in the last 5+ years but none have been close family.  None have I been present to see the moment when the spouse became a widow. None that have triggered such grief in my soul. 


I think this harder because in many ways, this is similar to my husband’s death. My new father-in-law suffered from a long term illness. They knew his days were finite but they thought he had at least a year. And then he died very quickly from something else. Just like my Jared.  We were told Jared had six months to a year to live and six weeks later he was gone from a rare infection. Long term illness. Unexpected death. Widowed in the blink of an eye. And oh how my heart aches. Remembering, wishing I could forget. And knowing that now my mother-in-law will have those moments that haunt her. Those moments that will be there when she closes her eyes and prevent her from sleeping. And eventually with time, those moments that will make her smile.


That smile is going to be missing for a while. For the foreseeable future, every moment is going to bring a tear to her eye. She will say, so many times, we used to do that. Or that was his favorite.  Or I need to ask Marc, only to remember that he can no longer answer her. Her whole world changed in a matter of seconds. Now she’s living in a new world. A world with no script. A world that while there are many that can support her, she is the only one that can make the journey. And hopefully, those that love her will give her the support to heal in a manner that is best for her.


My head hurts. My heart hurts. My world is spinning. So many emotions. So many triggers. But my biggest emotion is sorrow. Sorrow that someone I love has joined this club. And I pray that I can be there for her. Be her light in the darkness. Encourage her to get up and try. And remind her that it’s OK to feel whatever she is feeling. And that it’s OK to have bad days. It’s OK to cry. But that it’s also OK to laugh.


Even though I have done a lot of grief work and it’s been over five years, the pain of losing Jared felt just as raw now as it did on that awful September day. I am thankful I have a wonderful support system. Tools to cope with the grief. And I know it’s OK to take time for myself. To feel the emotions. To honor my grief. So that I can go back out and and I’ll take care of the ones I love.


Death is a part of life. And no matter how hard we try, we can’t prevent it. And yet, we are never prepared for it.  My emotions are all over the place this week. So I will take the time to honor my grief. I will sit in the quiet with Jared and remember our life together.  And hopefully, I will be in a better place to support my mother-in-law this weekend as she says her final goodbye.


Carla always knew she would be a widow but didn’t have any idea how it would actually feel. When Carla met her late husband Jared, he was waiting for a lung transplant due to Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic disease affecting the lungs and pancreas. So she knew that most likely someday she would say goodbye to her husband. But she never dreamt it would be exactly one week before their 14th wedding anniversary. In August 2014, Jared was diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection in his transplanted lung and was expected to survive at least 6 months if not a year. Instead, he died just 6 weeks later. And in the blink of an eye, Carla became a solo mom to their 10-year-old son. And even though her life was forever marked before and after, she was determined to live life to the fullest because her husband would expect no less.

She founded Breathing for Jared, a Foundation to provide college scholarships to those suffering from lung disease in honor of her late husband. Became a supporter of the CF Foundation and Donate Life. And discovered that writing out her emotions and fears on her blog Transplant Wife and Widow helped her to process her grief

Carla recently remarried and is now blending a family with her new husband, bonus daughter, and son.