I have 2 friends whose husband’s have died in the last year. It would seem logical that we all must be dealing with it and suffering in similar ways. That our pain is all-consuming. That we cry. That it is hard to go on without our husband’s. That each day is a challenge. That the way we deal with our lives alone would be similar. That we are learning to live alone. That we are taking similar steps in finding out where we now fit into the world. This would not be true. The only truth would be we are all widows.
I will start with the friend whose husband died a year ago. Her husband died in his sleep. He was not ill. He had not been ill. He was about the same age as my husband, maybe a year or two older, but he was not old. She was living in a different state when he died. In a very nice house surrounded by many close friends. She awoke one morning and noticed her husband was not breathing. She called 911 and told them. They told her to try shaking him as he might just be in a deep sleep. This is the part that bothers her the most, he must have been dead for a few hours as she described something I would not want to have to remember. She cannot get the feel of how he felt out of her mind. He died from a massive heart attack. It is driving her to drink. She is trying to get out of the pain. She told me at first all her friends came to visit, then with time, they stopped visiting. That is when she started to really feel alone. She threw all her husbands things out. She wanted no reminder of what happened. Though she does not realize it her next move was quite brave. She could not forget awakening to her husband like that, it bothered her to live in the house. So, she moved. Not a short move. She moved halfway across the country, to the state I live in, about an hour away. She has one distant family member where she has moved to. Though she is basically alone, she is trying very hard to regain her life. She has gotten a job. She does not like the job but she goes in every day. Though she is still drinking to mask her pain, she has already done something to deal with the pain by moving. Some might call that running away, I do not see it that way. I see her as a strong woman, brave enough to get in her car and drive halfway across the continent to start a new life. I do worry about her though. Drinking might mask her pain, it might make it more intense. She tells me it helps her escape sometimes and helps her sleep sometimes. I have talked to her a little about her drinking. She told me she thinks she is becoming an alcoholic. While the thought had crossed my mind, I felt hearing it would only make her pain worse. I also do not know that she really is an alcoholic. So I told her that she is using alcohol to lessen her pain, which was understandable. When she is better she will quit drinking, as she will no longer need it. I then warned her of the dangers of drinking and driving. She is an adult, she knows, but I felt if I were to in some way be telling he it is okay to drink, I should also add how dangerous drinking and driving are. She told me she has only driven drunk once. I told her once is too many times. She could kill someone’s husband or wife or child, then not only would she have to pay the price with jail time, but she would also have to live knowing she had taken a life and that she now has given another the pain she is in. She promised she would not drink and drive. I also worry that maybe her life is spinning out of control, that she is having mental issues and only tells me what she thinks I want to hear so that I can tell her it is okay. She has extreme mood swings. Sometimes very up and happy other times almost hitting rock bottom mentally. This makes me question her mental status. But then, who am I to question. She is at least trying to get on with her life, even if she is using alcohol to help.
My other friends husband died nine months ago. He too died suddenly. This friend is my neighbor. I have known her and her husband for ten years, talked to them both on a regular basis but never really spent much time with them. I should mention she is a pastor at a church. One day 9 months ago, I saw many people coming to her home. They had casserole dishes, flowers, the type of thing one brings to a person’s home when someone has died. My husband was still alive. I asked him to check the online obituaries as I thought her mother who lives with them must have died. Her mother is in her late 70’s. It was not her mother who had died, my husband informed me it was her husband. He was 3 years younger than my husband. He died during a church service, while she was giving the sermon she saw her husband seemed to be asleep but did not look right, she stopped and walked to wear he was. EMS was called. Her husband died from a massive heart attack also. It has been 9 months and she still has all his clothes and everything else that was his, no matter how insignificant it is. The thought of getting rid of anything he owned is unbearable to her. Much like my other friend, in the beginning she had many visitors, they soon would dwindle, eventually stop coming. But she still has her mother living with her. That must be of some comfort I would think. When we talk she tells me she has two things that keeps her going, her church and her faith in God. I wonder if her faith in God makes it easier on her. She cries all the time. She tells me that every so often she goes through a day without crying too much, but those days have just started and they are not often. She also tells he how unbearable her feeling of loss is, but then goes on to say that God will get her through this. I worry for her too. As I mentioned her mother is growing older. If and when her mother dies, she will be left alone. I wonder if she will still feel that her faith in her church and God are enough to comfort her. She has no family nearby, but considers her church her family. I do not know what it is like to have such faith, but I wonder why she has not thrown or donated her husbands things if she has so much faith. She should know that there are those in need that could use the clothing. But it is not for me to judge her, she is in pain.
When my husband died, I went into shock and to some extent I still am in shock. While I was at the Hospice Home with my husband, I had heard others who had someone die. They would cry, loud and uncontrollable. Someone with Hospice would drive them home. When my husband died, I did not cry. I was unnaturally calm. I was not offered a ride home. In fact after getting home, I had to go through my husband’s clothes, drive back to bring them to Hospice as his body would be picked up and the clothes, shoes, etc. needed to be there. He had written down his wishes. He wanted to be buried in another state. I needed to pack. But first I needed to make phone calls. I do not remember who I called or what I said. I do remember being calm as I told each person. There were two calls I remember. One was to my husband’s uncle, I got his answering machine, thinking another family member must have told him, I left a message so he knew I had thought to call him. But no one had told him, he found out by my message. I will be forever sorry that he found out that way. The other was a call to me from my husband’s half-sister. I was in the middle of trying to get his clothing to bring back to Hospice. She was calling to see how he was doing. I told her he had died and I had no time to talk to her and hung up. I feel bad about that call too as I know I was rude at a time when she must have felt his loss. After bringing his clothes to Hospice, I drove home, made more calls and started to get my clothes packed. I noticed my neighbor whose husband had died was outside, I walked out to tell her of my husband’s death. Another neighbor walked up and I told him too. I also told them that I wanted no visitors and asked them to relay that message to all my neighbors. I would be flying to where my husband wanted to be buried, when I returned I wanted to be left alone to process all that had happened. That I wanted to come home, curl up into a ball and cry, sleep, cry more, sleep more, until I was ready to face the world. I told them I would tell them when I was able to talk with them. It will be six months in two days, I have not told them they can visit, I am sure they do not think of it. While my friends missed their visitors, I never had any to miss. I did not want any, to be honest, I still do not. When I arrived home from my husband’s funeral, the first thing I threw were his mirrors. The next thing I started to tackle were medical things, such as his hospital bed, wheel chair, etc. I made arrangements to donate them. Then I started going through his clothes, putting them in bags to donate. Clothes meant little to my husband, though he liked to be well dressed and probably had more clothes than I do, they were for appearance. At work he had to dress well. In his own time he liked to dress well. He was someone who liked to be in fashion with his clothing. But they had no sentimental value to him. So it was easy to get rid of them. I found a place that helps addicts get back on their feet to donate his clothes. I thought that my husband would be happy to know that his clothes were going to someone who really needed not just clothing, but a second chance, a job. My husband hired a lot of people in his life time and he always said how someone dressed was important. That does not mean he did not hire anyone who did not dress well, he understood not everyone has dress clothes or the money to buy them. But he would tell me, these people had to prove themselves a little more. He hired several through the years that were dressed in ripped jeans and tee shirts. The fist thing he did was to call a uniform company and get them the proper clothing. So I knew this place was the best place for his suits, etc. The place told me they rarely got clothing for men and were extremely grateful. It gave me a brief moment of happiness to know that his clothing were going to good use.
What I did not do when I got home was to cry. It took a month or so until I cried a little, but it was more crying for myself that I no longer had the one thing that meant the most to me. I tried for three years to show strength through his illness, I do not know how to let go of that feeling of strength even though I no longer feel as strong. I know I need a good cry. I cry a little every so often. I never know when it will happen which is bad, as I like to be in control. I do not want to be out and start to cry. Nor do I want to cry around others. I have become skilled at stopping the tears before they start if I am with others. What I feel the most is my heart breaking. They say there is no such thing as heartbreak. There is. Out of nowhere it will hit me that I will no longer see my husband again, ever. I cannot breathe. Not in a panic way. Rather my heart hurts so bad, I am holding my breath. A deep sick, sadness fills the place where my heart is. If that is not heartbreak, I do not know what is. Sometimes anything can remind me that my husband will never be back. The feeling of loss is terrible. At night I cannot sleep. Some nights I stay on the computer all night doing nothing in particular, just trying not to think, suddenly I will notice the sun has come up. I mentioned how social media had become my good friend, now it seems too much of a bother. Most nights after hours of twisting and turning I get up and try to sleep on the couch. It is not comfortable but for some reason I fall asleep easier there. I will awaken after a few hours, sore from the couch, stumble back to my bed and go back to sleep. If there is anything I know is that my life cannot go on like this. I am trying to get my life back, not to what it was, but what it will be. I do not know what it will be or what it will look like. I am having a hard time as I try to get there. But the realist in me knows that it will happen at some point. I just wish it would hurry and get here. I want to live my life again. It will be minus my husband, I will miss him forever, but at least I will be living, not sitting here sad, confused, wondering and wanting a life.
So in the mirror are three widows. I have described each. I think it is evident that we are all trying to find ways to deal. Which is the correct way I do not know. At times, I think how nice it must be to be able to drink the pain away. Then I think of the migraine I will get the next day and know that is not for me. Other times, I think of my neighbor who has so much faith. I think how nice it must be to have such faith, to be able to let faith lead the way. Since I struggle with faith or my faith is limited, that is not an option. I have just given descriptions of two widows that are not me as well as a description of myself as a widow. I wonder if asked, how the two would describe me. I would guess they think I am strong and doing better. They have told me so. It is the impression I give, the reflection. I think they might also take note that I have isolated myself in my house with little contact with the outside world, then again they are dealing with their own grief and may not have noticed, but I can also say they both limit their contact with the outside world to some extent. As told above, the reflection they would see does not resemble me at all. I think if they really looked at me, they would see no reflection, as I have not found yet who I am, now that I am alone.