A few months ago, March 23, 2021 to be exact, an international crisis happened that sent ripples throughout the world. A massive container ship, the Ever Given was stuck for over a week in the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most vital waterways to moving products to Europe, the United States and other parts of the world. While the ship was stuck, hundreds of ships, not able to travel through this important route, had to wait patiently until that huge ship was able to move. Some ship operators selected to find an alternate route, going the long way around Africa to attempt to deliver their priceless cargo. Finally, after dredging, drilling and working with a team of international workers, the Ever Given and its important cargo was freed.
On March 30th the waterways were open again! Hundreds of ships stacked with containers were able to move again through the canal into the Red Sea, attempting to ease the backlog of worldwide deliveries. The backlog was extensive, as were the costs to many countries. It is mind blowing to realize one ship that got stuck and was turned sideways in the canal had the power to disrupt companies, businesses, products and even oil. But it helps to understand the Suez Canal is not like a normal shipping waterway, but instead each ship that travels this path is connected to major economies around the world.
By now I know you are wondering what this has to do with my widow journey? When I read and followed the news story over several weeks, I was reminded of my life as a widow. When my husband died in 2015, the life as I had previously known, stopped. For many, many months I was stuck. Stuck in the cycles of grief. Often moving sideways in the channel of life. Things I used to do, I did not have the ability to do anymore, and life experiences I once enjoyed, seems to have absolutely no meaning to me anymore. My life without my soul mate and partner was stuck in the turbulent sea on waterway of my life, resembling the recently stuck container ship.
Similar to that ship, my friends, family and professional co-workers had to wait for me to “get it back together”- to resume whatever level of normalcy our relationships once experienced. But for many of these same people in my life, they just got tired of waiting for my grief to end, and simply “went around me.” They moved on. They may have wanted to wait for me to heal, but found they did not have the bandwidth or want to spend the time to “walk alongside me” in my sorrows and despair.
As women, we are each connected to families, individuals, co-workers and even ministries that depend on us in many ways. We have responsibilities that require us to be our best. If we are a mom, we have children that are counting on us daily to deliver what they need. If you are fortunate to still have your parents, there may be additional caregiving duties and concerns. If we are employed, the company that pays our salary is counting on us to be productive. All these connections and responsibilities place a tremendous burden on our lives.
Like you, I had people counting on me to be “like normal” after my husband died and were sad and disappointed that I could not. While I believe their concerns were sincere, I also know the concern was often selfishly motivated. Yes, it hurt them to witness my grief and pain, but it also affected their lives, like ripples in a sea. My grief journey impacted my life in ways I did not imagine, and caused me to cease being the same mother, friend and co-worker I once was. Like that ship stuck sideways, I found myself stuck for years, just trying to live above drowning. I was no longer who they knew me to be, and therefore could not do with or for them as I have done before. In other words, our relationship changed.
Years later, I travel my “canal of life” and appreciate the knowledge gained while stuck in my grief. While I am moving forward, the emotional, social, relational damages I experienced in my initial widow pain and dark days, will always remind me of who waited for me, who helped and those still traveling with me now.
My personal sea is calmer now with less turbulent waves and I also travel much lighter now, with less friends and contacts. It is okay. I had to understand and realize there is simply no reason to carry excess social/emotional/relational baggage, and those who remain in my life genuinely want to be. Grief is such a hard teacher, even if I’m not always the best student.
I am thankful for the opportunity to keep learning.