Entering Widowhood: The In-Betweens

It’s been a couple months since my last post here on my new status as a “widow.” The horrid “W” word that no one in love or marriage actually wants to think about.

In that time I’ve made a few personal steps forward, a few back, one even sideways I would say. I have had friends and mentors die in the last few weeks, friends get married, friends getting pregnant, friends having their children, and friends getting ready to graduate from college and “move on” to the next phase of their own lives.

Through it all, my constant is still defined by my husband’s death. I can see how easy it is when one is steps away from the actual death, is not closely bereaved. Life continues for most. They still have school, or a job. They have children who need them, and a living reason to get up in the morning, to eat, to take care of their own selves. That becomes harder for me.

I am a person of habit. I have lost them all. The schedule I had before my husband became sick is something I will never get back to. The schedule I had with him, is also something I am trying to accept that I will never have back.

I’ve had a good bereavement counselor from Hospice see me, and that, to a degree, has been helping my mental state. It is always nice to hear that the feeling I have, the thoughts, most of the emotions are all in the “normal” range for grief. What we’ve spoken about more of is the really arbitrary number system that American society has on “moving on.” It seems to be around six months if you are a younger widow(er) and/ r have no children and around 12 months for those who were married, say, more than five years and/or had children. While some mourners certainly can fit those numbers, I feel rather constrained to have a faceless nobody tell me to “get over it, already.” (“It” being the death of my husband.)

As a note, for me personally, and I have heard from other widow(ers) that hearing the phrase “moving on” can be disgusting and heart-wrenching for the bereaved. “Moving On” has a lot of implications, and though, for the most part, the people who say that come from a place of good or kind intentions, what is most often heard is “Well, we’ve been able to not think about/speak about [dead person] we have decided it is time for you to stop as well.”

Being a young widow, I often hear that phrase. I have tried nicely to have my family and friends stop using it, but after a few weeks of being nice, I just tell them that I can’t talk to them if they must use that phrase. Being a young widow what I’m hearing more of as time passes on is something akin to, “Well, you’re young. Well, you still have time. Well, there are still options. Well, being young, you still have your whole life ahead of you!”

These phrases are also terribly not helpful.

Being “young” is not a hard and fast rule. By pure age or cycles around the sun, yes, I am in my mid-twenties.

By life experience, I am willing to wager I am far more mature than most people in their early- to mid-twenties.

I have “time.” Time for what, exactly? My husband thought he had time, too. His brain cancer began to grow when he was 24. He was dead one month after his 28th birthday.

Time is not something I take as a given anymore. Time is not my friend, nor my enemy. Time is not to be taken for granted by myself though. Or, perhaps by “time” it is meant that I have “time” to find (another?) love? That is quite a presumptuous thought on my own feelings of love, intimacy, and personal wishes.

I have “options.” Please, dear friend, expound on that. What options specifically? As it is my life, I believe the choices are mine to make. Options for living? Options for moving? Options for a job, a career, another lover? Generic statements that do not really support anything.

“…still have your whole life ahead of you.”

That phrase, however, might be the worst of them all. That is the exact problem. I do have the rest of my life, every second I breathe or have my blood beating, to go. I am all too aware of this. I am aware with every bit of my body that can feel, and every bit of my soul that can feel, time is taking me away from the person I had wanted, expected, and pledged my life to.

I am all too aware of the days, months, years, decades even that lie ahead of me, without the person who swore the deepest oath to be there with me through it.

I have my whole life to live, missing the part of life I wanted to live for. Missing the half of me that wanted to share in living.
That kind of grief and mourning cannot be rushed.

I am thankful for the Hospice services. My local Hospice that served Wash during his illness is a non-profit and I can feel the people who work there really do care, and have a lot of experience in addressing the mourning issues. I can only imagine how much more depressed I would be without them.

For me right now I am trying to work on stopping the comparisons of my life to the friends and social circles around me, and I have to stop comparing how my life is now to what I had in mind it would be.

I had prepared as best as I could, as my husband’s death was inevitable. His was not a cancer that can be “cured.” What is almost harder is knowing I could not prepare for the actual feelings I have had since he has died. Grieving who he was, our love, who he and we were going to be. Grieving the two pregnancies that almost were, and were lost. Grieving the anniversaries that now come, but are not cause for celebration.

Towards February and March I had played around a little with taking my wedding band and engagement ring off. Sometimes just for an hour at home. Sometimes for a whole night while I slept. Once or twice I even went outside on a walk without them. Then came the first wedding I went to since my Wash had passed. It was lovely, and my happiness for the couple is genuine. However, this was a wedding that Wash knew was coming. These were his friends, his brothers. This was a uniting of love that he should have been alive for. He should have been there to make a toast, to wish them well.

I stopped taking off my rings after that. I’m not ready to stop wearing the reminder of his promise to me. I’m not ready to take off my engagement ring that was the other half to his matching engagement ring. I have decided to forego any wedding invitations for the next while. Perhaps through this year, perhaps through next spring. I don’t want to limit myself to a specific number.

It’s not just the odd isolation that comes with being a young widow. I am stuck in many “in-betweens.” I am not in school finishing any degree. I love school, and I do have a desire to return someday. The timing is not right now. I do not yet have a job that provides me income, let alone a career. I’m not yet homeless, but I have no real way of moving anywhere new, despite my desire to leave this home I once shared with my love at some point likely this year. I have days now where I rarely cry, where I am starting to have longer hours together functioning. I am thrust as well into the space behind that where I still have moments breaking down and sobbing for hours until my eyes swell shut.
I am trying to stay friendly and in contact with the many many many more female friends I have who are pregnant or had/have kids.

It is hard for me to see something I wanted, something I had (if only for a few weeks), something I lost, something I will never have again. It is hard to have and own my own emotions and history and still be happy for those I love and care about. To visit and meet the child of a close friend who was born right before my Wash passed; I’m still working on how to cope with my own pain and express joy for the happiness in the lives of the people around me I love and care for. To hold hope for the friends and family I love that they will never have to face the pain I am living.

I will direct you up a few paragraphs and please ask you don’t placate me by saying I’m still young enough to have children, or to get married again, or to adopt (as a single??) or that “things will happen in their own time.”

So, how is this 26 year old widow doing?

There is no simple answer.

There is no set time on grief, or progress, or regression.

I simply am, now in place of “we simply are.”

For now, I am in-between. I still wear my rings, but I said my “goodbye” and listed my status on Facebook as “Widowed” instead of married. I have begun to really sort through his belongings, but have not yet fully parted with everything. Though I physically feel split in twain without him, I’m able to now stand on my one leg, even if I cannot move in any direction yet.

My journey continues.

You are all still welcome to follow along.

By Tashi

I am a mid-twenties former student - formerly a full-time caregiver for my husband 'Wash' who had Glioblastoma Multiforme - End stage brain cancer. He passed away in Sept 2012 one month after his 28th birthday. I have a medical anthropological background and was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as an adult in 2006. My husband was in college for Architecture studies before he withdrew due to the cancer. I am a Humanist and a very large nerd. Wash identified as a geek. I have been in the alternative scene for a period in my life and have had over 70 piercings. I have also held a long term job working with Real Estate agents. Both my husband and I are supporters of legalizing Medical Cannabis. Home is in the Valley of the Sun, Arizona with our two cats.

4 replies on “Entering Widowhood: The In-Betweens”

Gods, this is giving me goosebumps. And my first reflex was to give advice, add some words like you haven’t thought of anything underneath the sun yet. I guess that’s what humans do, a knee jerk reaction to show we’re helping while at the same time keeping “it” far away from us. Because who knows, it might be contagious.

All the best.

Oh, honey. I was seriously blinking back tears reading this. While I can’t even begin to fathom the pain you are going through, all I can tell you is just take one step at a time and be easy on yourself — that is, if you’re not doing that already. And no, I’m not going to pretend I can predict what’s going to happen to you, ever. It’s too soon to do that, and you and I both know it well.

Here’s something I hope will be helpful:

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