Recently I was asked how I stay so positive while dealing with my own grief? This question caused me to pause and really wonder to myself- how do I do it?
I have been leading a monthly women support group since 2019. Women from all walks of life have the opportunity to meet and share their hurts, pains and lost dreams in a safe place. No judgement. No counseling. Just sharing personal individual life stories.
Most of the women are in their first year of widowhood and are learning to navigate their grief journey. My role is not to just encourage them, but instead to focus on the reality of being a new widow and help them understand what they are feeling every day through different life scenarios.
The month of May is especially hard for me. I have had to re-live my husband’s death for the past 7 years and while it seems every year is better; I have realized every year will be slightly different and I never know what to expect. Also, my granddaughter of 11 years old died after a medical emergency in 2018, so I had to remember the pain of losing her while discovering the tragic news of the dear schoolchildren murdered in Texas. The pain of losing a child never goes away and the family is forever altered. We live with that grief too.
So, this month at our support group, I had the chance to share my memories of May 2015 and explain some of the coping skills I have used. Some of the widows lost their husband in the midst of Covid and never got to say goodbye due to their spouse being in a hospital under strict Covid protocols. While my husband died prior to Covid, he was in an induced coma for 2 days prior to his death. The hospital had limited visitors, so I was the only person standing and praying by his hospital bed during those 2 days. The doctors encouraged me to read to him, play his favorite music and talk to him to keep him connected to me. My faith and prayers were active, and I truly believed he would be restored to health. But God in His infinite wisdom knew differently, and my husband was allowed to die on May 1, 2015, at 10:32pm.
My natural tendency is to withdraw from others during this month, as the memories are strong and painful. This month, I was more vulnerable and transparent as I let them know the pain, they feel is real. The pain can grab at your heart strings and never let go some days. The loss of conversations, hugs, intimacy, friendship, and household help is never ending, and the pain can change over years. It was nice to hear other women talk about what they miss and to know that it is okay to miss what was lost. It’s ok to miss the kisses, cuddling, the joys of sex and intimate conversations of plans and dreams to com.
I do not know what I would do without these lovely, wounded women who allow me to feel connected to them and grounded in my grief journey. We laugh together, cry together and even give hugs if asked. It is becoming a place to shelter from the wounds and hurts of the world, and a safe place to grow in grief.
It would be disingenuous to pretend that the days ahead for each widow is smooth sailing. The reason I share my heartaches, even after all these years is help them understand the ebbs and flows that can impact their lives and being unprepared is normal. So, I place myself in a vulnerable position and like with any trusted friend, I feel free to disclose information I know they will only understand. It’s what makes being a part of the “widow’s club” so unique. Only we get it. Only we get the unspoken truths about this grief, and it makes us bonded in a way nothing else can.
I feel a special closeness to widows and am willing to bare my soul to them if it will aid in each widow’s personal recovery. That’s why I do it. Just to help me help them. Sure, there are times when my monthly work obligations won’t allow me the freedom to attend our support meetings, but I trust they are experiencing the freedom to open up and share with each other even when I’m not present. Everyone must carry their own burdens in life, but as “widow sisters” we can stand in solidarity together to get through a memory, a thought or a lost dream.