Widows Can Be Happy, Too

My husband and I had shared many plans, many dreams… we had so many things we looked forward to doing in our future together. But the future is not set in stone. And that future is something you can plan and hope and want, but it is never guaranteed. Our future together came to a very sudden end on the night I lost him. He was torn from my life when life was ripped from his body. It’s been more than two years since then and I feel like that was another lifetime ago, and in a way it was. I am not the me that planned all those plans and dreamed all those dreams. I am not the me that kissed him goodbye that night. The me that lives on today is a lot like that girl that I knew, but I am so vastly different. 

My daughter and I are in England on a trip to visit my mom. As much as I wanted to come over here to visit my mom, I had a hard time wanting to make this trip because this was supposed to be the three of us. I had visited here before a few times, but never with Matt. I wanted to make this trip with him. I wanted to see the sights and experience the culture with him. And now he’s not here and I can’t do those things with him.

I realize that those plans that we planned will never happen… for him. And for us. But some of them can still happen for me and for my daughter. Life has changed, everything is different. But here I am in England giving my daughter this experience that he will never have, doing things he will never do with us. I am heartbroken that he isn’t with us, but I am glad that I can give this to her. I am sad that I will never have the memories that I wanted to make with him, but I am happy that I get to make memories with my daughter, the little girl he gave me.

My life will never be the same. I am now a widowed mom to a three year old and a nanny, which means that everything falls on me all the time. I do not share the responsibility of caring for my daughter with a daycare or school or another parent. It is on me every moment of every single day. I do not get a break. I’m tired and stressed, I’m sad and broken. But I’m happy. I am happy because I owe it to my husband to look around and appreciate the things that I have that he is now missing. I am happy because of my daughter. She will never know her daddy, not really. She will never miss him or grieve him. One day she will start to grieve the parent she missed out on having, and that will be an easier loss for her to handle than the loss many children have to grieve. 

I am happy because I owe it to my husband to be happy. I want to live up to the person he saw when he looked at me. I need to be the mother he believed I would be. I need to be a happy mom for my daughter, and so I work at it. It’s not always easy to be happy. Sometimes it’s hard work just to push past all the reasons I want to give up on happy. But I’ve been working at it for two years now and I’ve gotten the hang of it. My daughter is a happy child. She lost her father at 13 months old and for the last two years she’s been raised by a grieving widow… and she’s happy. So I can’t help but think I must be doing something right.

I hope I am making my husband proud. I think I am. And I know that she will be ok, because I will be ok. We will both do fine because I have decided that happiness is a choice that I get to make, and I will continue to make it. 

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A Widowed Mother’s Wish

“I may be imperfect and mess up a lot. I may say things I will later regret. But never doubt for one moment that I love you and want you to live a great life.”

There is no doubt that any mom is imperfect, but a widowed mom carries with her the fear that her imperfections will no longer be balanced out by the one she can no longer turn to. She fears she will never be able to be both mother and father. She won’t be. She can only be herself. She can only do her best. And when her best isn’t as good as she wants it to be, she can only learn to forgive herself for not being more than herself. And then learn that forgiveness is not needed because she is good enough on her own. These are very hard things to learn. I am trying to learn them myself. I do my best, but I am not perfect. I will never be perfect, but I no longer strive for perfection. I strive to be good enough.

You are good enough as long as you stay in the fight. Don’t give up. Don’t decide that you will never be as good as you think you should be. Don’t settle for mediocre, because you are not mediocre. Decide that you are good enough and you will find that you are.

Healing Through Creativity

Over the last year I have spent the majority of my “spare” time and energy on personal growth. Being widowed is hard. But I am not just a widow. I am a stay-at-home widowed mommy of a toddler. This pretty much goes without saying, but sanity is relative for me. The house is always messy, even when its clean! And there is not a single corner of a single room that does not scream toddler. The biggest problem, of course, is that this new life of widowed motherhood makes it nearly impossible for me to find time for myself. But I recently made a change to this and I now have “creativity Tuesdays”.

Since shortly after my husband died, Tuesdays have been my “day off”, when my daughter goes to Grandma’s house. I used to have a simple rule for Tuesdays: NO GUILT. I spent so much time overwhelmed and broken that occasionally I could do something for myself on Tuesdays, or use it organize my life. But many days I was so tired and just wanted to sleep, or stare at the wall, or sit on the floor and cry. So Guilt Free Tuesdays was what I needed to survive.

I have recently changed the rule. I decided that it is time for me to have Creativity Tuesdays. My two creative outlets are writing and photography. The last birthday gift my husband ever got me was a very nice Nikon DSLR camera, but after he died I stopped using it. I just couldn’t see beauty worth capturing, so it ended up hiding out in the back of my closet just sitting there. Well, I dug it out and I’ve been playing with it and learning how to use it. I have started teaching myself a little here and a little there. I love it! So now between writing and photography, I finally have hobbies. I finally have something that I have started doing just for me. Both are solitary activities for me, something that I am a little surprised about. I have always thought of myself as a social butterfly, and I’m not sure that I would have enjoyed spending this type of quality time by myself so regularly. But I find it peaceful and personally rewarding, even if most of what I write is read by only myself and my photos are only seen on my walls. And as I am raising a toddler by myself, with no one coming home to me at the end of the day, without a workplace to escape to during the day, without someone to share any of these responsibilities with… it is nice to feel like I can finally breathe. It is nice to have an identity that is more than just mommy.

Somehow, in losing my husband, that transition from wife to widow changed everything and I lost me. I am starting to feel as though I am getting me back. Not the same me, that person is gone and won’t be coming back… and I am fine with that. I like the new me. I am not the person that I once was. I have changed in ways that I couldn’t explain if I tried, in part because I don’t exactly know who I am yet. I’m working on it… thanks to my husband.

When Will Good Enough Ever Be Good Enough?

 

I am a widow, and the mom of a toddler. It isn’t easy to be both of those things. Hell, it isn’t easy to be either one of those things, but here we are. When I lost my husband everything changed. My life changed, everything was different and I didn’t know what to do. But I knew that if I was going to give my daughter any chance at the life she deserves, I had to change.

Self-compassion is something I learned only after Matt died. Everyone would tell me to go easy on myself, but to me these were words that had no meaning. As much as I wanted to understand what this meant, I had no idea how to do it! I had my ah-ha moment after doing a lot of work with my therapist and doing a lot of soul searching. And then one night, as I was hanging pictures on my wall, I dropped a picture frame. It wasn’t a special or important picture frame, or one that I even particularly liked. It didn’t break, I simply fumbled and dropped it. But when I did, the words that came out of my mouth were terrible, and they were cruel. You’re so stupid! What is wrong with you? I hate you. This may seem like an over the top reaction to dropping a picture frame that didn’t break and that I don’t even like. It is. This is an over the top reaction to absolutely anything. And these are things that I would NEVER say to anyone… except me. But on this night something was different because I stopped myself, and I said out loud, “Stop it! Shut the hell up. Go to bed.” And I did.

I made a habit of doing that until I learned how to give myself a break, how to speak to myself the way I would speak to anyone else. Now I try to follow one simple rule; to speak to myself the way I would speak to a friend. I practice this and it isn’t always easy, but it is important to me. It is important that those terrible words don’t enter my house or my head. They are not welcome here anymore.

I did all that soul searching and healing of old wounds because I knew in my heart that I could not heal from Matt’s death if I didn’t heal other things about myself first. I couldn’t be the person he would want me to be, or the mother that my daughter deserves, if I didn’t heal myself. So I put my grief on hold for a while and I dealt with me. It’s all just so much work! It’s hard to be a widow. It’s hard to be a mom. I need to be the person standing in my own corner, picking myself back up. I need to show myself the same kindness and compassion that I can no longer look to my husband for.

I want only the best for my daughter. I want to teach her that she can do anything. I want her to be confident enough in herself to be authentically her. To figure out what she really wants in this life and then to be courageous enough to go for it. I want her to dream big, knowing that big dreams take hard work and a lot of failure. I can’t teach her any of this if I am not living it. I can’t teach her to believe in herself if I don’t believe in myself. So I’m figuring it out.

I told this to a friend of mine recently and now I am reminding myself:

Sometimes surviving is a full time job. Sometimes it feels like you can’t handle as much as you think you should, because you forget to include all the things you are doing that you can’t put on a list or on your schedule. You are picking up the pieces and going a thousand miles an hour… and trying to be normal. But he died. This isn’t normal. Nothing about this is normal. You can’t be superwoman because this isn’t a comic book. Don’t try to be superwoman, she’s not real. Be you, you are real and you are wonderful. Don’t risk getting lost trying to be more than human. I prefer you when you are human.

I’m not the same person that I used to be. I am not yet where I want to be but I am working on it, and that is good enough for me because I am healing.