Monday, May 4, 2020

In Grief: Young Widow Seeks Support

[Reviewed and updated July 7, 2022]

I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with you ~ and then I realized that you spent the rest of your life with me. 
~ Pinterest

A reader writes: Thanks for your advice that you have given to so many of us. I lost my husband 2 months ago. I am 26. He was 24. We were married for only 8 months before this tragedy struck. He and a friend died in a hiking accident. I went through what NO ONE should ever have to go through, unfortunately, all too many individuals suffer similar experiences. My heart aches for my friend and for my beloved husband most of all.
No one is certain what happened. I do have a sense of peace in knowing that neither one of them suffered.  I do, however, have a hole in my heart and emptiness all around. Thankfully, I am among many friends and family to help me get through this time. 

I have days when I am doing really well...carrying on as "normally" as possible. My religious faith is mostly what pulls me through the uncertainty. I am thankful to have it as a BIG part of my life.  Other days are seemingly impossible.

Unfortunately, with the loss of a spouse comes a lot of other stresses, such as finding a place to live, moving out, and trying to carry on with life in general. Thankfully, my sister lives close by. She and her small family have welcomed me into thier home for the time being. I love being with my wonderful nephew and nieces. Their smiles and encouraging hugs get me through. Although they are young, they can sense my pain and do whatever they can to ease the hurt.

I know that everyone's grief is different. I know that there is no specific timeline for healing, but how do I know when I have healed? I don't think anyone who has ever lost a spouse ever completely heals, but they have to heal enough to carry on with life. What is the typical time-frame for young women such as myself, to start dating again? I stay social with my friends as much as possible, but obviously I am not ready to get back into the dating scene again.

Let me just tell you something about my husband. He was always so caring about my happiness. He would not like to see me in such great pain, and I know that he wants me to carry on with life and be social. Obviously, newlyweds don't discuss death. It really didn't cross my mind when he was alive. Our marriage was blissful and happy. That's not to say that it was without flaw and that we were both perfect. I guess we just had a solid level of maturity in our relationship that we were more forgiving of one another's imperfections. 

I read somewhere that those who have happy first marriages are likely to go for it that true? I guess all of these questions stem from the longing to fill the void that is presently in my life. Once again, I know it will be some time before I feel ready to date again, the very idea scares me! How will I know when I am ready to take on that aspect of life? 

I have taken some positive steps in the healing process. Although it's taken me a while and I don't do it everyday, I'm keeping a journal of my feelings. I probably started this journal almost 6 weeks after the funeral. It really does feel good to just get feelings down on paper. As supportive as my family has been, I know it would be exhausting to talk about "it" all of the time. That's why we have talk about and record our thoughts there. I also have plans to create a memory album of my husband. He did so much good with his life. Few can compare. 

My response: I am so terribly sorry for your loss, and I certainly understand how full of questions you are as you face the future without the physical presence of the love of your life beside you. Of course I have no answers for you, primarily because this is your life (not mine or anyone else's), your loss is unique to you, and you must find those answers for yourself ~ but I also acknowledge and honor your right to ask those questions. Every one of them is legitimate and understandable, even if you yourself do not yet know the answers.

The best advice I can give you is for you to make contact with other young widows, because they and they alone will really understand what you're going through, what issues are unique to your kind of loss, and what you might do to really help yourself. I want to refer you to some articles and resources aimed specifically at young widows and widowers (see the Related links listed below).

One website I urge you to explore is Soaring Spirits International, whose primary goal is to connect widowed people with one another. This stellar organization offers a number of helpful programs, including information and resources for the newly widowed, regional in-person social groups, an online community, Widows Voice Blog posts written by widowed people, a Widowed Pen Pal program, and Camp Widow,  "an uplifting, life-affirming event planned for widowed people by widowed people."

I'm also pleased to learn that you are keeping a journal; this can be a powerful tool for healing. You might be interested in either or both of these books, Writing to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and Loss through Writing and Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives.

Since you are drawn to journaling as a healing tool, another site I recommend is Megan Devine's comprehensive Refuge In Grief. Among other things (including her outstanding book, It's Okay That You're Not Okay), Megan offers an online 30-day Writing Your Grief e-course that "lets you tell the truth about your grief" and connects you with other participants in a private Facebook group.

Again, my dear, you have my deepest and heartfelt sympathy, and I hope it helps to know that you are being held in gentle thought and prayer.

Afterword: Thanks for your thoughtful reply...I'm definitely going to go and check out that book on journaling that you recommended. I appreciate you for taking your time to help me out.

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing NewsletterSign up here

© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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