There is something about widowhood that brings you to your knees. I remember feeling trapped in an alternative universe trying to make sense of the chaos that surrounded me. The most troubling part was that the one person who was capable of steadying my boat – even as the sea of life raged around me – was the reason for my storm.

In March 2012, I got the call no wife ever wants to hear. My husband was dead. We had been married for all of one year and six days. It didn’t seem fair that I’d spent so many years loving him only to finally get married and have it end with a phone call.

I didn’t know how to exist in a world that didn’t include my husband. So many of my plans and goals were intertwined with his. It seemed impossible to go from “we” to “me”.

There is this thing I do when I feel overwhelmed or stressed. I tell myself that at some point in the following week or even the next month, the issue at hand will simply be a memory. I convince myself that I will absolutely get through the rough patch, even if it means a few cuts and bruises along the way. I then visualize myself months from now, looking back at that thing, that problem I thought would break me, only to realize that I’d survived.

With widowhood, all bets were off. I could barely get through the day, let alone picture the next month. There were times I hung on minute by minute, so afraid my grief would swallow me.

I knew no other young widows at the time. Yes, I had my family, in-laws, and friends, but I needed another young widow to tell me I’d eventually be “okay”. I didn’t think it was possible for a heart to be so broken yet continue to beat. I didn’t know you could miss someone so much that your entire being hurt. I couldn’t understand how you could rebuild a life that was left in total shambles.

I’m now approaching the seventh anniversary of my husband’s unexpected death. I couldn’t see it at the time, but it turns out my track record still stands. I was, in fact, capable of making it out the storm and I have been able to survive and grow from the very thing I thought would have left me irrevocably broken.

There is a quote that says: “On particularly bad days, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days is so far 100% and, that’s pretty good”.

Perhaps you’re where I was, unable to see that there can ever be beauty after the pain; unable to believe that there can be joy after losing a spouse…but I want you to know that you will get through the darkest of nights. It may not seem like it now. It may not seem like it two months from now. But at some point, the grief fog that often threatens to stifle you with every breath will begin to dissipate.

You’ll feel guilty for allowing little pieces of sunlight into your world but don’t. Embrace the five minutes where your mind wanders: What your life will look like as a widow? Will you ever get remarried? How can you help your children navigate their loss?. The fact that you’re even thinking about your world without your spouse is proof that you’re determined to keep living. Proof that you know you’ll eventually get to a place of healing.

That place of healing certainly isn’t the same for every widow. If it feeds your soul and makes you feel good, go for it. If you’re left with regrets, pain or disappointment, you’re probably not on the right path.

Even as you move forward, the scabs of widowhood will threaten to burst open, leaving you raw and exposed. Just know that the bleeding won’t last forever. If needed, consult a professional who can equip you with the coping skills needed for the wound to begin to heal. There will be times when you’re the one picking at the scab, whether because of guilt or anger. Whatever you do, just don’t allow it to become infected. Where it starts to make you bitter and causes you to self-sabotage. Remember, there is no shame in admitting you need help.

Over time, though the scar remains, you’ll find you won’t bleed as much or as often. Losing a spouse isn’t something that you’ll ever “get over”. But, I hope you’ll also know that there can be life after loss. And, it can be one of healing, beauty, happiness, and even new love.

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Kerry Phillips

Kerry was widowed at age 32. She is the author of “Letters to the Widowed Community” and “The One Thing: 100 Widows Share Lessons on Love, Loss and Life.” In 2015, she realized there wasn’t a forum for widows and widowers wanting to venture back into the world of dating and started Young, Widowed & Dating. The online support group provides a safe, supportive and nonjudgmental environment for the widowed community to share their dating adventures. Her blog of the same name covers topics ranging from relationships with in-laws to dating while raising children and everything in between.

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