I don’t have a theme to write about tonight. I have so much tumbling around in my head these days. I think I just need to say some things “out loud” in whatever way they fall out.
Today I got emails from several of you who read my blog regularly. I appreciate your kind words and that you shared some of your story with me. I am filled with such gratitude that you shared with me that my words help you. That’s why I started this blog. I wanted other people who were struggling to know that they are not alone. I feel alone so much of the time and I want to try to do my part to help other people know that they are not the only ones who feel like they have lost their minds and lost their way.
My husband killed himself.
That reality is almost too much to bear most days. I held his wedding ring and dog tags in my hands today and was struck by something I hadn’t realized until today. He is gone. Really, really gone. I wouldn’t be holding those things in my hand if he wasn’t. His ring was the last thing that touched his body before he was cremated. I have it in my hand. That means he is really, truly gone. Forever. It has been nearly 14 months since he died and I am just now actually accepting it.
Grief is weird. On one hand, it has absolutely shredded me and my life. I’m talking complete devastation. On the other hand, it has taught me more than anything ever has about everything. I mean, everything I thought I knew and believed and understood about everything came into question. It’s surreal. Kind of like invasion of the body snatchers. Everything seems familiar but nothing is the same.
I don’t know about those of you who have also lost your spouse suddenly but, for me, I had to relearn how to do every day tasks. In the beginning, just trying to shower would take all my energy. What used to take me 15 minutes suddenly took 2 hours. I was moving slower and having to concentrate to remember how to do the most basic things. Plus, I had to stop a lot because I was too tired to move. I couldn’t remember my own name most of time. Literally. I couldn’t think. I cant remember almost anything from the day after my husbands funeral to about 4.5 months later. My heart stopped functioning normally. I was so messed up.
I feel like our society in the United States is so terrible with grief and death. People are unbelievably uncomfortable with even the mention of any of it. I think that is so weird. It happens to all of us. Why can’t we talk about it? Why can’t I say that my husband died without people avoiding eye contact or changing the subject or walking away completely? People die all the time. We all lose people we love. It makes no sense to me why we don’t talk about it.
If we talked about it maybe I would have known that I wouldn’t be able to eat because the food tasted and felt like ashes in my mouth. I would literally gag when I tried. Most of the time I didn’t even try.
Maybe I would have known to expect that I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself. I would have known that I wouldn’t even be able to do the most simple of tasks like brushing my teeth or remembering to drink water.
Maybe if we talked about grief I would have known that it comes in waves. Just when you think you may have your feet under you, you get knocked down again.
Maybe if we talked about grief I would have known that there would be lots of days that I couldn’t even get out of bed. Maybe I would have known that being nearly catatonic is normal. Maybe I would have known that there would be times that I literally feel every emotion possible, all at the same time.
Maybe I would have known that, no, you can’t run out of tears to cry. Or that there are some words that can’t be spoken, they only come out as screams and sobs.
Maybe someone would have warned me that there is a level of pain so agonizing, so terrible, so extreme that it would make me scream until my throat bled. That the pain would be so bad sometimes that I wouldn’t be able to do anything but curl up on the floor and make sounds like a wounded animal.
Perhaps I would have been prepared for my hair to fall out and grow back in silver. Or I may have understood that my body was going to be as impacted from the stress and grief as my heart and mind were. Or I would have known that there would be days where I couldn’t be touched at all.
No one told me about the nightmares and the inability to sleep and the insanity that comes with it. No one warned me that I wouldn’t feel anything at all for long stretches of time. No one warned me that seeing his grave never gets easier.
I didn’t know that you never get over it. I didn’t know that you wouldn’t even recognize yourself in the mirror. I didn’t know that I would have flashbacks and panic attacks. I didn’t know that there would be days that I HATE EVERYTHING. I mean, soul searing rage.
I didn’t know that I would have to fight to live. I didn’t know that the death of my husband would come a breath away from ending my life, too. I didn’t know that I would have to fight with everything I had in me to choose to stay. I didn’t know that surviving his death would be the fight of my life.
I didn’t know that I would learn so much about life and love and pain and gratitude. I didn’t know how humbling it can be when everything is stripped away. I didn’t know that I would learn the true meaning of gratitude.
I wasn’t aware that I would lose all my fear. I didn’t know that it is hard to be afraid when you’ve already lived your worst day. I would have known that, when I lost everything, I would find myself.
I didn’t know the kind of strength I had until I had to save my own life. I didn’t know what I was capable of until I was left alone to try to survive in the days and weeks after coming home to find my husband dead.
I have learned that loving yourself is the most important thing you will ever do. Ive learned that life is too short to choose things that aren’t good for you. Ive learned that walking away from things and people and situations that aren’t good for you is one of the best things you will ever do for yourself. I’ve learned that we, as humans, generally spend far too much time focused on things that don’t matter at all. Not everything we lose is a loss. Let the things not meant for you go.
I’ve learned the value of finding your tribe. Find the people who love you even when you’re broken and messy. Find the people who remind you that you’re worthy and important when you forget. Find the people who will come sit with you and not judge you when you haven’t showered in a few days, your hair is a mess and you can’t sop crying.
Grief sucks. Being a young widow is awful. It is reality, life. We need to talk about it. We need to share our experiences so that the people who have yet to experience it know that they aren’t crazy when they do. We need to share with each other so we know we aren’t alone. We need to share with each other so we can all have that feeling that it is normal and expected to be brought to your knees again and again from the weight of the grief you carry.
If you are out there reading this and your heart is broken, you aren’t alone. It is hard. It is heavy. Give yourself some grace. If you didn’t do anything but survive today, that is enough. Life can be so very, very hard. We can’t always be strong enough to do everything. You aren’t alone. There are millions of us out here, going through the same struggles and not even realizing it.
Life is hard. Be kind as often as you can be. Especially to yourself.