Learning to Embrace Grief

Those who haven’t experienced the depth of grief tend to look upon the pain of a broken person with this idea that this pain and these feelings are temporary, and that eventually this loss will become a past event that we will move on from. It would be nice if loss and grief could be wrapped up in such a neat little package, to put away and be taken out only when the need to revisit it arises. It would be nice if grief happened in those five foreseeable stages, one at a time. It would be nice if the pain of grief ended.

But then again, no it wouldn’t.

Grief is complex, it’s difficult, it’s painful, it doesn’t make sense. It changes you and everything around you. When you lose the one you have spent your life with, you lose the life that you once had and the person you once were. And what you are left with is cold and unfamiliar. You feel the stabbing of loss with every breath you take. Even breathing feels different now. The world can go from something so normal and uneventful and happy… to gone. Just like that. And suddenly what you are left with is not your life… And yet it is all you’ve got. It is easy to look into your own pain and want to stop feeling it – until you realize that this is love. Grief is a path, not a place. Grief exists because love exists. Without love, this wouldn’t hurt. Without love, this would be easy. I wouldn’t trade a single day with my husband to avoid this pain. Not one. When I lost my husband it was sudden, I never saw it coming. I sent him out to pick up pizza, not knowing that it would be the last time I would ever kiss him goodbye. I am grateful that the last words I ever heard from him, and the last words I ever spoke to him, were “I love you.” That love is the reason all of this hurts so much, it is the reason that my world collapsed and my heart shattered. And it is the reason I will be OK.

Healing is not about getting over it, moving on, or leaving our loved ones behind. Healing is about finding peace with what has happened, what you have lost, and what you are left with. You will never get over the ones you love, I will never get over my husband. I will never stop loving him and I will never stop being his wife. But this doesn’t mean my life will stop or that it will revolve around my husband or this loss forever. This doesn’t mean I will not live a full life, maybe even love again. I am 30 years old, my daughter is two. I intend to live, I intend to love. One day. For now, I am still learning to live this new life. He will never be left behind because he is a part of who I am now. I will never stop thinking about him. I will never stop loving him. I am his and he is mine, always and forever. But things are different now. So I carry him in my broken heart, it is healing to keep him there. A part of me went with him when he died, but a part of him stayed with me and it fills the broken pieces of my heart with light and hope and love.

Your grief will last as long as your love. You will not stop grieving simply because some period of time has passed. You will grieve forever. But you will not hurt like this forever. You will not stay broken and shattered. Life will not always be this overwhelming. And it is ok that it hurts this bad now. It is ok to feel so broken and overwhelmed. This is what happens when your life catches fire and burns to the ground right in front of you. It hurts and it is overwhelming. But you will slowly rebuild. It won’t look like it used to look because that old life burned down. He died. She died. It is not OK but it is what happened. And as you rebuild your life you will realize that they are still a part of you, and always will be. You will learn to be happy again. And the one you love will never really be gone.

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Letter To The Young Widower

sad-lonely-man-on-bench

It is hard to lose the one you love. The one you shared your life with, the one who made you whole. This is directed towards one specific man in his specific circumstance, but it is meant for all those who struggle.

I was 29 when I lost my husband in a car accident. I’m now 30. We were married for less than 3 years when it happened, I knew him for less than 6. You had only two years with the woman that you were proud to call your wife. I know that right now to you those few extra years seem enormous. And you are right, they are. It isn’t fair that she was taken so fast. It isn’t fair that you found love and it was stolen away so fast. The rug was ripped out from underneath you and now you feel like you’ve lost everything. Everything you had and everything you were is suddenly gone… It’s a lot to take in. This new life is a lot to take on. It’s too much at times. It’s not fair and it’s not ok… But you will find a way. Not because you are so strong now, but because you have to. This is the life that has been handed to you and for now you need to grieve. You will spend time being angry, sad, and broken. You will get some strength back and then you will fall into your grief again. And it’s going to hurt.

But it gets better. You won’t always feel like THIS. You will learn to live again. And you won’t do it without her, you will do it because of her. Because you loved her and because she loved you. And she wants you to be happy again, so you will grab onto that piece of your heart that knows she wants you to keep living. It’ll take time. But the waves of grief will eventually become softer and easier to handle. Because you will become stronger. All the weight that you now carry on your shoulders will make you stronger and you will live in her honor. Hold on until then. Until you know that you will get through it, because you will. But for now, grieve.

This journey is difficult for a thousand reasons that are so hard to understand for those who haven’t been through this. And what makes it even more difficult is the we don’t fully understand the journey ourselves. I’m not convinced I will ever understand, but I am only just more than a year down this lifelong path so what I know is limited. But I do know that part of getting through it is to hang on to the community of those who are also going through it. No two widow(er)s are walking down the same path, because our grief is as individual as the love we shared. And I also know that the journey of a young widow is unique. We grieve what we once had, but we also grieve for what could have been and what now will never be. We grieve the life we almost had. We must learn to live this new life that we never planned to live, all the while wishing for our old lives back. The journey we have is different from those who had longer… But then again, all our journeys are different.

You will go through waves of grief. There will be times when life feels unbearable and you aren’t sure if you can survive this. You can. You will. And in those deeply painful moments the only thing you have to do is simply hang on. Just don’t give up. That is enough. You don’t have to smile if you can’t smile. You don’t have to pretend you’re ok. You don’t have to take on the real world right now. One day you will know that you will be OK. But for now, just hang on. That is all you have to do. It sounds so simple, but it isn’t. It’s painfully difficult… And when you need to lean on someone, lean on anyone you can. You need all the support you can get right now. This is too much weight to carry alone.