Ramblings of a Modern Widow
No matter how much I heal or move forward in life, this will never go away. Chris and I shared great love and in turn, his death leaves me with grief. It doesn't consume my daily thoughts anymore and honestly, I've grown accustomed to his absence. When my daughters do or say something that reminds me of him it primarily brings me happiness without pain. We had eleven years of friendship and love. Our first kiss and "I love you's" happened 18 years ago this month.
(Sock Hop Homecoming, September 2003)
Something I miss that you can only comprehend if you have been in my shoes is this: the ability to give a simple introduction to my family. "My husband's name is Chris and we have a toddler named Abbi." It's so much more complicated now, between explaining about Chris' death, my second marriage, our blend of kids. People typically have a look of shock when I tell them I was widowed young. Though it still feels like a taboo topic, it's the truth of my life and I won't be silenced.
Yesterday I had to get the little girls covid-tested due to some mild symptoms (they were negative). On their charts it had their previous last name, the one they received at birth. I had to call and get that switched over to my husband Don's last name, as that is now their legal name. The woman on the other end of the phone was very confused and asked if I was their adoptive mom. Sigh. I gave her the "short and sweet" version of what had happened in our family, also explaining my change back to my maiden name.
(My little family at my sister's wedding, Sept. 2016. PC: Joanna Samples)
I think people sometimes wonder how I am emotionally able to get up in front of a crowd and share my story of love and loss. They don't realize that it has been rehearsed day in and day out for the mundane, not just to inspire others. The more you speak what has happened in your life, the easier it is to repeat.
This past weekend I had the privilege of going to Modern Widows Club's (MWC) annual Widow Empowerment Event (WEE). I met and connected with widows from across the nation. Some of us were widowed young while others were well into retirement at the time of their loss. Some of us had children still in the home, some had adult children, and others had none. We were of all races, many cultural backgrounds, many different spiritual beliefs. We had widows of suicide, fires, cancer, work accidents, car wrecks, cardiac events, and on and on. Some had re-partnered and others had not. We were bonded by the common thread of great loss. We all knew the meaning of starting over; of searching for identity and purpose. Every woman had come because she wanted to continue moving forward in life instead of giving in to stagnancy. Some were there to be fulfilled and encouraged while others were there to do the encouraging. I feel like I was there to do some of both.
I cannot tell you what it means to be in a room full of women who "get it". We are sisters without even speaking a word. To be precise, as we put it at MWC, we are "wisters" (widow + sister).
(Hugs with Carolyn Moor, founder of Modern Widows Club, WEE 2021)
One of the most healing activities we did this weekend utilized plates and sharpies. We were instructed to write down things we wanted/needed to let go of. I wrote of a need to let go of guilt for not being the mother I've wanted to since Chris died. I wrote the words "anger", "feeling unworthy", "anxiety". I threw my plate and it shattered into countless pieces in front of me. It was therapeutic to watch it break, a symbol of my power to change myself.
(Plate breaking exercise, Widow Empowerment Event, 2021)
No matter the paths you've taken in life or the traumas you have been through, you do not have to remain stuck. There is hope for better days ahead. There is help in community, in faith, in resources designed to heal (counseling, etc.). It's hard work and I would be lying if I said anything to the contrary. You are resilient and you are loved. You can thrive.
(Widow Empowerment Event, Southern Illinois chapter, 2021)