Some words cannot be spoken. They can only be wept.
Some words cannot be spoken. They can only be wept.
The origins of the word “widow” are fitting. In Old English it means “to be empty” and in Sanskrit it means “to be destitute”.
Even when I am around other people, having fun and laughing there is still an emptiness inside me. It has changed somewhat over time but it is always there. I can always feel the piece of my heart that is missing. It is strange to be enjoying your life, as much as possible, and still have a broken heart.
My husband has been dead for almost 14 months. I am often struck by how much it still hurts. If I think about it for longer than a passing thought, it steals my breath and I start to cry. I wasn’t ready to live without him. I am still not ready to live without him. I needed him before and, honestly, I need him even more now.
He really was my anchor. On my hard days, he loved me louder. When I was hurting and difficult to be around, he was even more gentle. He never made me feel like I was less than because of my issues and struggles. He was constantly making sure I knew how much he loved me, how important I was to him and how amazing he thought I was. He was always encouraging me to stop doubting myself because he truly believed I could do anything.
Bob loved me deeply. I loved him deeply, too. I spent my whole life looking for a love like I had with him. It wasn’t perfect but it was beautiful. We worked hard to build our little life and our love and I felt safe for the first time in my life. I had finally found someone who not only saw me for who I really am but loved me completely. His love and his example taught me to be a better person.
I have been completely lost since he lost his battle with depression. Not only did I lose my partner and my best friend but he killed himself. The person I loved the most in the world destroyed himself. The sadness and anger are inextricably intertwined. I can’t believe that he would do this to himself…and to me. He was lovely and gentle and kind. It’s nearly impossible to reconcile that with the violence he inflicted upon himself, on the man I loved so much.
I feel like I lost the only person who really understood me. Of course, I have other people in my life who love me. I don’t have other people who have taken the time to really understand me. I don’t feel like most people truly see me. No one loves me as deeply as he did. No one is as gentle with my heart or patient with my struggles as he was. I need that. I need the kind of care and unconditional love he showed me. I miss him and our love more than words can ever say. I need him to love me through the worst moments of my life but, instead, he caused them by taking his own life.
Life feels so harsh and loud and sharp now. He was my refuge. I could tell him anything and share every part of myself with him. Now I just feel so alone. He left. He chose to end his life and with it our life. He shattered my life and my heart. To a lot of people it seems like I am getting “better”. I look happier and I seem to be finding the “new normal” everyone talks about. In some ways, that’s true. In others, nothing could be further from the truth.
On the inside, things are different. It feels like the damage to my heart and my trust are irreparable. I am angry and sad and lonely all of the time. I am doing my best every day. I am getting counseling and developing new relationships and trying to make healthy decisions in every area of my life. I am trying to build a new life that I can be happy in. Honestly though, most of the times I am just “faking it until I make it”.
I can feel love for other people. I feel it so much it makes me cry. I can feel the love and support of my friends on the really hard days. It is in the everyday moments where I feel alone. The journey of being a widow is one you have to take alone. I don’t blame anyone for how I feel. It’s just how it is right now. I feel like there is no one I can truly lean on. I feel like there is no safe place for me anymore.
I really hope that this isn’t the way I feel forever. I am trying to do all the right things. I am giving everything I have to having a healthy happy life and to building healthy relationships. But I am tired. I am tired of feeling alone. I am tired of hurting. I am tired of carrying the burden of grief. I hope I am able to set some of it down soon.
None of us are easy to be around all the time. We all have our quirks and baggage and triggers and weaknesses. Thats right. All of us.
Life doesn’t leave anyone unscathed. We all have scars. We all have sore spots in our heart. Some of us have lost people we love. Some of us struggle with mental health issues. Some of us were abused as children. Some of us were abused as adults. Some of us had have our heart broke by someone we loved. We have all been hurt. We have all developed unhealthy coping mechanisms. We all have things in our lives that we need to work on being better about.
Personally, I’ve never met an exception to this. This absolutely includes myself. I am aware that I am not always the easiest person to be around. I was abused as a child. I didn’t have the kind of emotional support I needed as I was learning who I was. I have lost a boyfriend and a husband to suicide. I have had emotionally abusive relationships. I lost a pregnancy. Trust me when I say I know all about grief and baggage and working through my issues.
The thing is, I don’t think this means that I am unlovable. I don’t think this means that I am undeserving of respect and kindness and consideration. I am fully aware of where I have work to do. I am constantly doing my best to learn and grow and overcome. I go to counseling. I do what they recommend. I read. I write. I am self aware. I am constantly evaluating myself and my reactions.
I have Complex PTSD, depression, anxiety, a Traumatic Brain Injury, complex grief and dissociative disorder. I struggle to stay present when the stress gets too much. I also have IBS and widespread pain that is associated with the way my body responds to stress. Sounds fun, right? I know that there are many of you who will read this that will understand exactly how it is to live with things like this.
It is a lot. I am completely aware how hard it can be to live with. I live with it every single day. I have panic attacks and flashbacks. I get scared and insecure and need reassurance. I have days where I can’t find the desire to do anything. I cry a lot. I get angry and turn it inward. I feel isolated and misunderstood. My body and brain are in a constant state of fight or flight. The smallest trigger can cause a cascade of too much adrenaline, an overloaded nervous system, full body tremors and a racing heart that lasts for hours. It is completely exhausting.
There are days when I don’t want to be alone and I can’t stop talking and there are days that I don’t want to see a single person or say a single word. There are days when I feel strong and capable and there are days where I feel like I am completely broken. Most of the time, though, I’m somewhere in between. Sometimes I can’t handle being out in public because the people and the noise are too much. Sometimes I can’t handle the silence in my house. Some days I create gorgeous pieces of art and some days I can hardly find the strength to shower. Such is life with severe trauma.
Im not just my struggles though. I am also incredibly strong. I am one of the most loving people I know. I am honest and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am intelligent and a talented artist. I share my story with the world in hoped that it can inspire even one person to hold on when they want to give up. I am funny and kind. I am an excellent cook and I love adventures. I am open minded and love to learn. I have the softest heart of anyone I know. I am proud of the person I am, despite my struggles.
I have worked hard to get to where I am. I work hard every day to get even further. I own my life. I know the only way I am going to be happy is if I do the work. I take responsibility for my healing and growth. I don’t expect anyone to do it for me or save me or to make me happy. I don’t even want anyone to. That is my job.
I want to be loved and cared for even on my bad days. I want to be shown some grace on the days I fall on my face. I want someone to hold my hand and cheer me on while I save myself. I want someone who is gentle with me while I heal my wounds and learn to live again. I want to share my life with people who don’t expect me to be perfect. I want to spend my time with people who take the time to get to know who I am and assume the best about me instead of the worst.
I do not think that struggles make us less worthy of love. In fact, it seems to me that those who have known struggle and heartache are often the most generous and kind people I’ve met. Cracks are where the light gets in. Scars and dents mean we have survived. In an Instagram perfect society, we tend to forget that no life or person is perfect. It doesn’t mean we are unworthy of kindness and forgiveness and grace and love if we struggle. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Be messy. Be honest about your struggles. Honor yourself and your journey. Share your wants and needs. Celebrate your victories and learn from your mistakes. Be teachable. Perfect does not exist. It would be boring if it did. Let people love you as you are, flaws and all. Be unapologetically yourself while constantly working to improve and be the best version of yourself you can be. Don’t let people tell you that you aren’t worthy of love until you are perfect. That is absolutely untrue.
You are worthy of love right now. You are worthy of love as you are. Anyone you tells you that you need to change to be worthy doesn’t need another second of your time. Go find people who cheer you on, not beat you up when you aren’t what they expect you to be. People who punish you for your weaknesses aren’t your people. Go where you are celebrated. Go where you can be your perfectly imperfect self without having to constantly pretend or apologize for who you are. Your people will love you, as you are.
This is the first holiday season that I can remember since Bob died. Last year I was in shock and I have absolutely no memories of the holidays. I thought I was going to be better this year. Honestly, I am worse. I am more sad, more angry, more lonely and more hurt than I was last year. I never thought I would ever wish for shock but there are definitely days that I miss not feeling anything. Or, rather, not being able to remember that I can feel anything.
This is also the first year without my family. We have always had a toxic relationship. I tried for 40 years to make it work. Then my husband died and my family just couldn’t stop making it about themselves long enough to support me through the worst days of my life. One thing that becoming a widow has taught me well is that life is much too short to spend around people who make you feel like you are hard to love. It is also too short to spend around people who love you only when conditions are right. I realized that applies to family, too.
So, I am lonely. I feel lost. I don’t have my husband or my family. I have no traditions and no reason to celebrate. I used to love to cook holiday meals for my family and now I don’t have a family to cook for. I feel like I don’t have a place. I don’t have a tribe. Everyone else has their families. I am always the odd one out. I feel like Im intruding. I don’t really belong anywhere.
Im sure my friends would tell me that isn’t true. They would say that they love me and that I am always welcome to spend the holidays with them. A few of them have said that to me. But that doesn’t change that I don’t really feel like I belong. Who doesn’t want to have and spend time with their own family who loves them during the holidays?
It’s hard to be festive when you are depressed and grieving. It is hard to watch everyone with their families. Then there are the terrible holiday commercials where husbands and wives are loving each other. I get to go visit my husbands headstone. I don’t need to be reminded that I don’t have love like that anymore. It is a hard time of year for the lonely and brokenhearted.
I try to be positive. I really do. I do my best to focus on the things I am grateful for. There are times when life is just hard and things just hurt and you need to acknowledge that. I need to be able to stop and allow myself to feel what I feel. I make no apologies for being honest about the struggle. Life isn’t always pretty and neat. In fact, it is pretty constantly messy these days.
I am grateful for what I have. I am very fortunate. I have a home that is warm and comfortable and it is mine. I have a nice vehicle that I enjoy driving. I have absolutely everything I need. I have health insurance. I am relatively healthy. I have some wonderful friends. I have freedom that most people dream about. I don’t take any of it for granted. Ever.
I am also a suicide widow. I also still bleed freely from the wounds his death inflicted on me. I hurt and I get depressed and I get anxious. I get insecure and feel like no one loves me. I don’t have a family. My life is still in a state of chaos because I lost my husband. I still have a lot of really hard days. I am still trying to pull my way out of the abyss.
The holidays are proving to be harder than I expected. I will make it through this just like I have made it through everything else but that doesn’t mean it is easy. I need to take the time to say that out loud. I need to acknowledge my pain. That’s how I work through it.
If you are having a hard time this holiday season, you are not alone. It is okay to tell the people around you that you are struggling. It is okay to say no to activities or parties if it feels too overwhelming. It is alright if you are grieving or hurting and need to make yourself a priority. The holidays are hard. They are extra hard for some of us. Be gentle with yourself.
“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” ~Muriel Rukeyser
That is something everyone says they want but they really want on some conditions its seems we have some unspoken agreements in our society that the truth is only welcome if it is pretty, positive and what everyone else wants to hear. That’s not the truth.
One thing we widows understand better than most is that the truth can be ugly and painful. The truth isn’t always able to be told in a positive light because there sometimes isn’t anything positive about it. If someone is telling you only what you want to hear, they likely aren’t telling you the truth.
The truth is, life is messy. No one is perfect. We are all messy. We all have our flaws and our weaknesses. We all fail. So what? Failures teach us. Imperfections connect us in our humanity. Messy doesn’t necessarily denote bad. Most of the best people I know are incredibly messy. They are beautiful in their messy realness.
When your husband dies by suicide, people are shocked and made uncomfortable by the truth. I am blunt. I usually tell people that he took his own life. I don’t like “committed suicide” because that implies he committed a crime. He didn’t. He was allowed to do whatever he wanted with his life. It just sucks that he decided he wanted to end it. But even softening it a bit (mostly for myself) does nothing to prevent people from avoiding eye contact or acting like having your husband kill himself is somehow contagious.
People suck with the truth and they suck with talking about hard topics. I mean, they seriously suck. They have bought into the unspoken agreements I talked about earlier. Then when something horrible happens (like your husband hanging himself) they cannot handle it…at all. They either change the subject, pretend you didn’t talk at all or avoid you completely. Only other people who are willing to be honest can handle being around you.
For the people who can’t handle the truth about life, you are a reminder of things they prefer to be in denial about. I was shocked to realize that most people go out of their way to pretend like death and grief and murder and suicide and heartbreak and imperfections aren’t real things. They are the people who try to turn every bad situation into a motivational poster.
“It could be worse”
“At least they aren’t suffering anymore.”
“They are always with you.”
“Well, at least you had life insurance.”
Listen, I will be the first one to admit that some truth just sucks. It does. I mean, I had a police officer tell me that my husband was dead because he hung himself in my house. Trust me, I know how bad the truth can hurt. I know how uncomfortable and awkward it can be to talk about certain things. I do it anyway. I speak the awkward, painful, uncomfortable and real truth about things.
“The truth will set you free”
Indeed. That’s really what happens when you speak your truth and refuse to apologize for the way people feel about it. That’s a real thing. One thing losing my husband dying did for me that was positive was that it set me free. What I mean by that is that when you are so completely broken, you realize what’s important. Truth is important. What people think about you or your truth isn’t important, at all. Becoming a widow makes you care very little about what other people think. That’s what it did for me, at least.
My husband died because he felt like he couldn’t speak his truth. 47,173 people died by suicide in the United States in 2017. How many of them do you think died, in part, to not feeling like they could speak their truth because it wasn’t pretty, positive or what everyone wanted to hear?How many of them do you think tried to speak their truth only to have people not want to hear it because it wasn’t pretty, positive or what everyone else wanted to hear?
Be honest. Say yes when you mean it. Say no when you mean it. Ask for what you need. Tell people when they hurt you. Tell people when they make you happy. Tell people you need them and tell them when you need them to go. Be honest. Talk about your pain. Talk about your joy. Talk about the abuse you suffered and talk about how you overcame it. Brag about your accomplishments and admit your failures. Talk about your heartbreak and how much it hurt.
I found my freedom and my love for myself when I decided to be completely honest about my life. I found deeper connections than I had ever had before. I lost a lot of people from my life. At first that was scary but I learned that not everything you lose is a loss. I gained so much more. I gained the things that were meant for me. I gained having people love me for who I really am and not for who they want me to be. I found new love for myself and my peace.
Tell the truth. Let other people tell theirs. It will set everyone free.
“Denying rage is denying love, denying one of the voices of love..”
Rage. Oh, rage. We have become intimately acquainted.
When we first met, I hated you. I felt like you were a betrayal of my love, a betrayal of myself. Then I realized something…you can only feel rage if you care. There is only rage where there is love.
And there is so very much rage. Rage because my husband died. Rage because he’s not here anymore. Rage because he killed himself when he was so very loved. Rage because he hurt me so much. Rage because he hurt everyone else so much. Rage because I couldn’t help him. Rage because I feel like I failed him. Rage because he didn’t say goodbye. Rage for the helpless of it all.
So. Much. Rage.
There was so much love. He was love. I loved him so much. He loved me so much. We were love. Our life was love. We loved our life. We loved so much.
How could he leave? How could he take his own life and along with it all the love? How could he want to leave it behind? It makes me want to scream. I weep white hot tears of rage often. It steals my breath, wrapping its strong fingers around my throat.
It’s not fair. Life isn’t fair. Death steals love from us in the most cruel and unexpected ways. The rage is inescapable. Not when there was so much love. It makes me hate everything with a seething, burning hatred. It hurts so much.
Grief is the price we pay for love. Rage is what happens when the love has nowhere to go. I have accepted my rage. It’s justified. I lost so much. I still have so much love. I wasn’t done. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. I didn’t get to say goodbye. It’s just shit.
I let myself feel it. I let the rage burn away some of my pain. I let it wear me out. I let it make me weep and scream and shake. I feel it and then I let it go. I can’t live in that place all the time. But rage is my friend. Rage feels better than helplessness.
Rage and I won’t stay friends. He will serve his purpose until love has a place to go again. He may come visit from time to Rome, forever. But he won’t be welcome to stay. For now, though, he has a seat a my table. I am not ashamed of our friendship.
“Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.” -John O’Donohue
Nothing has ever made the above passage feel more true than losing my husband. He was the only person I felt ever truly knew my heart. I trusted him more than I have ever trusted anyone. Then he killed himself. He left by choice. He didn’t say goodbye. My husband murdered my husband.
I feel like the world went dark. It became the loneliest place. Everyone else had never even seen my heart. The person I trusted most in the world betrayed that trust in the most devastating way. I knew, almost the moment he died, that I would have to make my way through this alone. I may have people around me but no one can do this with me. Not really.
I hate that I don’t feel like there is anyone in the world who really sees me anymore. It makes me sad that I don’t feel like I can truly trust anyone. No one stays. No one ever does. I don’t want to need anyone or lean to hard or let anyone get too close. I feel like I need to go it alone.
I let people help me. I let people hold me sometimes. I let them love me, to an extent. I don’t let them all the way in. The one time I did that, it nearly killed me. I believed, with my whole heart, that he would never leave me. He left me in the worst possible way.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to love again. I want to trust. I want someone to really see my heart. I want to lean in and have someone be my safe place and share my whole self with someone again. I want to share my life with someone who loves me for me and accepts me as I am.
How do I trust again? I do I show my inner heart to someone again? How do I lean in? How do I find a way to allow someone close enough to share my life?
That is the real journey alone. The journey of self. The journey of recovery is a lonely one. The journey through my trauma and into healing. The journey of letting go of the fears and scars that hold me back. Only I can do it. I am on my way. I work every day to take another step.
I don’t have the answers on how to do the things I need to. The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them. I wish it were that simple. I need to change my core belief that everyone I love will leave me. I don’t know how to do that. Sometimes I feel like I just need one person to show me that I’m wrong. I thought Bob was that person and he shattered me when he died.
I take small steps. I am trying. I will get there so long as that is what I want. But it’s a long path. I hope I find my way to trust and showing my heart and loving and sharing my life. I’m not there yet. My heart is still bleeding. Maybe someday.