To The New Widow
My Dear Sweet Sister,
First of all, let me say how sorry I am that you have been inducted into The Club. A club you never asked to be a part of. A club filled with reluctant members. The widows club.
I’m writing to you today to give you something I wish I would have received during the early days of my loss – hope.
I know the insatiable ache churning in the pit of your stomach right now. An ache like no other that forces you to your knees, molding your body into the fetal position for days. The only real antidote is time.
This week, as I witnessed yet another woman leading the procession behind her husband’s casket, I asked myself, “What do I wish I would have known?” Thinking back on the early days of my loss, I came up with nine thoughts:
It sounds cliché but you are going to be okay.
You really are! Don’t try to make peace with your new normal today, just know that it’s on the horizon.
When things go wrong God is not punishing you, He is growing you.
The first year after my husband died it seemed like I couldn’t get a break. My roof was totaled in a hailstorm, the water heater went out, I had to repair leaky windows, a ground squirrel AND mole decided to take up residence in my husband’s perfectly manicured yard, all the landscaping had to be replaced (I forgot to water), I had no idea how to program the sprinkler system, the under and over counter lights in my kitchen all went out, we had one flip-house on the market, two flip-houses that needed to be finished and on the market, three renters (one in the process of being evicted), not to mention two kids in college and one planning a wedding.
Calgon take me away!!!
I now know the purpose for that year was to give me the confidence and tools needed to run my own household.
Grief. You can’t escape it.
I knew a man who lost his wife of 40+ years and weeks later married the first woman who showed up with a tuna casserole. He was trying to fill the void left in his heart and home in order to bypass the grieving process. As a result, the marriage did not last. Eventually he had to grieve the loss of his wife AND a very bad decision.
I wish I would have attended a grief group and surrounded myself with people going through the same thing. Instead, I secluded myself, which was not healthy, and probably extended my grieving process.
Don’t stay down too long. It’s good to unplug and be still for a season, Jesus did this on numerous occasions. If you find you are unable to get “back in the game” on your own, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Take hold of your grief so your grief doesn’t take hold of you.
People are going to say the wrong thing because there is no “right” thing to say.
Even today I struggle to find the right words to comfort the new widow, because I know the only thing that will make her feel better is to bring her husband back and that is not possible.
Try not to take the mis-spoken words personal. Instead, consider extending grace. Our family and friends love us, they just don’t know how or what to say.
Don’t make any major decisions the first year if you can help it.
Here’s the hard truth, you think you are of sound mind but as long as you are grieving you probably aren’t. Your heart is heavy and emotions high. This is not a time to make any additional changes unless you absolutely can not avoid it (i.e. downsizing).
Use this time to get your house in order: Important documents, access to all accounts, passwords, Insurance policies, general home and auto maintenance, etc…
Take care of YOU!
Sometimes loss comes unexpected, sometimes it follows an extended illness. Often, self-care gets pushed down the list of priorities. Now, more than ever, you must give precedence to caring for your mind, body, and soul. To serve your family best you must take care of yourself first.
Every morning you wake up, look in the mirror and say, “You are one smart cookie!”
Remember the days when people talked about, “men’s work,” and “women’s work?” You can just throw those phrases out the window. The first year may feel like you have too many hats to wear. Trust me, it will get better. YOU will get better.
In the beginning, I felt overwhelmed because I knew nothing about air pressure in tires, what type of oil my car took, how to “bleed” the hot water tank, how much fertilizer the yard took, how to use the grill… you know, “boy” things.
Every time I had a need, God always sent the right person to teach me or do the task at hand. He will do the same thing for you if you ask. It’s like taking all the many hats you have to wear and condensing them into one, a hard hat, because your life is under construction.
You will never be the same person you were before.
Does that scare you? I used to think that was a bad thing but with loss comes greater wisdom, empathy, strength and knowledge. You will accomplish things you never thought you could. You will learn things you thought you never needed to know. Most importantly You will have new respect for things like time, friendship, family, and life.
In a sense, losing my husband has made me bolder. I am more willing to try new things, and live with abandon because every other fear I have pales in comparison to the loss of my husband.
It is okay to do things your way.
I’ve talked to some women who feel guilty when they change a tradition or modify the way things have always been done. Give yourself permission to make guilt-free decisions based on what works for you and your family in your new life.
Sweet one, my hope for you is that in time you will choose to live and not merely exist. That you will feel a restlessness in your soul because there are so many crazy dreams you have to chase. That you will experience unbridled joy in every breathtaking adventure.
Dare to dream. Again.