You are right in however you feel about grief. If you feel this the hardest thing you have ever gone through, you are right. And if you feel that no one understands this pain as you do, you are not wrong.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve walked down an isle to say “I do” or not. Or if you and your partner were together for four weeks, four months, or forty years; if you think your grief is harder because of the time you had, you are correct.
Being widowed is harder when you’ve built a life together. Being widowed is also harder when you didn’t have the chance.
A year after JR died, a lovely British man said to me in his beautiful accent, “Not all things have to be measured in matters of right or wrong. Some things just are.” He and I weren’t conversing about grief, but it’s wisdom that can applied to almost anything if you let it.
Widows often carry guilt and shame. We are made to feel bad for how we feel, and therefore, express and conceal our thoughts and emotions with apology. We question if we are so-called “stuck in grief,” of course, there isn’t such a thing. Grief is love and one is ever thought to be “stuck in love,” are they? We wonder if it’s been too long, if we should move on, date again, be a bit happier.
Whether you feel you are right—that it is okay to experience love and happiness again, or you feel that you need to be a bit more inward and reflect on this loss, you are correct.
To be transparent with you, you don’t need me to tell you any of these things. Your heart has known it all along. You know how you feel, you hear the silent thoughts that rummage across your mind at 2 a.m. when the thoughts of death and memory won’t allow you to sleep. You experience the triggers—a friend’s wedding, a couple walking by, the sight or smell or sound of anything that hints at your person.
But perhaps what you do need is permission. The comforting guide who tells you, “It’s okay to feel how you feel. You aren’t crazy.” In fact, this may be one of the only times the saying, “I’m not crazy, everyone else is” might be true. So fully indulge.
A month after being widowed, a co-worker asked me with a smile, “Are you feeling better now?”
Yeah, I know. My reaction was the same one you felt reading that. Like I said, we aren’t crazy. Everyone else is. How does one “feel better” only thirty days after their person died? It’s probably only three weeks since the funeral and everyone was notified.
So today, the gift I offer you is the permission to experience everything as fully real, fully yours, and okay. You don’t have to dissect your grief or compare it to others. No one lost your spouse the way you did. Others may have called him and her friend, aunt, uncle, cousin, son, sibling. But only you called them your life partner. You laid next to them: sharing intimacy in a way others grieving them did not. You woke up beside them in the morning and kissed them last at night. You are the person they chose to spend forever with.
You don’t owe anyone reasons and explanations.
You don’t owe anyone anything.
The world doesn’t deserve your guilt or shame.
This is your grief: express it loudly, don’t mention it at all; move on quickly, or keep a tight grip. However you choose to live with it is perfectly right. Remember that.