You’ve been told that you’ve survived possibly the worst thing that will ever happen to you: the death of a spouse.
Despite wanting to give up, you pushed through. You continued to face each day even when you wished for death to take you. The pain was just too much. No one should have to hurt this much, shed so many tears.
And speaking of tears, your shower or car became your place of refuge, where the tears could flow uninterrupted. Where you didn’t have to “be strong” for the children or pretend that you were “okay” for worried friends and family.
In the midst of grieving, you tacked problems you never in a million years imagined you’d ever face let alone by yourself. Still, you overcame. You saved the house. Put the first of two children through college. Managed the finances. You’ve done all this and more…without your biggest cheerleader, your life partner. And, with each task – big or small – you earned a new widow warrior badge.
But my widow sister, let me encourage you to not allow that title of warrior to define you to the point where you feel numb to the world, become detached from life or ignore your mental health.
In my own life, there have been times when I’ve been deeply saddened or hurt by something that happened or was done to me and instead of allowing myself the time to work through that emotion, you know what I told myself? This is nothing. My husband died and I’m still standing; still surviving. What I have going on now pales in comparison to his death.
In reality, it was important to me at that moment in my life and under “normal” circumstances would have affected me greatly. I dismissed my own feelings and emotions and forced myself to suck it up because I’d already been through the rawest of pain. Surely, I wasn’t going to let anything “break” me. No, I was too strong for that. I’d already been through much more hell.
Like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, sometimes it’s just one thing that takes you over the edge emotionally. Yes, you “handled” your spouse’s death but that disappointment at work, that friendship that ended, that relationship that didn’t work…those emotions may need your attention too. You don’t have to sweep them under the rug because they fail to live up to the tragedy of your spouse’s death.
Often there is greater healing and a speedier “recovery” by exploring these emotions vs. dismissing them. And, if you need to seek out a therapist, do so. Just because you didn’t need professional help after losing your husband, doesn’t mean you can’t utilize a therapist at this stage of your life.
We can’t continue to use our spouse’s death as a shield. It’s okay to be present in the moment…allow ourselves to feel pain, hurt and sadness in our day to day lives. It’s not a sign of weakness to cry about something unrelated to widowhood. You don’t lose widowed warrior status for acknowledging and addressing disappointment or other negative things that occur.
There is a Jamaican expression that says “If it doesn’t cost life, it doesn’t cost anything”. It’s a mantra I told myself over and over after my husband died. And, for the most part, it’s a true statement. We as widows know that firsthand. But I also have come to know with 100% certainty that going through life numb, uncaring and emotionless isn’t truly living.
Mom to a feisty preschooler, Kerry Phillips became widowed at age 32. She runs an online support group for young widows and widowers venturing back into the world of dating and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.