This is the third year that National Widows Day applies to me. I’d say it’s my third anniversary of celebrating the day, but that feels strange to say. It doesn’t feel celebratory. And it still doesn’t feel like a day that should apply to me. Yet, it does. And here it is again…
I remember clearly the first year that I learned about this day. It was 10 months after Seth died and I thought, “wow, there really is a day for everything.” I couldn’t comprehend the fact that this day applied to ME. I posted a quote that day that said, “You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it.” I was still in survival mode and was reminding myself constantly that I could deal with this hand I was dealt. I made a comment that I was given this title of widow from having experienced an incredible love story that shaped me into the person I’ve become. I also said that it reminded me I was brave, and kind of a badass, doing things I never thought I’d have to do alone. And it reminded me of the amazing people who continued to lift me up and support me. Words that continue to be so very true as I live this new life.
Year one as a widow is all about disbelief and shock. Wondering how you were given this title and why. Realizing you are now doing things alone and living life as it’s been given to you. Being told, and starting to believe, that you are strong enough to live this new life. As hard as some moments, days, and weeks are. It’s also about seeing who is there for you and being so very thankful to those that have been there for you during your darkest hours. And that continue to show up in your time of need.
Last year (my second National Widows Day) I reflected on how far I had come in the prior year. I acknowledged that while it may never seem possible to comprehend the fact that I was a widow, I was becoming the next version of myself. I acknowledged how thankful and grateful I was for those that continued to surround me. And I was giving myself grace as I tried to be the best solo mom I could be. And hoped I was continuing to make Seth proud.
Year two as a widow you start to figure out how to live this new life. The fog starts to lift, and you start to experience what this new life is really all about. You find yourself realizing that you can do hard things and that you will forever be changed. And you’re realizing what this new life will really feel like. And you feel how hard it is, and how you are also able to start to smile again.
Now that I’m in year three, I’ve really been reflecting on what this year has been about for me. I’ve come to realize that this year, I’ve found myself thinking about my heart, and how different it is as a widow. This past year has been much more of an emotional journey than simply learning how to live and survive each day. For me, I’m learning that a widow’s heart is complex and ever changing. It’s fragile, broken, weak, empty. And also full, strong, thankful, resilient. And these are only to name a few of the many feelings that surge through the heart of a widow. Many times, all within the same day, hour or minute.
In the days and weeks after Seth died, I remember many times wondering if I was having a heart attack. My chest was tight and burning and aching all at the same time. I wasn’t having a heart attack and was perfectly healthy. I learned that what I was feeling were all indications of how grief can physically affect your body. I could literally FEEL my heart breaking into pieces. Shattering with each minute, hour and day that passed. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be the same again. And I’ve learned that I won’t be.
I’ve learned that there will always be a hole in my heart. An emptiness and aching that will never be completely healed. Never be filled back up. I read a post recently that said, “There is an emptiness and aching for what will never be. For what he will not physically be here for.” I read that and thought “Yes! Exactly!” Nothing will ever fill the void of each moment Seth won’t be here for physically. For all of the future memories we will not be able to make together.
And that ache is deep within my heart. And ever present. It’s an emptiness in your heart that can take you to your knees. Knocks the wind right out of you and makes your heart ache for the rest of the day. As my Aunt told me in those early days after Seth died, “Time will not heal this wound in your heart. You will simply learn to live with the pain and ache.” With each day that passes, I’m learning how to live with that hole and with that ever-present ache. Knowing that some days that ache will be well pronounced, other days will be hidden deep in my heart. But it will always be there. A loneliness that can’t be replaced.
While I’m learning to live with this hole and ache that will never go away, I’ve also learned that I can also feel extreme joy and happiness again. I am so thankful and grateful that I have people and events in my life that are filling that empty hole in my heart. Moments that fill the broken pieces of my heart up with gold. Making me feel renewed and alive. Making me laugh and smile and feel loved. Whether it’s through fun and sweet moments with my kids, heartfelt conversations with friends, or new experiences that remind me how beautiful this life we have really can be. I can feel my heart filling back up and I find myself many times overwhelmed with thankfulness that I have so much love surrounding me.
So, for me, year three is about learning to live with the complex heart of a widow. It’s taught me to take care of my heart. To remember I will always feel the pain and loss. And there will always be an emptiness and void that won’t be filled. And to know that it’s also OK to be happy and filled with joy. And that your heart can be full again. And maybe want to love again. That my heart can still love and miss Seth and also be open to feeling happy and loved and cared for again. And that it’s OK to want that. And to live with all of those complex and fragile feelings. And to remember that my heart will forever be changed and will forever be healing.
Have you heard about Hope for Widows Foundation’s annual virtual Widows of Hope 5K on May 15 and 16? Registration is now open! For details, FAQ’s and to register/support go to: https://racewire.com/register.php?id=12122 Anyone can join! Whether you are a widow, widower, or a friend/family member showing support, or walking in the loss of another family member, everyone is welcomed to participate. The deadline to register is May 15, 2021. The proceeds will directly support widows directly through their annual financial Restoring Hope and Peace Grants, Sunshine Boxes program, and our Bring Hope Holiday Assistance Program.