It has been six weeks since the unexpected and sudden death of my husband and my babies’ daddy. In some ways, these past six weeks have felt like the longest of my life. In other ways, they have seemed to fly by. I have intentionally kept myself very busy over the past few weeks because being idle in this house without him seems unbearable. The quietness of the night after my children go to bed kills me. I’ve even taken to falling asleep with the t.v. on (I put one in my room, which I used to be completely against), so when I’m not staying up late on my computer at least I can go lie down and drown out the silence.
I have found that I’ve lost the ability to sit comfortably in the silence, which never used to be a problem before me (hell, I craved silence most days!). But that’s not all I’ve found I’ve lost. I have been learning, unfortunately, that when you are a young widow, you lose so many more things than just your husband.
The True Loss of a Young Widow
Loss of identity. I was a wife, and now I am not. I was adored and beloved by a man whom I adored and loved, and now I am not. I was part of a couple, and now I am single. I had a best friend, and now he is gone. We were a part of the “Fabulous Four,” which included us and my sister and her husband, who was Garry’s lifelong best friend. They always joked that they couldn’t marry each other so they had to find a pair of sisters they could live with. Now it’s just me, a permanent third wheel.
Loss of status. At the beginning of October I was an upper-middle-class, happily married, stay-at-home-mom of two. Life was good. Sure, we had our struggles like all people do, but we were in a good place, happy and content. By the end of October, I was a single mom of two with zero income and no in-home support. It is a status I never imagined would be a reality for me, but here I am.
Loss of security. Garry traveled a lot so I had gotten used to taking care of things around the house when I needed to. One thing I never got used to, though, was sleeping soundly alone. When he was out of town, I would just count on sleeping poorly because I would freak out at any noise I heard in the house or through the windows. Now that is how I feel constantly. I feel vulnerable and scared alone at night.
Loss of home. This one is especially hard right now because I’m still fighting internally about what to do. The reality of the situation is that, financially, I cannot afford to keep our house on my own. But it tears me up inside to think about selling our last house together. Especially because we just moved here five months ago and this is where we had planned to raise our children and put down roots as a family. The last thing I want to do is uproot my little family again, after so much loss in our life already, and move to a place that is new and foreign to us. But it may be our only choice and I hate that I can’t do anything about it.
Loss of companionship. I explained to my mom soon after Garry died that, while I understood why people kept telling me “you’re not alone,” it just made me more upset because it’s simply not true. Everyone who is grieving with me has their person to lean on during this awful time: my parents have each other, my in-laws have each other, my brother-in-law and sister have each other…but my person is not here. All of my grieving, all of my living, all that I am doing right now I have to do alone. And it hurts.
Loss of my future. My husband and I had so many plans for our future. We often talked about all the places he would take me when we had a little more freedom (i.e., the kids were older or out of the nest). He loved to travel, but he loved to show me the world even more. We were supposed to grow old together and sit in rocking chairs on our front porch and bitch about why our kids never called us. We were supposed to take care of each other in our old age. All of that is gone now.
Loss of my dreams. So many of my dreams about the kind of wife I wanted to be, the kind of home I wanted to have, the kind of life I wanted my kids to have, the kind of love I wanted my husband and I to share, even my own personal dreams that had nothing to do with my husband necessarily but would need his support, all of that disappeared when he died.
When you’re young and happy and seemingly healthy, you never think about what it might look like to lose your spouse. Why would you? Normal, healthy people don’t die in their 30’s. Then suddenly, the impossible happens to you and you’re shoved into a harsh and confusing reality that you have to learn to navigate at lightening speed. I can’t tell you how scary it is to live in this reality and I could easily focus on all that I’ve lost and wallow in self-pity.
But I can’t. I just can’t. I can’t do it, if for no other reason, than for the sake of my children. They’ve already lost one parent and I can’t let them lose another to grief. But how can I ignore all that I have lost or am losing? How do I keep from drowning in the ocean of grief and worry that threatens me on a daily basis?
I don’t really know yet. But I can say that one thing that has kept me floating on the surface is trying to focus more on what I have NOT lost in all of this.
What Was NOT Lost
My children. I’m going to be honest: at this point, my children are all that’s keeping me from curling up and fading away. They need me now more than ever and, truth be told, I need them more. They bring me bits of joy and laughter in an otherwise bleak and scary time. And they are so much like their Daddy, so I have a little piece of him left with me.
My grit. I was born a fighter. I’ve fought for so many things in my life. I feel the need to fight for others who can’t fight for themselves. It’s always who I’ve been. Frankly, I’m really tired of fighting and I wish God would give me a break, but I don’t get a say in that. So I will fight…for me, for my kids, for our happiness and well being. I don’t know how to do anything less.
My friends and family. I have been incredibly blessed with an army of people who have rallied around me. I have a deep sense of peace that no matter how bad things get for us, my friends and family will not let us drown. I’ve never liked to ask for help or rely on anyone to do anything for me, but in this season I have and will continue to ask for and receive help. We are so loved by so many and I will be forever grateful.
My gratitude. Garry was the friendliest guy you’d ever meet and he could see the good in everyone. I have always been a bit cynical and distrustful of people as a whole. But in this tragedy I have been blown away by the kindness shown to me by people I hardly know. People who have never met either me or my husband but have felt compelled to help us in some way, big or small. From the moment my husband died, I have seen nothing but good in people. They are coming out of the woodwork to help us and I have never felt so much gratitude in my life. Garry was right, people are good. And I’m so thankful for it.
My ability to love. Oh, my heart hurts thinking about this one. Garry loved me so well. So, so well. He loved me with the sacrificial kind of love that I never really thought existed anymore. I can’t tell you how good it felt to be adored by a good man. Garry showed me how love should be between a man and a woman. I want to be loved like that again some day. I don’t know if it will happen and if it does, I don’t know when. But I want to keep my heart open to the possibility that I can love and be loved again someday. It will never be the same love, and I don’t think it should be. What Garry and I shared can never be duplicated or replaced. But I know he would want me to love again and let myself be loved.
My God. People have told me throughout this horrible ordeal that they are amazed at how strong I am. That statement always confuses me because I don’t consider myself strong at all. I feel broken and lost most of the time. What I think people are seeing as strength in me is, in reality, the strength of my Savior through me. When the Medical Examiner came to take Garry’s body from me at the hospital, I stopped to pray over his body and to thank God for being with us. It was not anything I had planned to do, it just came out of me. When I was planning Garry’s memorial service and we were picking out music, I felt the need to hear and play praise and worship music. It was not a conscious choice, but an instinct. This is not my strength; it is His strength in my weakness.
I am sure that people wonder if I am angry at God. Yes, I am. How could I not be? I am angry that this is happening to me and my children. I am angry that my husband will not see his babies grow up. I am angry that I am forced to face all this loss by myself and try to figure out how in the hell we are going to survive without our provider. I tell God on the regular how angry I am at him because I know that He understands. He’s big enough to take my anger and my pain. I don’t feel one bit guilty about being mad at God because I know he sees me, knows me and still loves me.
But, I don’t believe that God is doing this to us. We live in a broken world where sickness and death reign. We live in bodies that are easily broken. We don’t have the luxury of counting on tomorrow and no one is immune from tragedy. I believe that this is part of my story. As much as it sucks and as much as I hate it and would change it if I had the power to do so, I am trusting that God has a beautiful story in the works. His plans are alway better than ours and so I am holding on to His promises to give us hope and a future. Because, at the end of the day, if we don’t have hope in a God who loves us and wants the best for us, what do we have?
Today, and for a long time, I suspect, I will be reeling from all that I have lost beyond just the loss of my husband. But I am trying to focus more on what I have not lost and put my faith in what I will gain from trusting a God who writes beautiful stories. This is how I will survive.