Being a widow at 20-years-old was not in my childhood, prince charming-filled dreams. Neither was becoming a mom at 18 years of age. The people who were around after the funeral told me that being a widow must feel a lot like a divorce. I believe that was their way of being empathetic. I had never been divorced, but I imagined divorce being a wee bit better. After burying my Marine, I learned to navigate the grief waters. Going to the places where I lost it all however, reminded me that I hadn’t learned yet.
When your spouse dies, every dream you shared dies. Every promise and every hope are gone, and it doesn’t seem fair.
I am a strong woman now and I was a strong woman then, raised by strong women from the day I was born. Yet, the unexpected loss of my spouse brought me to my knees crying, “Oh, God, why!!” We had been married just shy of five months — I consider that short time a blessing in many ways. I had one of each holiday to grieve through compared to those of you that have five or twenty years’ worth of memories.
My husband was at the end of his life, mentally. It wasn’t cancer or a sudden car accident that took his life — it was suicide.
He was trying to hold onto something, and my son and I were that something — his last rope. Our short, six month long courtship didn’t teach me enough about the hardships of foster care and the family woes that were imprinted in his mind and physical being. Becoming a Marine pulled every ugly bit out of him, bringing him to the point where he thought dying was better than living. Bless it. Still today I find myself thinking I could have done something more for him. Heaven seems so near and troubles seem so small when God brings you through something bigger than yourself.
To the Momma that was left behind:
The worst is not getting an opportunity to say, “I’m sorry,” or to hear, “I’m sorry,” from your spouse. Of course you’re still thinking “I should have seen this symptom in him. Why did he take that way home? Our last conversation shouldn’t have ended so bitterly.” You are no longer playing your most important role — that of wife. You have lost part of your identity, one that you longed for from your days dressing up Barbie and Ken to walk down the aisle. What do you do with his things? How do you handle people telling you it’s time to move on? Don’t listen. Go at your own pace. His clothes hung in the same spot and his bathroom drawer remained untouched except for me taking out his cologne for memory’s sake until the month before I remarried.
Moving on doesn’t have a pace.
How do you move on from the “grow old together” when “’til death do us part” has been fulfilled? My heart goes out to the widow left behind, no matter if she is 20- or 80-years-old. You didn’t ask for a way out because your way was to walk beside him for forever. Thank goodness, you lived the days out together while he was here. But what if you didn’t? What if you rushed through so many days and then he was gone, and you wished you had slowed down? Don’t we all wish for more time? You now look at life through lenses unique to your story. The friend that is fighting with their spouse and tells you about it a month after losing yours, makes you want to shake her and say, “At least you have him!” But that is selfish, right? Life is painful; there is no doubt about that.
The kids — those resilient little blessings that cuddle up next to you and say, “Are you thinking about Daddy? He’s in heaven now, Momma.” Three-years-old and they understand death already. It doesn’t seem fair at all. What little, compassionate warriors they are as they see you dealing with the hardest part of your lives. If I could pour buckets of hope onto a widow, I would. My heart goes out to you.
Heartache is found in every death of a spouse that I see in the news or walk through with my grandmother. My Nana, just a little over a year into life as a widow, looks at my Papaw’s chair and cries saying, “I can just see him sitting there next to me. I will never get rid of that chair. Those worn-in imprints are his and those arms worn from raising himself up to get me a Coca-Cola with ice.” She patches the edges with care, just as we patch up wounds that will never heal without scars.