Helping Yourself Heal – Support for Widows Part 1

helpingyourselfheal

Welcome to the first installment of an 11-week-long series here on WSW called Helping Yourself Heal. In this series, we will be examining a set of practical steps that I have found to be helpful and relevant to the grief of a widow. (Read more about the origins of this list and my reasons for this series here.)

Each Sunday I’ll tackle one of the suggestions from the list, sharing the info from the original article as well as my own experiences and suggestions. I hope you’ll join me in examining how you can help yourself heal, and be sure to pass this along to anyone you may know who could benefit. <3

 

Suggestion #1 – Allow Yourself to Mourn

Your husband or wife has died. This was your companion, the person you shared your life with. If right now you are not sure of who you are, and you feel confused, that is appropriate because you have lost a part of yourself. When you experience the death of someone you love, live with, and depend on, feeling disoriented is natural.

You are now faced with the difficult but important need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the death of your spouse. It is an essential part of healing. [source]

Honestly, this is a doozy to start with, because it was probably one of the hardest ones for me implement. In fact, I still struggle with this.

From the very beginning, within a few short dazed and numb hours, I was required to start making decisions. These were huge choices, decisions no 25 year old should have to make, much less one who was in shock. Crucial decisions like if I should call my in-laws to give them news about their son since they couldn’t be reached, how quickly I could travel to meet my husband’s body as it touched onto American soil for the first time in six months, and what I wanted to do about a few finance things. More important decisions were looming: where to bury my husband, how to plan his funeral and arrangements, how to get home. I had to make a choice: fall apart, or go into “business mode” and shove the pain into a corner so I could take care of business. And while I’d much rather have given up in that moment, I didn’t. I put it all aside and focused solely on making the right choices, making my husband proud by honoring him in these final ways, doing things as I knew he would like them, and presenting him and his life in the best possible light.

Yet somehow, when all of the ‘stuff’ was over and I found myself back home facing what semblance of life I was left with, I never turned that “business mode” off. It was too painful to face the loss, it hurt too much to let myself mourn. So I stayed numb. I kept everything locked away. Avoidance became my coping mechanism.

I started this blog a little less than a year after The Hubs death as a way to write through my emotions. It was a start, but yet I still only faced my grief for those brief hours it took to write it down. The rest of my days and weeks were spent distracting myself and denying the mourning that I obviously desperately needed. And I’ve learned over these past four years, and especially in therapy recently, that avoiding the inevitable only makes it worse in the long run. The only way to grieve is to go through it. You can’t go around it, you can’t tread lightly on top of it, and you can’t ignore it.

It is so, so important that you allow yourself the time you need to mourn. If this means you need to be alone, do it. If it means you need someone around you all the time, do that. If it means you need to wear your PJs for a week straight while you watch old home movies and cry, then DO IT. Let all of those feelings come and soak them in. Your hurt is evidence of a love so important, so deep, so true. And mourning for the loss of a big piece of your heart is a display of that love. It is okay to let yourself cry in the Target aisle when you see your husband’s favorite candy, the one you purchased in bulk for his care package, because it feels like yesterday that he was asking you over the phone to pick some up while you were standing in that very aisle. It is okay to eat take out and not cook for a month (okay, a year) because every time you grab a pan it makes you think of cooking all of your favorite meals together. It is okay to sleep in his shirt, the worn out one he wore all the time, and to spray his cologne on it and close your eyes while you breathe deeply. It’s also okay to soak that shirt in your tears. Let it out. Let it go. It is okay. You are okay, no matter how you choose to mourn.

But please, let yourself mourn.

The only way out of that pain is to feel it.

Just remember the caveat to this step — you are not alone and this is not the end. I promise. While it is important to allow yourself to feel the pain of mourning, if that pain ever becomes too much to bear, please don’t give up. As much as it’s not possible to believe right now, the pain won’t be this overwhelmingly devastating forever. You will find healthy ways to cope and to release, and the ache of grief for your love will eventually become a comfortable partner rather than a crushing enemy. And until you get there — you are not alone. Reach out, there are widows out there who understand exactly how those breathtaking, out-of-body, disbelieving moments feel and we are here to help you through it. Send me a message, check out the Resources page for communities you can connect with, google ‘widow support’, search for a widow Facebook group (there are many!), call a hotline, whatever you need to do to connect with someone who understands.

Community creates hope. Hope brightens the light at the end of tunnel.

And there is a light. <3

[…] out Part 1 here, or read more about this series […]

[…] out Part 1 and Part 2 here, or read more about this series […]

10 Years Ago

2004

10 years ago, 19 years old.

This girl.

She was so young, so full of love and possibility and excitement.

She was carefree and a little wild, heady with her first dose of freedom.

She was determined, flying past barriers and dreaming of a grand future.

She was in love and learning how to be a wife, making mistakes and love.

She was rarely afraid, exhilarated at the thought of seeing the world.

She was consumed with life and living every moment presently and completely.

This girl.

She may have aged,
gained some weight and a child,
lost a husband and some innocence,
and grown wiser and wearier, but…

She’s still in there.

And I’m going to find her.

This post is a response to the weekly Writer’s Workshop over at Mama’s Losin’ It!. Learn more about the ‘pretty much famous’ weekly prompts here. This week I chose: ‘Find a photo of yourself taken 10 years ago. How have you changed since the day that photo was taken?

Sarah

You will find her. I have faith in that! You never truly lost her. Thinking of you!

Andrea

I love you so much sis! She IS still in there and i Know you will find her!!!

Erin

Thank you Sarah! I believe she is in there too. It’s so easy to let ourselves get lost in the tides of life. I wish for a bit of that youthfulness for us all! :)

Erin

I love you too! Your creativity and determination inspire me! :)

Oh that last line just jabbed me in the heart. She’s in there and you will find her. Very beautifully written.

Erin

Thank you Kat! <3

Tuesday (Wednesday?) Tunes | James Dean & Audrey Hepburn

Now that the routine of the new year is upon us, I’m working on one of my mini-goals for this year: more regular content on WSW. Right down to a editorial calendar, you guys! I usually write on the fly, without much editing, so moving to a scheduled system is kind of a big deal. I hope it turns out to be fulfilling, for both me and you! :)

Which leads me to today’s post — Tuesday Tunes is back! I’m a day late, since I had to share my wink-filled day yesterday. Haven’t seen my tune posts before? Check this one out, or this one.

Sleeping with Sirens — James Dean & Audrey Hepburn

*Each week I share a currently meaningful or relevant song from my playlist. You can check out past Tuesday Tunes here. I love new music, so please share your favorite tunes in the comments (or if you’d like to see Tuesday Tunes turn into a weekly linky, let me know!).

They Happen Rarely

thinkofyou

Today has been one of those days.

They happen rarely.

Most days are normal, disconnected even. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because of something I’ve done, if I’m not perceptive enough or too cold-hearted. But perhaps the infrequency is a blessing in itself, making it sweet sorrow when it does happen.

Like today.

It started with a feeling when I awoke. For a few blissful moments, in that place between wakefulness and sleep, I felt like I was back home. The blankets were just right, the pillow at my back a perfectly-sized snuggle illusion. The house was cold, much colder than it’s ever been since I left South Dakota, and had that heater-just-came-on homey smell. If I could have stayed in that moment, that everything-is-back moment, I would have. But it was fleeting.

Then came the box. I found it as I was putting away the last of the Christmas decorations. A small clear Sterilite-style storage container, apparently taken out of the big black bins I received from Afghanistan but quickly stashed away again. Among Leathermans and patches and other things, I saw them. The cards, letters, pictures and trinkets excitedly received in the mail and placed upon walls and shelves of a plywood camp in the desert. Individually wrapped in Ziplocs, each painstakingly accounted for and sent back to sad hands. I put them, and the box, back, unopened yet again.

But the third thing. Oh, the third thing. It is still making my heart skip a beat. It brought tears to my eyes instantly, and in public. It was a normal day in Little Man’s taekwondo class, sitting in a cold metal folding chair next to The Hub’s dad just like I do every Tuesday. Only this day, the words out of his mouth did something big to my heart. “I found a video of your wedding.” A video The Hubs nor I never knew existed, a video he doesn’t remember taking. A complete video, still in good condition, from start to finish. Beautiful, precious footage of that magical day that I had resigned myself to never bearing witness to again.

At this point I am speechless.

Until I get to the parking lot.

And see that I am parked next to a car with an EOD sticker on it.

We are 3 hours from the nearest base in a city with no considerable daily military population, certainly not EOD. Yet, here was his badge. On a silver Hyundai Elantra, the exact same color, make, and model of our car, the one we purchased as a newlywed couple and eventually drove our child home from the hospital in.

Yep.

So here I sit, overwhelmed from this day. A day full of ‘winks’, of I’m here‘s and thaw-your-heart‘s.

And of course, right this very second, as I am typing the last few words of this post, If I Die Young just came on Pandora.

Today has been one of those days.

They happen rarely.

[…] to today’s post — Tuesday Tunes is back! I’m a day late, since I had to share my wink-filled day yesterday. Haven’t seen my tune posts before? Check this one out, or this […]

One Word 2014

Yesterday I reflected on last year, but today I am ready to look ahead.

While I do enjoy setting goals and challenging myself, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. Those things are just doomed to fail by March, seriously. Instead, each year I choose one word to live by. This word sums up something I want to focus on or a certain way I want to live, and acts as a reminder of that intentionality throughout the year. (Read more about One Word 365 here or check out what my word was in 2013.)

This year, my word is balance.

balance

I am striving to achieve balance in all areas of my life: parenting, fitness and health, emotions, habits and hobbies, finances, everything. Knowing when to give and when to take, when to crack down and when to indulge, when to move and when to be still. Trusting my intuition and marrying it with wisdom.

What is your word for 2014? Let me know in the comments and find your tribe here.

I love the word balance. I could use a little bit of that in my life. My word for 2014 is intention. It’s exactly how I want to live this year. xo

Erin

Intention, I love that. May every moment of 2014 be mindful and full! <3