Sunday, March 2, 2014

Widowhood Orientation Booklet

Dear John,
We had Forgiveness Vespers and the Great Fast has started. So has the athletics of trying to stretch readers and chanters over so many extra services. I've offered to help. So if there are nights I don't make it here, don't worry. You know well the wonderful rigors of Lent.
I've been thinking. I have an old friend who's newly-widowed, and two just-widowed widow-friends in the Facebook group. So I've been remembering the first couple of weeks without you, and pondering what I want most to say to brand-new widows.
First, I think, is "We love you and you're not alone." Losing the most important person in your life leaves you feeling so completely alone. And when you're widowed young, you're even more alone - you may have friends who are widows, but they are probably twenty or thirty years older than you and at very different places in life. It helps so much to know that there are other young widows out here. Young, here is a relative term, so don't point out my age.
In the first couple of weeks, my next thing would be to tell them to be gentle with themselves. You need to let yourself feel whatever you feel, sleep when you want to, eat what you want to, let up on your expectations of yourself. It's okay if your brain isn't working. It's okay to cry all the time. You don't have to be a grown-up every minute.
The next thing is crucial over the long haul: Don't let anybody should you. There will be plenty of people telling you what you should do, think, feel, and be. Pay no attention to them. They'll tell you that you should get out more, or start dating, or be over it by now, and hundreds of equally silly things. If you feel like asking them how long ago THEY were widowed, go for it. If you have an expressive face and are sufficiently shocked by what they say, they'll go away. However you do it, pay no attention to them.
The last thing is true almost all of the time, and that's to not make major decisions for at least a year.  Sometimes, such decisions are required by circumstances. If it's not required, don't do it. Widowhood is largely about patience, and you might as well start here. Don't hurry yourself or let yourself be hurried. We're not able to make good decisions in the early months. Take time to get your feet under you and figure out who you are.
No, that's not the last thing. The last thing would be to tell them that it's going to be hell, but it will get better. I don't know yet how much better, but I've had long enough to know that things do get better.
For now, that's it. Those are the things I want to tell all my newly-widowed friends. Most of all, I wish I could spare them this journey. I wish nobody else had to travel this road. But - and I know I keep saying it, but deal with it because it's true - we aren't traveling this road alone. And as everybody learned in kindergarten, when you go out into the world, you should hold hands and stick to together.
Our little widow-group will survive. I'm certain that, as we are together here, you are together there. Welcome the new men for us! And keep praying for your wives, because it's harder than any of you can imagine. Love us, pray for us, and keep the light on.
Love you forever and ever,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Joan...well said. Thank you for the reminders. There is hope and it does get better...right