Last year I got a weeping willow tattoo on my leg. It is a half-dead half-alive tree. The irony in getting that in 2020 then losing my husband is not lost on me. But the reason I got that tattoo was the meaning behind the tree. Some people see the tattoo and think that I got it because he died. Matt was however there with me that day he watched me get the tattoo for five hours. I had no idea in less than four months I would need to be like a willow tree.
The willow tree symbolizes everything a widow has to be. “They show us the way to survive turbulent times: Stand tall, be willing to bend so as not to break with the winds of change, trust your own strength and resilience (Cardthatic).” People tell me all the time how strong I am but being strong was the only choice I had. I would have not survived losing him if I wasn’t. Trust me there were more days than not in the first six months that surviving this did not seem possible.
But am I strong? I seem strong if you don’t know the number of times, I barely kept it together. The times I would have rather died than to wake up and face another day without him. I drank more than I should have to numb the pain. Lashed out and had anxiety attacks was not a sign of strength. I was showing weakness, I was not standing tall, I was bending and almost breaking. Early on I learned that I had to lean on my friends for support and help.
I am strong because there was no choice. My grandma was sick, and I had to care for her so I had no choice but to get out of bed. I had to cry in the shower and in my car and act like I was okay day after day because I could not let her see me break. She is a widow, so she knows I am not okay but fake it to you make it was my thing and I was good at it. She would ask my sister if I was doing okay if I was going to be okay.
But am I strong? There were days that I was curled in my bed crying in a ball because I wanted my love back. I yelled at him in the shower. I looked at a truck from the company he worked for to see if he was driving it and cried in my car when I was driving. I thought I was stupid, I did not feel strong that day. My coworker stood there as I walked back in from lunch puffy eyes and could barely talk. I was so mad at myself. He told me that it was going to happen and it was okay.
I am like a weeping willow though. I am trusting my strength and resilience to get through this. I know grief is forever. I know that missing Matt comes in waves. Tonight, I am smiling and happy but when I am at the fair this week and memories of him are everywhere I know I will survive this I just have to bend. It is okay to cry and miss him and wish like hell he was with me. But at the end of the day, I move forward, whisper I love you Matt into the universe.
Widows are strong resilient women that must be that way because our families and our friends are here and still need us to be. We have no choice but to fight like hell to make it through every day in the beginning and then we must fight the little days. We must bend and not break we must be like a weeping willow and survive. Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays will hit us hard but the choice we make is to bend or break.
When planing this tattoo a year ago I wanted something that showed life continuing after death that it keeps going on. Now it is a reminder of who I am. I am a strong woman that bends and does not break. I have survived the worse of the storm, and now I survive the little rainstorms. There are days that the wind is blowing hard, and I start to panic. I go into dark thoughts about how I rather die and be with Matt. Then I message my best friend and she tells me I love you. She reminds me Matt is with me and that he loved me and would want me to be happy. My friends pull me out of the darkness and remind me who I am.
My next tattoo will be a phoenix rising to symbolize this journey I am on. By its feet, I want a pocket watch with the time that Matt died as a memory of him. Life is going on. I am facing my fears. Moving forward and trying to be like the tree that I admire so much. I am learning that with every new challenge I need to bend, be resilient and show up at the badass widow I am.