Even at the end of his long battle with cancer, Donnie’s death was a jolt to my soul. It shook my world and my faith. Although I was thankful his suffering had ended, the searing pain of losing him was unbearable. I just knew that I would never recover from such a loss. It is a long and painful and lonely walk thru the grief of widowhood. There are no shortcuts, no matter how hard you look for them.
It’s been one year since I began this journey into widowhood. It was very surreal to me. Planning the funeral were my first steps. It’s the first thing of many that I would have to face without him. After so many years together, your lives are intertwined so much that you can’t imagine a huge event without them by your side. But there I was standing in the front of that funeral home alone with everyone else’s grief over losing Donnie projected at me. It was overwhelming to say the least. I couldn’t think rationally. All my mind kept screaming was “this can’t be happening to me”. As the service ended, people filed to the front and pay their last respects. As they all walked by me, I knew that this was it. It was over. A wave of grief shook me. I knew that wasn't him in that coffin, he had left me days before, but it was just the finality of it all. I was a widow. I was no longer the person I was before. I was different. I had been different for the last 18 months as a cancer wife. Now I was a cancer widow. I broke down, I shook, and I wanted to scream. I wanted to wake from this nightmare. It was the end of the beginning of my walk into widowhood.
There was a numbness in the next couple of weeks as everyone is around and helping to hold me up. Then one day, they are all gone and I was left standing there again, alone.
In the days that followed, I was going thru the motions. Trying every day to do what everyone was expecting of me. Struggling everyday to get out of bed. Trying to show them all that I was ok. But all the while, having a huge part of me missing and second guessing my every decision. The smallest tasks seemed monumental and each day I wondered how I could possibly get thru one more. There were days that I felt, I might be getting a handle on things and then the very next day or sometimes even the same day, my world would come crashing down around me and the grief would overtake me. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore. The grief had taken its toll on me and I had detached myself from the world going on around me.
There were times that I was angry. I was angry that the world was still moving on all around me and I felt that mine had stopped and was standing still.
I am a widow. Those are hard words to say. It's even harder to see the reaction from someone when you say it. I am a young widow. People don't expect it from me. I don't fit the stereo type of what a widow should look like. I hate saying it. I tell people I lost my husband. I lost him, like I can't find him at the mall or something. I could not run away from the awful truth. I am a widow. He is gone and I will never see him again. I had an aha moment of the obvious to every one but me. I had spent so much time missing him that I had not focused on the obvious, that I would never see him again. I remember the first time that I said the words out loud. “I will never see him again". My voice quivered and my heart broke. I knew he was gone and had been mourning him being gon,but uttering those words was very profound. It was like saying it out loud made it all real. Like if I didn't say it, it wasn't real. It was accepting the fact that he was truly gone. It was 27 weeks when I said those words out loud. Almost 7 months.
Never again would I see his smile or hear his laugh. Never again would I gaze into those baby blues. Never again would I feel the warmth and safety of his arms around me or his fingers intertwined in mine. Never again would I see him walk thru the door at the end of the day or sitting next to me at the dinner table. Never again would I hear him say I love you or kiss me goodnight.
I don't know who I was trying to convince more that I was ok. The world, or me. Maybe I thought I could trick myself into believing that I could do this. You know, fake it till you make it? I longed for the day when the most menial chore didn't overwhelm me. Widowhood causes quite the identity crisis. Who am I? He and I were one unit. Now half of me was gone and I had to figure out who was left here. Not only was I mourning losing Donnie, I was mourning the loss of myself. I was lost I knew where he was. What I didn't know was where to find me.
I am made to feel that because I am young, my life will go on so nonchalantly like I am recovering from a broken leg or something. Donnie and I had 13 years together. I am compared to women who were married 40 years and told how much more they must suffer than me. Really? Are you kidding me? I am sure their grief and sorrow is very profound but it doesn't take anything away from the sorrow and the grief that I have experienced as well. Grief is grief and pain is pain no matter how you look at it. Just because you think someone else’s pain is worse, doesn’t mean that someone else’s pain is non existent.
As time went on I learned better to cope. Although I still felt the gaping absence of him not being there, I learned to get thru each day. There were many days all I wanted was to have him be able to tell me, it’s gonna be ok, you will make it thru this. I wanted to believe in myself as much as he believed in me but that wasn’t easy. But as time passed, I kind of learned how to do things on my own again. Regardless of the lie that time heals, it doesn’t heal. I just became more accustomed to him not being here with me. I didn’t have a choice but to figure things out.
I have been thru all of the stages of this beast called grief. Shock, denial, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Acceptance took the longest of them all. It was also the most painful. I have finally accepted that he isn’t coming back.
I have been desperately searching for “me” for the last year but what I have come to find is that I won’t ever find the “old me” again. I have changed. All of this has changed me. I miss the innocence of the old me. I miss the optimism that I had. But at the same time, I have found pieces of the person that I was and in all of this has emerged a “new me”. Just a different version of the old me. I have more of an appreciation for life. I don’t worry about the things that don’t matter anymore. I am actually kinder, more compassionate, understanding, less judgmental and more loving. Sometimes I am a little more scared, waiting on the other shoe to drop. But hopefully in time, that fear will fade. I am so much more than just a widow. I found Robin again. I have missed her. I have learned to accept myself for who I am and quit beating myself up over the mistakes that I make. I am only human. I know in my heart that everything I do is with the best intentions.
I am moving on and finding happiness again. I am not broken. I have just walked a bumpier path than most. But that is ok. I am stronger for it. I am finding my new life and my new beginning. And most of all, after all the heartache and everything I have been thru and even though it sounds crazy, I am so very blessed to live the life that I have.