The shower is my safe place. With a little planning (a movie, snack, and coloring pages for my kids) I can have close to half an hour of uninterrupted time to myself. The shower is the place where I allow myself to think, and when I need to, it is where I allow myself to completely fall apart.
I was mid shampoo this morning, when a wave of grief hit hard. My anniversary is a week away. We would have been celebrating ten years next Wednesday. I miss him fiercely every day, but my heart breaks when I think of celebrating our marriage without him again. It is by far the the hardest holiday of the year for me. As I remembered this, my heart immediately sunk. I found myself sitting on the shower floor with tears streaming down my face.
I lost a lot of myself when I lost my husband. It hurts to have someone that was such a huge part of your heart, be so abruptly taken. I have had to not only grieve the loss of my best friend, but the loss of my children’s father, the loss of our future together, the loss of the life we had created, and the loss of much of my identity as well.
Widowhood was a title that I hated in the beginning stages of this journey. I remember the first time I went to grief therapy, they asked me to fill out a health history form. A line read “Marital status: single, married, divorced, widow/widower, other” I remember the breath being knocked out of me when I read the word “widow.” I hated it so much, and couldn’t even bring myself to check the box. It was an ominous sounding dark word. I wanted nothing to do with it.
Over the past year though, my attitude about widowhood has changed, probably mostly because I have changed. I have been through a lot over the past sixteen months, and have grown into so much more than I was before.
I watched my capable husband struggle to even be able to form words. I held him and told him I loved him, then saw him fade as he was intubated and his condition progressed. I cuddled up with him and listened to his machine induced breathing, and the beeps and dripping noises of the medical equipment that was prolonging his life. I collapsed in a hospital conference room when the news was just too much for me to bear. I made the decision to end life support for the man I loved more than my own life. I had to endure the experience of sitting my children down and telling them the worst news imaginable. I held them as they said goodbye to their father. I planned a funeral and buried my husband. I dealt with the incredible amount of shock that my body plunged into immediately following his passing. I lost my appetite completely, and threw up often. I obsessed for months, went to meetings, filled out paperwork, sat on the phone for hours, until I finally learned how to financially take care of my family. I breathed through intense panic attacks, and massaged my hands when the anxiety made them completely numb. I participated in family events, even though my husband’s absence was unbearable. I went to church every week in the building that had so many memories of my happy family, and then a closing casket. I got up and lived life when honestly I wished I could just give up. I sat alone in my bed and endured the dark, lonely nights with only my thoughts, and a framed picture by my bed to keep me company. I got up at two in the morning and cleaned vomit out of my carpet. I learned how to take care of my children on my own, and though it was exhausting and incredibly difficult, I was a solo parent. I wiped the tears off of their sweet faces as they struggled to make sense of the loss of their father. I held them and sobbed myself, as I tried to comfort them, all the while feeling too overwhelmed to even be able to help myself.
I am amazed some days that I have made it this far. That first year was excruciating especially. But as I look back at how far I have come, and how much I have learned, I feel so empowered. I feel capable. I feel so completely broken, and so incredibly strong, all at the same time.
Being a widow has taken on a new meaning for me. It is a club I never wanted to join, but now that I am here, I see so much good.
My story is far from the worst that I have heard. There are women out there that truly have endured more that any one person ever should. Over the past sixteen months, I have met others, widows like me: some online friends, some over the phone conversations, and a couple of dinner dates with other young moms in my same situation. It is a beautiful thing to see how grief has shaped these women into loving, self sufficient, compassionate souls. They have been through incredible pain, and have felt the overwhelming darkness that surrounds the loss of a spouse, but they choose every day to look for the good. They have endured so much, but are more lovely because of it. Widowhood is a sisterhood of love, loss, pain, perseverance, and the ability to dig deep when you feel like you are suffocating.
Through losing my own sweet husband, I have found new parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. Becoming a widow was the most pivotal, life changing event for me. I am who I am today, because of the painful growth that I have experienced through my trials.
I have had a few well meaning people ask, “aren’t you so happy you aren’t a widow anymore?”
Let me clarify.
I am SO incredibly grateful for my new husband. He has opened a whole new chapter in my life, and I am incredibly in love with him. I feel so blessed to have found such an understanding, sweet man. He really is perfect for me. He’s my person, and I plan on spending every day of the rest of forever loving him.
So yes, when I go to the doctor, I can happily check the married box. I am beyond thrilled to be Mrs. Little. But, I am still a widow.
Saying “I do” doesn’t change the fact that I have a husband that is in heaven. It didn’t make me forget his presence in my life. I don’t miss him any less. It doesn’t erase the past year, or the pain that I feel when I remember him taking his final breath.
And I still have days when I am rinsing my hair, and then I find myself sobbing on the floor of my shower. I still love him. I always will.
The best part is that I don’t have to choose. I can be a widow and a wife. I can love both of my sweet husbands. I can be happy and sad simultaneously. There are no rules when it comes to grieving. I feel incredibly blessed to have found a husband who understands this, and is so supportive of me. I can (and do) feel a full spectrum of emotion all at once.
I trust that God knows my heart, and he will have it all figured out when it is said and done. I know that right now, I have a very limited vision. I know that it is impossible to know all of the reasons and answers why at this point in my mortality. One day, when I get to see the entire picture, it will all make sense. But for now, I am taking things a day at a time, and embracing all of the good that I can. I am in love with two men, and I’m OK with being a widow and a wife at the same time.
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” ― L.R. Knost