Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Monday, February 19, 2018

Please don't tell a widow to "get over it"

I recently put sheets on my bed.

Well, it was really just putting sheets on a mattress. A mattress that hasn't had a set of sheets or a comforter on it for nearly three months. It's been 90 days since the day he left. It's been 90 days since the blood-stained carpet was ripped up and thrown out. It's been 90 days since the sheets and comforter were washed and donated to Goodwill. Not too many days after that, all the bedroom furniture was sold and the walls were painted, too.

It's been 90 days that I've been in a carpetless, empty room (save his favorite ugly chair) laying on a mattress with only a throw blanket to cover up with at night. I want to erase my memory of a day that will forever be a nightmare that plays over and over. I wish I could undo the grief my children and I have felt since that day.

Many an internet stranger have left comments on my blog posts that I have written over the past couple months. There are people out there who have never dealt with a devastating loss, yet apparently are experts when it comes to losing a spouse. One guy commented, in a roundabout way, that I needed to "deal with my grief" instead of projecting my feelings of hurt and loss on everyone else in writing my stories. One woman berated and judged me for "taking off my wedding ring too soon." One woman told me, "blah, blah your stories are boring and sad." (Strangely I feel like this bitchy, mean lady and I could've been friends maybe in an alternate life).

But I'm not going to be mad at discouraging comments people write me. I know there are life lessons one can take from internet trolls who criticize you when you are down. The troll serves a purpose here, too.

So, I will address the grief question. I am going to humor that know-it-all who has never known the reality that is walking into a room to find their spouse and best friend dead on the floor. I wonder if having to see, hear and remember daily the screams of their spouses' parents and siblings at the knowledge of that death would be part of the process of "dealing with grief." How about questioning what you could have done differently that morning 90 days ago, and if anything you did differently could have changed the fates that day. Is that "dealing with grief?" Does the every day recollection of your son's tears the morning his father died hold any weight in the "dealing with grief" category?

I want to know if pulling out every shirt, every pair of pants, every hat from the closet— and holding it close to breathe in the smell of them one more time before you donate it—if that is "dealing with grief." I wonder if it's normal to live in your husband's ratty, old college sweatshirt... morning to night. And is it ok to keep his deodorant in the vanity drawer, just so you can hang onto one last olfactory link to the person you slept next to for almost 20 years? Are those indicators of "dealing with grief?" I wonder if the woman who questioned me about my rings would care that I take my wedding rings out of the wall safe every couple of days to look at, hold and remember the days those diamonds were on my left hand ring finger. Could that be classified as "dealing with grief," too?

I wonder if choking back tears when your daughters tell you they want their daddy is "dealing with grief" ... Because I do that almost every day, too.

I would argue that any person who just lost a spouse—no matter how long they were together—will agree that "dealing with the grief" is probably more painful than having a limb chopped off and probably just as messy. The tears from "dealing with grief" can come on as fierce as a hurricane and harder to stop—but you still try to hide them with assurances of being "fine." Dealing with the grief means sometimes you have to put on a happy face for your children, your coworkers, your neighbors—because if they knew the profound sadness of your heart, their heart just might break, too.


I've connected with quite a few young widows the past 90 days. Some of them blindsided by the death of their spouse, others had time to prepare for getting their hearts obliterated. Our stories seem to vary widely—some of their husbands died of cancer, like mine. Some died from suicide. Others died from heart attacks or aneurysms. But if you really look at all of us, our stories are the same. We face an unimaginable grief every day. We try and relate the unexplainable feelings of loss to friends around us. We try to explain any and all of it to children who can't even tie their shoes yet. We see the people who tiptoe around us not to offend, or we deal with those who tell us to "just move on," or "get over it." (Note to friends of grieving widows: Telling someone whose heart was ripped and shattered to pieces to "move on" is a huge no-no).

We are "dealing with grief" every. day. we. wake. up. What it looks like will be varied. It can present as empty smiles. It can be tear-stained cheeks. It can be a laugh one minute and wailing the next. It is "why God"s alone at night or busying herself with her childrens' extracurriculars. It can be pajamas at 2 p.m. and it can be ratty sweatshirts as a daily uniform. Yes, there are countless books about coping with grief—but to be honest, there are zero rules to follow. There is no timeline for how long it will last. There are absolutely no guidelines for "dealing with grief."

We can't undo it. There is no getting over it. There may or may not be a way to move on from it. Grief is now a torturous life experience sewn into our hearts. How we move forward, carry on and exist from here out is every widow's choice. She will know, and she will decide how "dealing with grief" will look in her life.

And sometimes it may be just as simple as her putting sheets on a bed.


This post was published Feb. 26, 2018 online here at Cure Magazine.



12 comments:

  1. People can be so unkind when they can hide behind a computer. I stumbled upon your blog and am touched by your raw emotion and honesty. Continue to tell it like it is, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Someday, it will get easier, but you're doing exactly what you should be doing right now - surviving as best you can. You go mom!

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    1. Thank you very much for your sentiments 😘 I hope you are right.

      Thanks for finding me and reading 🙏
      Andrea

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  2. Dearest Andrea,
    I stumbled upon your blog as it hit a very personal cord. 24 years ago I too lost my husband after a long struggle with a neuromuscular disease. I was 39 and he 41 . We were the parents at that time of an 8, 12 and 14 year old. I have read your blog posts and wish I had had the forum back then to post and describe this journey. Nothing ever prepares one nor should it for the journey you and your children are on. I can guarantee that your husband and their dad will forever be a constant part of your lives. Just in reading your BLOG and the past 4 months and the choices you have made is a testament to that . Wish I had the vision to make a quilt . My children then and still do wear some of their dads shirts. We often were bawled at and people couldn't understand why his photos were and still are a constant presence. Life does go on and we choose to live honoring the love and memory of the wonderful person who we lost. I wish I could say it gets easier , the path and journey change and we find a way to celebrate the memory, the joy, the love . Each milestone is celebrated in a different way , graduates , weddings and now the birth of grandchildren . we choose to tell the stories, we had friends write letters and memories to collate into a book for grandchildren to read. I kid my now grown children who are incredible adults that we raised each other. We don't look at life as others do and we did not let the death of this incredible person define us . I learned from this that I could not protect my children from pain, that unfortunately death is a part of life and we were cheated. God seems to take the best ones early. If it helps 24 years later we still honor and talk about my Tom like he is here and my children have grown into incredible adults with a compassion and sensitivity to others that their dad would admire. Be well and know I'm admiring your journey that you are not alone on. al the best
    kathy

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    1. Thanks so much for your beautiful words. I needed them tonight. I'm so sorry for your loss too. Nobody can explain this grief and only those who have been here know it. Thanks for finding me and reading along on my journey. - Andrea

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  3. You have nailed this!! There is no getting over grief you have to handle it what is the best for you. I haven’t lost a spouse but I watched my mother after the loss of my father and your blog reminds me a lot of her and what she did with us(yes, it’s a good thing!). Thanks for taking us along on your journey and know we are all here to support you!
    -KD

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    1. Thanks so much Katy for this. I appreciate you reading and following along. -- Andrea

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  4. I will continue to follow you and know that your words will inspire and empower those on this journey of grief. there are no rules, no cookbook and no right or wrong and the courage and love you provide your children to honor their dad will give them the wings to soar. My children received incredible gifts from participating in grief groups for children and teens. Be well friend and reach out whenever!

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    1. Thank you Kathy for these kind words. Thanks for reading and following our journey. xoxo, Andrea

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  5. I slept on the couch for almost a month after my husband passed away (actually, the day before you posted this was the one year anniversary of his death). When I finally made myself start sleeping in the bed again, I would wake up one of my kids to come down and sleep with me. I couldn't sleep there alone. After about 3 months, I actually Googled "How long after your spouse dies do you take off your rings". And saw a bunch of links to posts where people swore they would never take theirs off. I took mine off at 5 months. Because that was when it felt like time to do it. Because when I went out with friends, people would ask about my husband, since I was wearing rings, and I had to tell them I was a widow. And then they would look at me laughing with friends and give me a look. Or I would feel the need to explain, and then it would get awkward. And when things get awkward, I start laughing. And then suddenly I would be telling someone I am a recent widow while hysterically laughing...and that is even more awkward than just regular awkward.

    I'm sorry someone has told you that you need to just get over it. I never had that and am pretty sure I would throat punch anyone who did. At least I would think about doing so.

    A friend directed me to your blog...I'm in NKY, about to turn 40, have 5 kids, and lost my husband to cancer a year ago. At 60 days, we went to Florida. At 90, I had to have surgery. My first major surgery (besides a C-section) and the one person I always counted on to be there was gone.

    The kids and I celebrate all the things we now do on our own. We make new memories. I recently took my daughter to her first father/daughter dance. Because she wanted me to do it. We tried to make it fun- I wore a tie and suspenders. And I cried watching the other little girls dancing with their daddies and my little girl never will. Sometimes we giggle over the things that we do that we would never "get away" with if my husband was still alive....and sometimes we cry because we wish he was here to scold us.

    You just keep on the way that feels best for you and your family. No one else can know what that is.

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    1. Shelby
      I’m so sorry for your kids too. Thank you for all your kind words as you know there are days you need to hear those.

      I’m sure you are doing a great job, I know how miserable it is to try and parent alone and grieving:(
      Keep at it as I will attempt the same.

      Thanks for finding me and reading our journey.
      Xoxo, Andrea

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  6. 6 months ago... tomorrow actually.... My husband lost his battle with addition and anxiety and made the choice to end his life. I have 4 yr old twins... Theres no way to explain this to them... And there is no getting over it. Every day we get is a blessing. I just focus on that....

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