My husband and I only discussed one of us dying when one of our close friends passed away. Looking back, it was a judgmental conversation of what we would do or feel instead of a productive one. We didn’t fully talk about our wishes with each other until we found out my husband had terminal cancer. A good percentage of people never get to have this talk with their spouse or loved ones. We are not encouraged to talk about death like we do with divorces or other life changing events.
Creating a new life for yourself after a loss is hard to describe. It’s filled with trial and error, secondary losses, happiness, and a roller coaster of emotions. You must learn to balance and blend the wishes of the living and the dead. People want you to be sad, but not too sad. But if you’re happy or find love again, people immediately jump to the conclusion you didn’t love your spouse. I felt like I had to have permission to live again. In fact, people were curious if my husband had given me permission to do ANYTHING again.
The part of the funeral people missed is when I buried my life with my husband. Every hope or dream or plan we had together no longer exists. Your family and friends disappear along with financially stability, your support system from your spouse, their memories, and the balance they provided in your home. The people in our life get to leave the service and go back to their normal life, and they place the same expectation on us.
When I started changing and adapting to our new life, it created conflict. I actively decided not to wallow in my grief and start channeling it into things that made me happy. I faced a lot of criticism, especially from some family and friends, because my coping wasn’t the same as theirs. I moved forward when they didn’t want to. I’ve had to decide our wellbeing comes first and I don’t owe anyone an explanation for living.
Unfortunately, this is common problem within the widowed community. We have more people who are only supportive of us if it validates their perception of widowhood. Most people only get to experience widow or widowers from older people in their life and cultural experiences. I can tell you being a widow at 29 is different than being widowed at 75. I’ve had to learn to be vocal and tell people how each experience is the same but different.
We can help create understanding and awareness by having open discussions with those we love. While we are all concerned about the afterlife, we also need to let our loved ones know its ok to keep moving forward in this life once we’re gone.