A Young Widow’s Guide

Time Doesn’t Heal Wounds

They say time heals all wounds, but what if it doesn’t.

What if time allows for the wounds to fester and spread?

If a wound doesn’t heal what happens? Savage wounds kill, some kill quickly because of the lack of blood, other more minor wounds can fester. Medically speaking when a wound festers it can spread to other parts of the body, like a broken? bone leading to an amputation or eventually death. This innate knowledge leads most of us to treat our physical wounds with tender care. However, even with tender care some wounds rip savagely through the body leaving unrepairable damage.

Fortunately we have medication, treatments, and educated doctors who can help heal these wounds- in most cases. But my wounds aren’t medical. They are emotional and mental.

I often tell myself I am fine, happy and healthy. In most schemes, I am. Yet I am highly dysfunctional when it comes to relationships. Relationships… Yuck. Even the word repels me. People announce their happily-ever-afters and I look at them with pity. I think in my mind, you poor souls, you have no idea what you are about to do. Is this out of bitterness? I don’t think so. I don’t feel bitter. I don’t feel angry, just weary.

As a widow, the trauma of “loved and lost” comes into effect. I have opened up my heart to have it ripped from my own chest. My mind shattered, every belief and thought down to my identity destroyed. How do you heal a gaping wound that doesn’t present itself like a cut to be bandaged? Because like a physical wound, mental and emotional wounds will fester and spread if they aren’t addressed.  

I suppose like physical wounds, the first step is to find the cut and acknowledge it. Then slowly start to sew it together.  Ironically each person is different which makes grief hard. There is no one fix fits all. We are unique in that we are human, and each human is different. Each hurt and emotion is exclusive to its owner. To carry on and find our own wounds is a challenge and some we don’t even know we have. The first trick is to know it is there. Then allow ourselves the vulnerability to accept it as a part of us to be attended to. As we attend the emotion and mental wounds by whatever means we can, therapy, counseling, working out, education, art we address the burden of what has happened. As we continue to work on our wound it the bleeding slows and eventually stops.

Sometimes we think we have sealed the wound shut and venture back into the world to find out we were wrong and weren’t really healed. This happens a lot. I think I’m over my husband and am prepared to date. Then my first date goes horrible and I come home and cry. The wound is reopened with memories, shame, hurt, guilt  and every vulnerable insecurity I have comes to the surface. This is part of healing. Just like physical wounds don’t always fully heal immediately, neither do emotional and mental ones. Just as it takes painstaking physical therapy to get the injured limbs back to full movement, it also takes exposure to vulnerable emotional and mental states to get ourselves back. We make mistakes and we keep trying.
Dressing our wounds overtime allows us to heal. Maybe not completely, but slowly and surely the bleeding with stop and leave us with scars. The mistake of our first night back won’t be the same as the second night back. Each night we come back stronger after readdressing the vulnerable state we were in and what made us feel the way we did. Dressing our wounds overtime heals.

Betrayed by the In-Laws

Edgar Allan Poe

One of most hurtful moments in my spouse’s passing, was the betrayal by his family that followed. My spouse died by suicide. This changed me. I was 23, young, and shocked. I didn’t know how to respond. My natural instinct was to be as transparent, honest and kind as I could about everything that happened. Part of being transparent was telling his family I had wanted to get divorced. The only thing I remember lying about was positive things my husband had said about his family members. I wanted them to hurt less.

I didn’t see it then, but during the funeral his family didn’t acknowledge me as his wife. Instead, I was the cause of death. I became the scapegoat. In their eyes I must have known he was going to do it and even pushed him to it. I look back know and realized they wouldn’t have let me talk at my own husband’s funeral if I hadn’t pushed and my parents hadn’t been present. It wasn’t until I saw the police report openingly saying his mother blamed me and receiving a letter from his mother’s lawyer demanding I give them everything of his, that I understood how I wasn’t a part of his family. I should have known this when they didn’t even come to our wedding. Instead they slandered my name and drug me through the mud while accusing me of trying to steal his life insurance money from them- none of which I received (also if any of you know anything about SGLI this is ludicrous and completely impossible). They left me with all the primary next of kin responsibilities of closing out a life. I was left with shutting down his accounts, from social media to financial. I was left to pay off all his debt (I never fail to see the irony of this since his family received his life insurance). I paid for his funeral and fought for his legal rights after death. I informed his employers, his friends, everyone. I was left with the painful process of closing the remnants of his life while his family took all the moments of closure. They talked at his funeral and took the flag from his casket. They did his temple work (religion) without even acknowledging me or receiving my permission. They put a tombstone on his grave without my input, permission or providing the option to be next to him, to be together when I die. The hurt and deliberate infliction of it were endless. Never in my life did I realize or understand how death brings out the worst in people.

I am sure I made mistakes and wasn’t always the kindest person, but I didn’t expect the unadulterated hatred and animosity pouring from his family. I had never experienced being blamed for someone else’s actions as much as his family held me accountable for his. It made me physically ill- it still does. The accusations and slander were heartbreaking. Even to this day I won’t go to his grave because his family was so hostile and going to visit him would be going to a plot they own. I’ve considered moving his body, I have the rights to his body, but the reality is it’s not worth the hurt it would cause to me or them. Instead I’ve settled for laying flowers where he shot himself.

His family is dysfunctional. To survive they need someone to blame. They would be destroyed if they had to take responsibility for any part of his action. To acknowledge that they had some part in it- we all did, but in the end it was his choice and his alone. Understanding his family’s dysfunction helps me understand my husband’s pain and in part his decisions. It doesn’t make it hurt any less or justify any of it, it just makes it more sad. In the end blaming someone simply causes more hurt. Being angry with someone only causes more hurt. Yet, we can’t control how someone else feels and reacts. We can only control ourselves. Holding others accountable for someone’s actions doesn’t make anything or anyone better. All we truly have in this life is relationships. Spending time making them miserable isn’t worth it. Love, forgive and move on.

“You should be over it”

Brandon

“You should be over it” I can’t count the number of times someone has said this to a grieving person. There is nothing more frustrating than this comment. Whether the intent behind it is kind or not- this comment is absurd.

Grief is complex. What makes it so fascinating to me is how everyone grieves differently. There are those who cry instantly for months and others who can’t force themselves to shed a tear. Others who talk nonstop for months about the pain of their loss and others who don’t say a word. Some become manic and others stop functioning. The reactions are so spread and diverse that there is no set “this is how to grieve” or this is “normal”. Everything is normal. Grief can take years to recover from. There is no “set” time.

Another comment that seems to be commonly repeated is, don’t do anything rash, you aren’t in the right frame of mind. I have found I have never been more sound of mind than when my world came crashing in. Dealing with death provides value in life. A friend recently had a brother die and her response was she wanted to go do something with her life. She felt she needed to do more, but everyone kept telling her to stay at her job and don’t do anything rash. When I talked to her my advice was this, “If you feel the motivation to do more do more, if you want to quit your job, quit. Searching and pushing forward, helps provide closure. I am not saying quit without a back-up plan and no way to pay your bills, but listen to yourself. If your mind needs more, go out and find it. What’s the worst that will happen if you quit your job and put your focus to something new. If in a year you are still lost- the opportunity to go back and do what you were doing before will still be there. Allow death to let you live.”
I am positive  I could make a list a mile long of absurd comments people have made, but instead I’ll stick to these two. If you have any comments people have made or advice you’d like to share please put them in the comments.

Left Wanting

Ireland

This last month has been a challenge. I am lonely. Not in the way of friendless and introverted. It is the way of having and losing. To know- only to have taken away. It is in the way of having a significant other and then not. It is wanting to be loved and cared for. The tender moments only genuine love and promise provides. I am lonely in the fear of never having what I once had even when I know what I had wasn’t as I chose to remember.

I want someone. This thought terrifies me, it makes me uncomfortable. It is a vulnerable thought. In a way I almost need someone, this thought terrifies me more. I can’t count the number of times I told myself I am the only one who will take care of me. I am the only one I can count on. To allow someone in would make me vulnerable. To trust and allow someone else to share anything and everything- Time, money, love, children. There are so many unpredictable factors. Allowing another person to share those dreams can shatter my world when taken away, leaving me holding on to a thread. I, more than most know taken away means so many things. It doesn’t have to be a fight or divorce. It can be a job or death. There are many things we don’t control. With this knowledge how can I let myself be so vulnerable. Promises are made, but easily broken without our control. Even with this knowledge I still yearn for someone to share life with.

So I make my list- athletic, intelligent, hardworking, religious similarities, trustworthy, stable. I make my list so airtight it’s near impossible to find anyone capable of fitting. Yet, I tell myself I fit all those ideas so why would I bend or settle. I am lonely and ache to be loved. It makes it hard not to settle, however, the terror of loss makes it easy keeps me from flirting and putting myself out there. I tell myself it only takes one. Yet, when I find one I think might fit I look for every flaw I might be able to use to keep a distance from them.  The irony- I’m wanting but push everyone away. Fear of pain outweighs my need to heal and love.

This fear trickles through with a meek chance of courage breaking free. Courage needs safety. Safety needs trust. Trust needs a guiding hand. This is not something I can break free of on my own. It is not something I can easily choose to walk away from. I am in a dark pit looking up screaming for someone to notice me. To gently throw down a ladder, to slowly come down and guide me out of the darkness I know and hate, but fear coming out of. I need the warmth of their hand in mine to know its ok. For them to notice me and want me, but alas, I am the only one that will ever take care of me. There is no prince charming.

Intent to love


I never stood a chance. His charm drew me in like a hot summer day. He could spin a tale leaving you in amazement. His ideas, soft, hard, were endless. The tingling he left in the pit of my stomach when he smiled my way with blue eyes holding a secret only we knew would leave me dizzy for days. I never stood a chance. The truth is- his eyes held secrets only he knew. Secrets unfair to share and leave on anyone.

I had what he wanted. I was so full of dreams and life. I had family full of love and care. A dream he never had. Stability. I never questioned where I belonged because I always belonged. Any group I approached I adapted like a chameleon, full of confidence, as if I had always been one of them. My life was full of possibilities. Thoughts of I couldn’t do something or I would ever fail, never registered in my mind. I was the life he wanted.

There were signs. HUGE, RED SIGNS, but I loved him and I was an endless romantic. I believed in the best of everyone. I had no idea the cruelty of humanity. I think he was happy for a while- to be loved without conditions. However, he didn’t know how to love in return. You can’t love someone else when you don’t love yourself. He tried. God knows, he tried. He couldn’t unlearn years of abandonment and hurt; conditions and pain. He did his best, in moments there was true love. Moments when he held me in his arms and I knew we loved each other. Moments he was my everything and he could love because he saw glimpses of loving himself.

In the end the glimpses weren’t enough to undo the damage that had been done. Moments can’t undo years of wrong. Moments, however, can leave years worth of scarring. Now I live with the pain of ending dreams and knowing how cruel people can be. I can’t see anything but red flags. My guard is up so high, it takes years to tear down and moments to put it back up. I don’t feel safe with people because people are cruel.

Words Left Unsaid

  
Premature death causes a roller coaster of emotions; pain, hurt, frustration, guilt, things left unsaid and undone. Survivors find themselves reminiscing about moments and promises no longer possible. Combined ideas and dreams, now empty. Survivors often wish they could communicate every thought and take back each cruel comment. However, normal text messages sent come back with no reply. Conversations and behaviors become one-sided. Option one is now gone, what is option two?Communication with the dead varies from seances, psychics, prayers, dreams and other rituals. I am not going to discourage any of these as I am not familiar with all of them, I only want to caution you. Not everyone is good and some will take advantage of you. Please research and know who you are engaging with. While seances and psychics might ease the pain, they are not always available or reliable. Expressing words unsaid can be therapeutic and necessary for healing. Thus, my goal is to give you suggestions available to you, without the need for others to be around. 

Suggestion number one: Write them a handwritten letter. Handwritten letters are intimate and have a level of irreplicable sincerity. Holding a pencil to a clean piece of paper allows for words, drawings, diagrams. When words can’t express a feeling, a drawing might. Paper filled with emotions becomes beautiful art. Art gives you power. If you have a friend you can trust, I would also encourage you to put it in an envelope and send it. Physically sending the letter can give a feeling of fulfillment. If you don’t have someone to send it to, you may always send it to me. Private message me for my address.

Suggestion number two: Write them an email. Today is full of technology. Emails, text messages, phone calls, skype, the list continues to grow. Writing an email and sending it can be satisfying. Rarely are we anywhere without a smartphone, allowing us a place to collect our thoughts at any moment. Whenever you have something you want to say put it in your phone. Later write an email and send it to their email account if it is still active. If it isn’t and you have a friend you trust, send it to them. If you don’t you are always welcome to send it to me.

Suggestion number three: Keep a Journal. Writing down expressions and feelings can help you process your own thoughts. Journals allow organization and creativity. Journals allow us to be honest with ourselves. Secrets we might not want to even admit to ourselves are safe to ponder and explore within a journal.

Suggestion number four: Find a creative outlet. If you are an artist, create a painting expressing what you wish you could tell them. If you are a dancer, create a dance expressing your words unsaid. If you write, create a poem or essay, photographer, make a photo series. Whatever you do find a way to express yourself through it. If you don’t “do creative,” now is the time to try.

Find a way to communicate what you didn’t, couldn’t, forgot to say. Try multiple avenues. If option two doesn’t work, try option three, then four and five. Express yourself and your feelings. 

Personal Thought


Sometimes I’m simply too exhausted to write. My body responds to certain dates and events. Recently, I picked up the gun my late-husband shot himself with. When a gun is used in a “crime” the police department has to keep it for at minimum a year and a half. The maximum amount of time is five years. After five years, the police department is able to sell or utilize the gun if it remains unclaimed. Acquiring the gun was a tedious task- not because it was difficult, but because I put it off for so long.

On top of the task to pick up the Glock, this is the month that my late-husband shot himself, I found out about his death, and then proceeded to bury him. Quite simply – this month sucks… every year. For approximately three weeks in a row I am reminded of him. I am forced to subconsciously and consciously respond to the hurt and pain of the past. Even when I feel I am doing well my body screams I am not. I stop eating correctly, I stop sleeping, I lose weight, I constantly feel anxious and stressed. I am aware why, but I can’t stop it.

My ability to function suffers, I struggle to have energy to share and express thoughts. I have been to mentally zapped to write. Instead of being therapeutic it becomes a chore. An exhausting chore, to guide or give opinions and thoughts. Yet, after awhile my head begins to clear and I start to function again. Slowly my world comes back and I become my true self. once again.