1. This really is as horrible as you’d expect it to be. I’ve made it my writer’s mission not to sugar coat anything, so understand that this is the honest truth of it all. It sucks. It’s miserable. It’s dark. It’s excruciatingly lonely.
2. As much as you dear friends and family try to understand, you just can’t, and we wouldn’t want you to. Listen folks, we love you all to pieces, but until you’ve been in our shoes, there will always be a language barrier that can never fully be translated.
3. We’re trying. We’re trying really hard. Just getting up in the morning and getting out of bed is a huge accomplishment, and so anything extra that we get done is a big deal. Please be conscious of that.
4. Widow Brain is very, scarily real. You might have known the widow in your life to have her shit really together before her person passed away. I can assure you she doesn’t have that same mind anymore, and it’s due to a real bitch named Grief. Don’t be surprised if we remember the name of your childhood goldfish but completely forget to call and wish you a happy birthday. Just widow brain creeping in.
5. We are not who we used to be, and we will never be that person again. Who we were passed away with our partners. That love, that energy, that person…is long, long gone. Some wonderful, courageous, and bold Phoenix is in the process of rising from the pile of ashes that was our old lives. Be patient with us. It takes a minute to learn how to navigate life-changing grief and bravery.
6. Grief doesn’t go away. The model of grief that you learned in your psychology class? Yeah…it doesn’t work like that. Those “stages” can all happen in the same 5 minutes, for crying out loud! Please, don’t try and rush our process by trying to identify the current stage of grief we’re in. Talk to any widow who is years out from their loss, and they will tell you that they are still very much grieving. It isn’t just something you do for the first year and then feel better. Grief is a tattoo on your heart.
7. We miss our people 24/7. The pain and longing for them is a constant. There will never come a point in our journey where we say “You know, if it wasn’t for so and so’s death, I wouldn’t be the strong, independent woman I am today!” Nope. Hard nope. I promise, no matter how content we are with our current lives or chapter 2…we will still never be okay with the fact that our people had to die. It will never make sense, it will never have enough meaning to justify the action, and it will never be okay.
Widowhood comes in all shapes and sizes, and no two situations are exactly alike, but I can tell you that we all know the same kind of pain, and we will always understand one another because of it.
Next time you come across a widow that you know and care about, let her know how beautiful she is even with tear-stained cheeks and puffy eyes. Let her know that you see her, and you will listen. Let her know that she is free to do the things that feed her soul without judgment from a culture that puts a strict timeline on grief. The same culture that coins the phrase, “moving on.” *shudder*
Let her know you’re proud of her, and you see her fighting and trying to heal.
Let her know she is loved.