Then you suddenly find yourself without your life partner, you don’t know what to expect. Your world’s been turned upside down. Like the mighty oak caught in a fierce wind, you feel uprooted. Your feet don’t touch the ground. You think you’re crazy. But you’re not. You’re just a new widow. Your husband is dead and your life is forever changed.
Learning to expect the unexpected will help you get through this most painful time in your life. Here are 10 things you need to know if you are to survive.
1. Expect people to say stupid things. “Don’t worry, you’re young, you’ll meet someone new.” No matter your age, this will sting like a hot iron on raw flesh. Your mind is on your husband and preserving His memory. The thought of another man in your life too soon after His death may cause you additional pain.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” If there is a “loss”? This makes you wonder where is found? For the new widow, there is no found.
“He would want you to find a new man.” Hmmm? On this one, this writer takes umbrage. Nobody can tell you what He wanted, except you, nor, should they.
“I understand. I’m divorced.” Not. Divorce is different than death. Though a divorced individual may wish her ex to not be here, it just isn’t the same thing. While divorce can be painful, and having experienced one personally, the death of a soul mate is different, as this writer will attest, there is no connection.
2. Expect to be asked out–by your best friend’s husband.
3. Expect to be asked, “Do you masturbate?” by your best friend.
4. Expect to break down in tears when you least expect it–at the sound of the doorbell, at the sound of the telephone, at the sight of a couple walking hand in hand. All too soon the reality of being without Him sets in and it will take time for you to let go of your past. But you will.
5. Expect to begin each day wondering how you made it though the day before. And end it thinking you just can’t do it any more.
6. Expect to feel weak, strong, suicidal, angry, happy, euphoric, glad, sad, guilty, alone, lonely, trapped, free, tired, bored, overworked, overwhelmed, silly, puzzled, like you don’t belong.
Why not? You have just experienced life at its worst. I’m here to tell you, everything will be okay. Think baby steps. Think, I can and think, I will.
7. Expect all your friends to run away. They’re frightened, too. And they just don’t know how to handle your grief. Seeing you dealing with the death of someone near and dear is just too close for comfort.
8. Expect all your friends to come back. Give them time. The real ones do.
9. Expect to find yourself standing in front of an open refrigerator at 3:00 in the morning studying the expiration date on a bottle of ketchup. Give yourself permission to process your grief any way you need to.
10. Expect to laugh when the dog pees on the living room rug, when the garage door falls off its hinges, when the refrigerator makes a puddle on the kitchen floor, and when the woman next door goes out on a date–with the woman down the street. Your life is forever changed and so is your outlook. In the big picture, these things become miniscule.
11. Expect to wish you were dead.
12. Expect to blame yourself for His death.
13. Expect to ask yourself questions that have no answers. What if? Why me? Why couldn’t I have died first?
14. Expect to make plans to run away.
15. Expect to cancel them, because you realize there is no place to run away to.
16. Expect to kiss a fool.
17. Expect to feel like you cheated. You didn’t.
18. Expect to wish for a giant eraser to erase away all the pain.
19. Expect the pain to never end. It won’t. But in time you will learn how to manage it. I promise.
20. Expect to smile when you feel like crying.
21. Expect to not sleep.
22. Expect to not focus.
23. Expect to not eat. In the beginning you won’t be able to enjoy food. But it is important to drink plenty of fluids. If nothing else, drink water to keep your kidneys flush.
24. Expect to eat too much.
25. Expect to not be in the mood for all the things you once were in the mood for. Imagine. This writer didn’t want to eat chocolate!
26. Expect the sun to come out tomorrow, the daffodils to sprout in spring, every bird on the planet to sing, every oak, elm, and cottonwood to shed its leaves in autumn, the moon to glow, the stars to twinkle, the earth to spin on its axis, and then to wonder why.
27. Expect no one to understand. Though they say, “I understand.” They can’t. They don’t. They never will. Not even another widow. Grief is personal. It’s just like a thumb print, no two alike. Expect to make mistakes.
28. Expect to forgive yourself.
Okay. That’s it. And now I know what you’re thinking ? She’s listed more than ten things.
But to make it through your grief, it’s important to realize you are not alone. What you are feeling is normal. Being informed is being prepared. It will help you survive.
Expect the unexpected.
And, like the mighty oak caught in a fierce storm bending in the wind to keep from being uprooted, you will learn to accept your plight. You will learn to remain grounded, and eventually you will be able to turn your upside down world right side up again.
Linda Della Donna is a freelance writer and graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. She writes for children, parents, adults, and widows. A student of Natalie Goldberg, author of “Writing Down the Bones,” Linda writes the tough stuff–cancer, dying, death–and she writes it from the heart. In 1986, Linda entered a writing contest with The Reporter Dispatch. Based on a childhood memory, her short story, “The Year That Christmas Waited” took first prize–she’s been writing ever since.
Linda wants new widows to know one thing: We’re not alone.
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