It has been almost twenty two months since my husband passed away. Today, as I was driving home with my kids from the grocery store, a song came on the radio that reminded me of him. I took a deep breath as I tried to fight back the inevitable tears that were soon flowing down my face. My kids were laughing in the back and asked me to look at something. I quickly wiped my face, and smiled as I turned, knowing they could worry if they saw me crying.
This is something I do often.
Hurry and hide the tears.
Everything will be ok.
Except in that moment, I felt anything but fine. I felt so indescribably sad.
I have become an expert at faking it until I make it.
So I am here to tell you, that grief has so many different expressions. The face of a widow has much to tell.
It’s a look of pleading and desperation as she begs God to save the person she loves more than her own life.
It is kissing her husband for the last time, as silent tears stream down her cheeks.
It’s a blank stare as her world moves in slow motion, while the rest of the world remains seemingly unaware that everything is somehow less vibrant than before.
It’s the look of disbelief as she lays in her bed. Alone, for the first time, she stares into the darkness waiting to hear soft snoring beside her. In the silence, she hugs the pillow that still smells like him.
It’s in the tears that are unseen, washed away by drops of water as her shoulders shake and she sobs violently on the shower floor. She doesn’t want her children to have to watch her fall completely apart.
It’s in the look of longing as she stands in her closet, touching each item of clothing and smelling a half used bottle of cologne.
It’s an angry outburst. She is well beyond her breaking point.
It’s a forced smile at her children as they call their Daddy’s phone to hear his voice the only way that they can now…on an old voicemail recording. Then, after enduring all she can, finding an excuse to leave the room so she can scream into her pillow.
It’s holding the most precious parts of what are left of her husband in her arms as they beg and cry for their Daddy who is in Heaven. Though she tries, her own tears are impossible to contain, because she feels so discouraged, helpless, and broken herself.
It’s a clenched jaw and an understanding smile when someone mentions a fight with their spouse.
It’s the moment, when after kneeling in sincere prayer, her heart is full of peace and her eyes close while she just absorbs the moment.
It’s the look of determination, as she drags herself out of bed to start yet another day.
It is the tears of overwhelming gratitude as she realizes just how much good is in the world. She know she will never be able to repay all of the kindness, but she vows to herself that she will do her best to pass it forward when she is able.
It is the face of pure exhaustion. Pale, with dark circles hovering under her eyes.
It’s the smile that masks all of the pain, and that reassures others that she is doing ok.
And then, one day, it is the smile that surprises her. It feels foreign, but it is genuine.
It’s red eyes and smeared makeup. Or sometimes immaculate makeup and a smile. She doesn’t remember him any less in either moment.
It is a look of hope as she moves forward.
My tears are more managable these days, and smiles come more easily. But oh how my heart still misses my RJ. Grief is exhausting, and at times I feel so very alone. So many of my battles are fought within my own heart and mind.
But with so much divine help, I have made it through six hundred and fifty five of the hardest days of my life.
So I will wipe my tears, and think of all of the reasons that I have to truly smile.
It really is all going to be ok.