A Widow’s 1st Year

A widow recently sent me her writings on what she has learned in her first year of widowhood.  These are her thoughts shared with her permission.

“I’ve learned that what they call the “protective widow fog” isn’t very protective at all because invariably the hurt gets through no matter how hard you try and keep it away.  Once the fog lifts, you start feeling all of the emotions that have been numb for so long and it’s excruciatingly painful.  I’ve learned that life gets hard and can be very cruel and knock you down, but no matter how dog tired and bone weary you are, you MUST pick yourself up and continue on, even if it’s crawling at a snail’s pace, and it typically is.

I’ve learned the value and meaning of true friendship and that sometimes those you think are truly your friends, turn out to be much, much less than that.  I’ve learned that the mistakes you make along the way are only forgiven by those who are your true friends.  The others will hold them against you and continually remind you of them if you let them.

I’ve learned that the vast majority of people are uncomfortable around someone who has lost a spouse and don’t know how to act or what to say.

I’ve learned that it’s sometimes easier to be in a room of strangers who don’t know “your story”, than it is to be with those who know you and love you deeply because their love and concern just brings so many emotions to the surface.

I’ve learned to keep my “mask” hung on a nail by the front door and grab it on my way out because most people couldn’t handle what I’m truly feeling.  I’ve learned that the majority of people who ask you “how are you doing” really don’t care and truly cannot handle the real answer – hence, the mask on a daily basis.  Those who truly DO care are very rare, but will keep pushing until you tell them the honest answer.

I’ve learned that at this point in my life I am at a very vulnerable place and there are people who will prey on that, and most of the time they are the “friends” from whom you least expect it.  I’ve learned not to trust anyone and to guard my heart and keep it locked away.

I’ve learned that just about the time I think I’ve got this grief thing licked, something comes up that slams me back to “that” day and I have to start the process all over again.

I’ve learned that people are everywhere the first few weeks, perhaps even the first few months; however, they fade into the distance with time.  I’ve learned that apparently “widowhood” is a very contagious disease and therefore, people tend to shun you and shy away from you because they might ‘catch it”.  I’ve learned that people can and will say the most incredibly insensitive and seemingly stupid things to you.  I’ve learned that people will forget you after a while and they make promises that they never intend to keep.

I’ve learned that your perspective on life changes – your perspective on everything changes!  How can it not?!

I’ve learned that I can be angry, sad, depressed, worried, anguished, and any other emotion all in one day – seemingly within just a short time of each other.

I’ve learned that, while widowhood has happened to millions of women, it has never happened to me before and therefore, is unique to me.  I’ve learned not to let anybody tell me how to get through this time.

I’ve learned that, although you may think God has let you down, He really hasn’t and although you may be so enraged at Him and scream at Him, He still loves you, no matter what.

I’ve learned that relying on alcohol, sex, or any other means to provide comfort will only get you farther and farther down a very dark pathway from which it is incredibly difficult to turn and is a lonely, dark and dangerous road to travel.  I’ve learned that once you set boundaries, it’s imperative that you stick to them because “friends” will try to persuade you to cross those lines and in your vulnerable state they are easy lines to cross – lines you never thought you’d ever even consider crossing….but eventually do.  I’ve learned that once you cross those boundary lines, they are difficult to cross back over to the right path.  I’ve learned that once they are crossed, you are expected to keep crossing them repeatedly.

I’ve learned that there are mountains of paperwork to be done – even almost a year afterwards.  I’ve learned that you need a good business advisor and you need to take them with you to any meeting you have where important decisions will need to be made.  I’ve learned that you cannot think clearly and that business advisor is vitally important to your well-being.  I’ve learned to ask, ask, and ask again and if I still don’t understand, ask again.  I’ve learned that sometimes the decisions you make are going to really tick people off but you have to make the best decisions for YOU, not anybody else.  I’ve learned that there are some very hard and painful decisions to make that are in your best interest and those who truly love you will understand and support you in those decisions.

I’ve learned that, although my husband’s death was incredibly traumatic, so is surviving…and it takes a lot of hard work to survive and some days you feel that if just one more thing happens, you won’t survive.

I’ve learned that the solid and safe relationships “we” had as a couple are no longer solid and safe and now that you’re single, people think you’re “on the prowl”, which is the farthest thing from your mind.

I’ve learned some very hard and incredibly painful lessons this past year.  Most importantly, I’ve learned who my real, true, God-given friends are who love me with all of my mistakes, failures, flaws and imperfections and I am truly, truly so very thankful for their love and support. “

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