Do you recognize when you’re in a “season”? When you’re in either the ebb or the flow of things?
Lately, I’m thinkin’ this has definitely been a season of surrender.
Surrender and permission. I don’t know, I think thats what widows have to do.
On our own timelines, surrender to reality, and give ourselves permission to seek peace.
I feel like I slowed down a bit and as its warming up, I’m regaining momentum. Not a fan of winter anyway, and it really does bum me out. So I’m really breathing it in and savoring the flavor of summer creeping in. Yeah I know its hot and my sweat will be sweating but I really loooove everything about summertime.
The temps are rising and with them, my enthusiasm again. And it just so happens to be National Widow’s Day tomorrow. I doubt there’s any symbolism, I just realized what the date was.
I just felt like writing about all these conflicted feelings because I wanna come through and around them already and shake all this off. All this ho-humming of winter and spring. Spring time is not my best time.
And always in doing this sharing, I hope there is some beginnings of understanding that even though you know its been a certain amount of time or years or months since a widow has lost their spouse, it never looks the same for two people. I hope there is some understanding that for some people the mourning period may have long been over, but their grieving hasn’t ceased. Grieving and mourning, they aren’t interchangeable.
The 2 year mark came and went, and honestly the day was filled with so much gratitude. I went for a bike ride with Jessep… the weather, the beach, everything was gorgeous. It couldn’t have been anymore perfect. He was incredibly supportive and encouraging and understanding that I didn’t want to commemorate the day or place any expectations on it, after all, its a shitty shit day… I don’t exactly want to use it as a day of remembrance, we do that on his birthday… I just want to move through it, live it, and be done with it.
So he gladly obliged.
But it did hurt more than I anticipated in the days before and after, and I quietly bottled up a lot of missing him. And I’m not good with hiding my emotions, so it makes it feel even more overwhelming and unbearable the more I try to minimize it.
I’m torn between wanting to be honest about these rise and falls of grief and not wanting to grieve anymore, and also, be happy for the state of the union of my life as it is now. I just want to fall down or into someone and say, “I can’t take it anymore! Shayne was so amazing and I STILL miss him so much. HOW HAS ALL THIS TIME PASSED and this shit still pangs!? Its not healing anything!” I want my missing him to be acknowledged, but I don’t want it to hinder any of my progress and relationships.
The sobering truth is, no matter what you do, no matter what you’re creating new, no matter what progress you’ve made, nothing can suffocate the truth. It will surface. It will be seen, heard and felt. No matter what you do or try to do to keep it.
I don’t want to be actively in grief for him every day, but I do miss him.
I can’t intercept those feelings as much as I try to “meditate” and be in the moment.
So, my practice has been to let them rise and let them go. It has become easier the more I have exercised it. If they come back, well, then I do it all over again.
It is a practice. It really is a meditation. To be present to these waves and consciously let them come in and release them. Again and again and again. Practice.
Surrender to the feelings, permission and to feel them and grace to let go.
Something else hit a few days following the 2 year “anniversary” (is there another word for it…?? anniversary seems unfitting…) that completely absorbed me and made me miss him even more. Which elevated my frustration. Truthfully, during a new “issue” between us (not necessarily bad or good), instead of falling into Jessep and leaning on him, explaining my complex feelings and emotions… I went into widow-mode. Internalize.
Because I wanted to confide in Shayne. Because I knew his reactions, I knew his consoling methods and knew what he would say to move us and me onward. It may not have been what I needed, but it sure was my comfort zone. And we all know how much we like being in those, even if not always for the greater good.
Predictable, familiar and reliable. Thats something you lose when they die. And it is a big chunk of what made your love and life together what it was.
I wanted comfort in familiarity during uncertainty. And I had no idea how to verbalize that in a way that it felt fair. Because it wasn’t. Was it?
It shocks me a little that even now, even after this time has passed, it will hit and slice through a moment so much cleaner and feel so much deeper. All of a sudden, it will reveal so clear that I am not so much missing my life as I knew it, so much as the person I was living in it with. My life is good now, its exciting, its full of love and joy and clarity and urgency. Time doesn’t heal, but it has made enough room to expose the truth.
I know he’s gone and not coming back, I know the realities and feel them. But its as if now, knowing them definitively as each day closes, makes those moments that hit me and swoop in with the missing Shayne… feel even more profound than they did when I was still in shock. Which was at least for the first 6-10 months.
So. I’ve been holding him in my hands a lot lately. I realize I can’t call him up, talk to him, hug him, hold his hand. So I let his “sand” slip through my fingers. Asking him if he sees me, hears me and is proud of me. Jessep in the other room, or out running a grocery errand. I’ll go into my closet, slide the urn out and grab a handful of him and just talk to him. Like he’s here, and been here all along.
If you think a widow has “moved on” from the loss and “over it” because she is either somewhere new, maybe has a new job or career, changed her Facebook status or, with someone new… that’s not always entirely the case closed. He or she may still be juggling longing for that person, and stepping out fully in their new life with joy they’re still here to live it. Balancing it all.
It ain’t like balancing extracurricular activity schedules, its balancing conflicting feelings of letting more go of the old and gaining new life. And some days its easier said than done.
But good news is, its not impossible.
I don’t rightly know how long I have been in this season of surrender, is this what the beginning of acceptance looks like?… maybe the “commencement” was when I shaved my head. Or wrote the love letter to myself. I was finally ready to shed my first year widow skin, begin anew, go bare, break it down and step eagerly into rare form. I gladly stepped. Let it all go to grow.
But I know, I have been in this season of intermittently letting go of things to find what is important and what I hold sacred in keeping the peace in my life a priority. Get to the root of what is really going to propel me onward. Who am I now and what does she want? I haven’t been panicking and feeling like I am losing touch with anything or myself. Just letting things rise and fall. With no pressure to prove a single damn thing to anyone.
We ebb, we flow.
We’re not bad people or “lost” or failing… I feel, quite the opposite.
We’re trying out what works and what doesn’t. Experimenting and gathering data. Lots of grace, lots of personal forgiveness and “okay, I’m still here and this is what matters to me and what I need to make non-negotiable time for.” I lived, I learned.
I think what gets people in trouble and in a rut or shame spiral is when they aren’t willing to show themselves grace for a misstep, or taking a pause. Your pause, your misstep, your fail, your pivot… all on its way to being your wisdom.
That’s how I feel most of the first year of widowhood was. Without much interference or judgement – thankfully. Infancy. Trying and failing and trying and winning and moving onward, and then trying and just gathering data about who I was and what was working, what felt like the right thing and what was making me sad or angry and trying again and again and again at realizing who life needed me to be now. Who I needed me to be now. Circumstances had changed, and I couldn’t have remained the same. And they keep changing, and I can’t remain the same.
Sometimes we have to lose and let go to realize the worth of people, places, habits, or things to us. Even if they were good habits, setting them down for a while just to see if we’re good on our own or if something else needs our focus instead. Is our peace established? If not, pick that good habit back up and carry on.
I do know for sure that I have a strong sense of awareness and there is not one thing I have ever been through that has caused me to go completely cluelessly belly up or lose total control of hope. I have always maintained a, albeit quiet, knowing that, “Its ok, I know what I’m doing.”
Even when on the outside it may have looked like I didn’t because my choices weren’t aligning with someone’s version of me.
But there has been a very calm voice inside, holding my hand and reassuring me… whatever you decide to do today is fine because we’re going to figure one thing out at a time, in due time. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or 6 months from now because the timing isn’t up to you. But you’re going to look back one day and have gathered your data, your insight and have garnered more wisdom about how to proceed. And thats all that matters.
Every season or choice or situation I am in… I know… I’m about to make a discovery.
I give myself grace and permission to screw up, I know I am not perfect and I am still learning myself and life.
I still feel like I am in toddlerhood of this new life without Shayne. 2 years. Terrible two’s. Doing my best. I fail daily… but I find my center of gratitude in knowing, I am still here and still giving it the ol’ widow try (college doesn’t really quite encompass it). What I’m doing counts for something!
Through grief, through establishing a new life with someone new and blending a family and rekindling the relationship with myself, its soul-threatening not to give myself grace. When grace isn’t being given by even someone closest to you, you have to honor you.
You have to give permission to yourself to ebb and flow, engage and disengage, figure this out as you go along because there is no course outline. There is no handbook.
Its not like my husband didn’t unexpectedly die 2 year ago and I haven’t been on the fast track to flipping my life completely upside down.
I threw myself in the wind tunnel of change. And I wouldn’t alter a single day that has occurred.
And when no one else can give me understanding or grace, I have had to self-serve it up in a heaping spoonful. Because no one truly understands this journey, nor could they – especially if they didn’t know Shayne or see us together – or understand the “why’s” better than I do.
I give the spoonful of grace to myself and save enough for those who don’t have the understanding.
I do know from previous life experiences, totally outside of widowhood, there will be people around you that don’t and won’t understand your journey or path. Which job you choose. The town you move to. The person you love. The college you chose. The foods you like. There will always be someone who tilts their head at your choices.
They won’t understand why you choose to say yes to some things or let go of things, shave your head, disengage in certain activities or circles of friends, shift goals or set them down. They just won’t understand why you… changed direction. Maybe overnight. Over a year, a few months, a few weeks. And these loving people can be your own family and friends. They still won’t understand why you’d ever do something like this or that, hoping for you only the best, but maybe left wondering what it is thats making you tick.
But guess what, we all have permission to change direction, change our minds and move about this life in whatever free form we need. You do and they do, too.
Just be honest about it. No proving, no explanations, no defending.
Just authenticity and honesty.
And those that love you won’t mind, and encourage and support you and be kind to you in your process to (re)learning yourself as you move. What worked a year ago may not be what works today. That’s okay. If you’re trying, you’re learning. If you’re learning, you’re growing. Growing? LIVING.
Just trust you, somewhere in there, you know what you’re doing. You do.
You’ve always known.
You may just have this pile of perspectives on top of your truth that you have to dig out from under.
Especially if suddenly widowed. There’s a lot of hurt, a lot of confusion, a lot of new obstacles you’d never faced or thought in a million years you’d be squared up with, new places within your being you haven’t been acquainted with yet.
Everything about you changed the moment that person stopped breathing. If you think parts and pieces of you didn’t go with them, they did.
And it may take a long while for you to find them again, if at all. So you create, reimagine, and reacquaint yourself with the you that’s emerged.
Surrender to what was lost, permission to be found.