I’m not exactly a widow and not just because we didn’t get married. Jesse is still in a minimally conscious state after a traumatic brain injury January 2019. While he’s in this in-between as he’s trying to heal, I’m also in a state of limbo.
There’s a lot in this book I could relate to. The friends who say “if you ever need to talk” but don’t know what to say. The research presented interspersed in this book (along the varied stories of 6 very different women coming together over the common bond of widows), suggests that talking about grief and trauma doesn’t necessarily help. It often drags the person back into that traumatizing memory. The friends/family who offer their vague assistance “if you need anything just let me know…” but you don’t know how anyone could help. The answer actually is unprompted action-just do something for the person, for me! Take me for coffee, bring over a movie, drag me to get a pedicure. Right now, momentarily, this pandemic offers a convenient out to having to do any of that.
One thing these ladies were able to do was move forward, make decisions for themselves without having to think of other people’s needs (except for the ones with kids of course that offers a slight detour). They were able to sail their own ships, close a chapter but hold tight to happy memories, find love again. I by no means want a finality if it means having to give up hope that the love of my life won’t return. But it leaves me in this perpetual state of grief and uncertainty. Stuck.
These 6 widows were able to bond over the fact they lost their husbands. Because when you lose the most important person in your life, it changes you in a way you just can’t explain to someone who hasn’t been there. My godmother is a widow and when this happened she was the closest who could see the pain in my eyes. But at the same time, she encouraged me to go forth and live my life for MYSELF, to move forward. But being a widow and being whatever the fuck I am is different in that my person isn’t dead, he’s here, he’s not communicating except for eye contact, facial expressions (not consistent) and the very few words he has said (in correct context, but very sparse), he has the possibility (heartbreakingly not the probability) to return. It’s a total mindfuck.
The ladies in the book upon their first unconventional widow support group all recounted and laughed about people calling them “strong”. Please if you’re reading this and know someone going through grief don’t say “you’re so strong”. I can’t explain how patronizing it is. And please don’t pity us. At least speaking for myself, it doesn’t make me feel good. I both want people to know the truth about my experience, but also not have it define me.
Tangential: Awhile ago on the blog I shared about a book “It’s Okay to Laugh, Crying is Cool Too”. I’m terrified to go back and read my thoughts (this is precisely why I’ve never successfully kept a journal). It was about the authors experience of losing her husband at a young age. I read it before this happened to Jesse. It now haunts me now, that book and that woman. Over the last year+ I kept thinking about it and her heartbreak. Then a few months ago my friend shared a Ted talk about grief and moving forward. And a few minutes in I realized that’s the woman’s who book I keep thinking about! Then last month I went to a friends art opening and a curator who knows what I’ve been dealing with (at least surface level) asked me how I was doing and I said “Terrible”. She suggested I listen to this podcast called “Terrible, Thanks for asking “. The interviewer speaks to people who are facing a number of terrible things. The first episode I listened to had a freshly minted widow on. She had setup the interview because her husband was fighting a long battle with cancer but as fate would have it he passed the day before, but the woman wanted to keep the interview. As the two women are talking, commiserating over both being widows, the interviewer uttered the name Aaron. WTF! It’s the same woman! And there’s a whole series of podcasts of her interviewing people about their grief. I haven’t gone back to listen more, but probably will. It’s a scab I keep picking at.