When I came across this quote in my Facebook feed this week, I couldn’t help but smile and mutter a ‘fuck yes’ under my breath. My husband died almost 14 months ago…am I veering into annoying behaviour similar to parents when they refer to their 3 year old as their 36 month old?? C’mon! I don’t want to do math. I’m grieving, life is hard as is. Let’s not add math into the mix. He died just over a year ago. Much easier to say! Math problems aside, it’s been long enough since he died that outwardly, I look happy. Life is moving forward and I am happy-ish. But inwardly, the roller coaster of emotions is still there. Not so many tsunamis of grief anymore, but the waves continue rolling in, pulling me under and make me gasp for air. I’m pretty sure they always will. And each day (and multiple times!) I’m struck with the thought “what the fuck? What the actual fuck? He is dead??? What has happened to my life??” It physically hurts my brain because no matter what, I simply cannot make sense of that thought. I don’t think I will ever be able to wrap my head around it. Hence my immediate, visceral connection to this quote.
But the second part resonated even more. It touched a part of me that I am not proud of, but a part that I own. A part of me that is not pretty. Ugly emotions like envy, anger, jealousy, frustration, guilt. This week, I attended a support group for widows/widowers with young children. Minutes into our first meeting, a widower spoke of the feelings he had towards the people in his life who loved his wife and loved him, and just so badly wanted to help him. Empathy, gratitude, connection? Those would be typical or expected things to feel towards loving family and friends. But all he felt was anger and hatred towards them and their luck that their significant other was still alive. As he elaborated, all I could think was ‘fuck yes!!’. (I wanted to shout it, but it was the first meeting so I wasn’t yet sure of the F bomb etiquette in this particular group) He spoke of the knife twisting pain that comes when you are newly widowed, grieving the loss of the your best friend and lover yet trying to parent your young kids alone. Trying to navigate blindly through a life that you had built for two that is now unrecognizable and must be steered by only you. Most certainly, everyone around you is grieving but as widows and widowers, not only are we grieving the loss of our person, we are also trying to put back together the pieces of a life that was blown to smithereens. Your spouses friends and family are hurting so much over the loss, and yet when you look at them, all you can think is ‘your day to day life hasn’t changed. Mine is completely blown apart and is nothing whatsoever like it was’. So many times after Kevin died, I wanted to stamp my feet and have a tantrum shouting ‘NOT FAIR! NOT FAIR!’. (But I didn’t have time for that, because one or both of my kids was in the midst of their own tantrum that I had to cope with. Fuck. Can’t a widow have a tantrum when she wants one?!!) The co-captain of Team Awesome (Kevin’s term of endearment for us a couple, and as a parenting team) was no longer on the roster and this new team of one was not what I signed up for. I did NOT want to be the only captain of this team. As my friends and family would sob over Kevin’s death, there were times when all I could feel was envy and anger. Envy for what they still had and anger at what my life had become. I would think “at the end of this tough day, you get to go home, be sad and be comforted or cared for by your partner. I get to go home, to the home I shared with my husband, a home filled with his things, his smell, his presence and cry myself to sleep alone in our bed. There is no one there to rub my back as I cry myself to sleep. There is no one there to bring me a glass of water because now I’m so dehydrated from all the crying. There is no one there to take care of me. And when I wake up after sleeping alone in our bed, I get to get up and parent two grieving children, run a household and work at a job that hopefully earns me enough to provide for myself and our children.” Cue the envy, anger, frustration and guilt. Told you there were tsunamis of emotions inside of me! But now that I’m over a year into this shit storm called widowhood, I own it. Yes, envy is ugly. Yes, anger is ugly. Frustration and guilt too. But it’s okay. This is my grief. It is not just tears and sadness, like the movies would lead us to believe. Grief is ugly. Really fucking ugly. But by being open, honest and sharing what I’m going through, I get to be a part of this really beautiful thing called human connection. Hearing other widows and widowers talk about this feeling of envy and anger made me feel less like a circus freak, and more like a normal widow just trying to keep her head above water. I felt less alone, less crazy and as a result, more secure in my footing on this road to healing. I hope my words here do the same for other widow warriors out there. And if you are lucky enough to not be a widow warrior, but have one in your life….I hope my words give you a glimpse into the tsunamis she is coping with. She doesn’t hate you, she is just a bit envious right now and that’s okay.