I run a widow’s peer support group that meets monthly. We gather from all walks of life and all parts of the metro area to share stories and heartaches, mostly through tears. Tears are not a requirement of belonging, but tears have a way of uniting us in a common pain.
Last week we met for the first time at a dinner gathering. To “break bread” together and have an opportunity to share deeper, meaningful stories of our grief. Over pasta dishes, salads, wholesome buttered bread, we exchanged laughter and felt unexpected joy. While sitting at the table, I marveled at the willingness of these brave women to bare their souls to one another under the common desire to belong.
Being a widow is a unique existence. Not a single woman, not a divorcee, but in between two worlds. My husband and I belonged to a fun couple’s ministry at our church. We met quarterly at one another’s houses and played cards, ate great home cooked food and just enjoyed the marriages God had given us. As newcomers to this ministry we often struggled to fit in, but were always appreciative of the invitation to meet with other couples also working hard to bring a level of happiness and sense of community to the marriage. I welcomed the chance to fellowship with other married women outside of church, and this often led to other opportunities to gather together to experience life as Christian women.
Now, as a widow I am no longer am invited to the marriage ministry events. I also am no longer a part of the women who gather together for luncheons. I’ll admit, at first it hurt to be excluded from lunches and other events. Now after years, I’m still excluded and the brutal hurt no longer stings. I’ve gotten used to not belonging.
The truth is there is a central desire among humans to belong. To find that common bond that unites us as people, as neighbors, women and now widows. At our support group meetings, sometimes we share the painful memories of anniversaries or birthdays held alone without our spouses. Other times, we remember unusual or funny stories of life with our husbands. We never know which stories will open the flood gates of tears or unexpected laughter. They are both welcome. We sit in a circle, waiting for another dear, wounded widow to share her sorrow and feelings of being lost or isolated. We also know and understand few people can understand the depth of the widow’s pain, or the fears of a future unknown. That is what brings us together. That is also what keeps us returning.
There is such an unspoken comfort to know our personal grief journey is understood by those attending the meeting, and appreciate that it’s a safe, confidential, no pressure environment. To just belong. To. Just. Be.
I pray I can continue to serve these precious women for as long as I’m able. It brings me solace and joy to know I can share my experiences of 6 years a widow. There’s a lot to contribute within each woman, evident as they feel safer and more comfortable with the group. That’s the beauty of a support group. Sharing personal experiences, encouragement or even strategies and feelings, knowing someone in the group can benefit from common coping techniques.
The desire to belong is universal. If you’re reading this I encourage you to seek out a support group to aid in moving through your grief. It may help with self-esteem, reduce those anxieties and provide a sense of well-being. And a place to belong.