In the last week, I know of two women in our community who have become widows. (I ‘m sure there have been many more.) I don’t know these women well – one I’ve met and the other I’ve only heard mentioned. But through many mutual friends and social media I’ve been able to follow their stories. And so this entry begins –
To my new fellow widows: Welcome to widowhood. It’s not a coveted title or one you would ever seek out. It may feel like a cold slap in the face or something reserved for ancient women wearing long black dresses. Today and the days ahead will be filled with many lows, and even some highs. Tears will sneak up on you and sometimes overtake you. Sometimes you will be amazed at how well you handle the details of your life and sometimes nothing at all will bring a watershed.
There will be forms to sign and paperwork you never expected. Get ready to be told you’re too old for some things and too young for others. Take your time in dealing with your husbands’ personal clothes, papers and mementos. But as soon as you feel able, do get up to speed on the bills, mortgage and other legalities because the rest of the world is marching ahead and they still expect to get paid. (Get ready to have to sign an affidavit for some legal processes stating that you are single – I say this because it took me totally off guard and was like a punch in the gut.) Get good legal and financial counsel, but be careful to keep your private life private.
Rally your children around you. They may live out of town, or have obligations elsewhere. Try to find the balance between times together and time apart for each member of your family. They need you as much as you need them. And if somebody has to take a semester off or an extended leave of absence, do it – twenty years from now it won’t have mattered, except to those of you that had that time together. Retell all the stories, good and bad. When you see or hear something that reminds you of your husband, don’t be afraid to say, “That’s sounds just like Michael” or “Michael would have loved this”. And laugh. I know this sounds impossible, but the day after Michael died as we were planning his service, I remember thinking “there is way too much laughter around here for a funeral”. But we laughed a lot in life together and he wouldn’t have wanted us to stop after he was gone.
And lastly I would say, continue to do the things that you did when your husband was alive. I know you won’t be able to do all of them, but the things that you enjoyed as a couple and as a family. Go to your favorite restaurants. Eventually travel back to your favorite vacation destinations. Yes, it will be hard to be there without him. But I think it is harder to never go back and remember all those wonderful times you had together. And your children need to have those times of remembrance too. They need to see their mom both strong and weak, both happy and sad, both active and idle. Remember, one day they will probably be here without you, and you are showing them how to live in and through the loss of someone you love.
To the friends of these new widows: Love these precious women. In the first few weeks there will such a flourish of activity, and your help with so many things will be appreciated and remembered. But a month from now and three months from now, be sure to continue to call them. And pray for them and their children. Whether you’re close by or far away, pray for them. God hears no matter where the prayer comes from.
Continue your relationships with these precious women. Go to lunch, if that’s what you did together. Play tennis or exercise together, if that’s your thing. They need to feel like there are some things that continue normally even thought their world has been turned upside down.
Include these ladies in whatever your relationship with them looked like. If you normally did things as a couple with her and her husband, continue to invite her. She wants to keep up her relationships with everyone, not just other women. Yes, your dinner reservation will be for 3 or 5 now, instead of the preferred even number. And there may be an occasional empty seat or unused ticket at the theatre. So what. She still wants to feel like she’s a part of all those same associations.
And by the way – she’s going to cry. And don’t think you caused it and don’t worry about apologizing for it. She cries. She cries when she’s with somebody and when she’s alone, when she’s busy and when she’s still. You don’t have the power to make her cry nor do you have the power to make her stop. So just go with the flow and pass the Kleenex.
As for me, I have so much to be thankful for. Michael and I had wonderful times together and wonderful children to share our lives. I have managed to survive 13 months without him. It’s been hard and I’ve learned a lot. My children have soothed my heartache and made me laugh, while I hope I’ve helped them to grow and learn how to live through the surprises life throws at us. I have the most incredible friends that still include me, travel with me, help me, pray with and for me, and laugh with me. And I thank God for each one of them.
To my new widow friends, if I can do anything at all, please contact me. I won’t leave my phone number here, but you can friend me on social media and we can go from there. I’m not an expert at this, I’m just a few steps further along this journey of life than you are. And I welcome a fellow traveler.