At 32 years old, instead of planning my first wedding anniversary celebration, I was planning my husband’s funeral. There were no warnings, no time to say a final goodbye. One day he was here and by the following morning, he was gone.
It’s been six years since that fateful day when my world collapsed around me. Some days I marvel at the person I have become post-loss and other days I feel saddened by the person I have become as a result of widowhood. As fiercely independent as I now am, I miss the naivety of my old life, where I loved without fear and where I didn’t know the heartbreaking truth that widowhood wasn’t reserved for those in their 80s and beyond.
When my husband passed away, I knew no other young person who had lost a spouse. As much as my family – in-laws included – tried to help me deal with his death, I felt isolated. Instead of letting my grief out, I bottled it up. My shower became my escape. It was where I was able to cry and fall apart without looks of sympathy…where I didn’t have to pretend I was “okay” after burying the love of my life.
Looking back, I think that was my biggest regret: not trying harder to find a local group of young widows.
Grief is magnified when you feel alone. There is healing in know someone else can relate to your pain. I found this to be true when I eventually connected with others after almost four years of widowhood.
During a recent episode of “Iyanla, Fix My Life”, she shared this bit of advice with a young woman whose fiancé was murdered: Find a support group to help you strengthen who you are. You need to see others who have made it to the other side.
She went on to tell the unwedded widow that “feelings buried alive do not die. They get trapped in our bodies where they fester and destroy us from the inside out. We have to release our hurt, pain, and trauma.”
It wasn’t until I found an online group of young widows that I begin to let go of the raw emotions tied to my husband’s death. I encourage every person dealing with a loss to find their tribe. Find a support group of people who “get it”. Try to meet up with those in your vicinity. No matter how unique your situation, I find there is always someone who can validate your feelings, helping you feel less alone. I see it time after time in the widow groups I’m in.
I recall a widow who posted about conflicting feelings due to her husband’s suicide and felt she didn’t quite fit the stereotype of a “grieving widow”. And, within minutes, the thread was filled with other members sharing stories of their husband who an abusive partner, adulterer, alcoholic, drug abuser, etc. It only takes one person sharing his/her story to make you feel “normal”.
Since losing my husband, I can honestly say that the majority of my healing occurred during the past two years – the years in which I found my “tribe”. Here are a few tips for finding your “tribe”:
- Try searching for widow/grief groups on Facebook – most require that you answer pre-screen questions and may request a link to your spouse’s online obituary;
- Reach out to a local Hospice as they often facilitate bereavement groups;
- Browse Meetup.com for widow groups or groups specific to your loss (cancer, heart attack, aneurism, etc.;
- Contact churches in the area. They host support groups and/or know of additional resources;
- Consider finding a national widow support organization such as Hope for Widows Foundation, Modern Widows Club, and Soaring Spirits. If they don’t have a “chapter” in your immediate area, consider starting one.
You don’t have to go through this pain alone. Reach out to others who have walked this path. You’ll be both healed and inspired by your “tribe”.
Find your tribe. Love them hard. Allow them to love you back!
Kerry Phillips is author of The One Thing: 100 Widows Share Lessons on Love, Loss and Life. The book is available at https://store.bookbaby.com/book/The-One-Thing-Widow-Book and on Amazon.com.