My first post was a long and emotional. It was as hard to write as it was to read and living it was almost unbearable. The whole process of grieving is absolutely complicated. Every person, even in similar circumstances, have very different grieving experiences. That’s perfectly normal.
I couldn’t lean on my family. When someone young dies (he had just turned twenty-five 4 days before that), it shakes everyone’s foundation. Young people are not supposed to die. My in-laws were devastated beyond comprehension. I’m not sure what I would do if I lost a child. Probably wish i were gone too.My parents and grandparents felt like he was a son, so they had a similar reaction. Plus, watching me, their own child, suffer was probably almost worse than their grief. For my friends, his death was hard because they could see themselves widowed, with children. They felt grief for Randy, sorrow for me and our families, and worry for their own families. My kids and I talked about missing Daddy and how sad we were. I wanted them to know it was okay to be sad. I couldn’t share my burden with them though. I truly had no one I felt I could share that burden with, besides God.
Believe me, I know that God carried me on days when I couldn’t find the strength to walk. There were many of those days. I did grow deeper in my faith. I needed to find my path and do the work. No one could do that for me, not even God. I looked for resources to help me. I couldn’t find any that were designed for young widows or young widows with children. I felt like I had to do it on my own. I don’t want you, or anyone, to go through this alone.
Don’t get me wrong. People stepped in to help me. More than I could have ever asked for. All of my stuff had to be moved back from the new house. My brother-in-law and friends did that. Before the move we had given away some furniture because we were replacing it with new when we moved. My family helped us do that. People watched my children whenever I wanted so I could go be by myself and do what I wanted. I just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, dump my emotional garbage on them and leave it for them to sort through. They had their own.
I think feeling like you have no one to share the burden with happens more for young widows than other widows. A young widow is also responsible for her children’s healing too. The moment he died I was a single mom of three children under 7 years old. I didn’t have an education. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know how long we would have healthcare. On top of that, I was dealing with lawyers to get bills paid that my insurance denied (I had to SUE my OWN insurance company to make them pay our bills from the accident that was caused by someone else, even though we had carried uninsured and under insured insurance for many years). Plus, there was a criminal case since he was ticketed for drunk driving. He (who is to remain nameless so I don’t somehow get in trouble)was charged with reckless homicide. He plead guilty. He was sentenced to probation (yes, probation), loss his license for 2 years, and would carry a felony conviction with him forever. I also started receiving nasty phone calls. I had tracing devices on my line and had to have a security system installed. That’s a lot for a person who wasn’t sure how to put both feet on the floor in the morning and cried herself to sleep at night.
I did find THREE things that helped me:
First, I donated my time to a Christian Pregnancy Center. Another passion of mine is teen moms because I was one. That was tough even with support. There are so many girls who do not have that support and I wanted to help. I couldn’t make myself feel better, so I thought I could help someone else feel better. Being there did help.
Secondly, I sought counseling. I was already reeling from Randy’s death when Sept. 11th happened It was less than a month later. I found myself sitting on my bed while the kids were in school, rocking and crying as I watched footage of people jumping from towers.
In my mind, I had just lost my past and my entire future and now, the world was on fire and people were jumping from sky scrapers. I knew my situation was bad, but those people and their families, had it worse. I felt like I was drowning. I was having panic attacks, although I didn’t know what they were at the time. I called Randy’s EAP and found a counselor in my area. She turned out to be a Godsend! Her sister had also lost a husband to a drunk driver. The kids went when they wanted. I went alone when I felt I needed to. The anxiety would build up every week, every appointment had its challenges, and every time I left that building, I felt better. We continued counseling for over a year. My counselor navigated everything WITH me, even the beginning stage of dating.
Later, about month 2 maybe, I did one more thing. I started working out. I had gained weight. It’s amazing how that year went. In January I was still pregnant and I gave birth towards the end of that month. By May, he thought he had a job over an hour away. By June, he was in his new job, we had found a brand new house (wasn’t even finished yet), and we were preparing ours for the market. By the weekend of August 14th, kids were registered in new school and all of our stuff was in the new house waiting to close. On that Saturday, August 18, Randy died.
I was having trouble with my periods. I thought it was all stress related, but all my kids had was me now. I had to be the best me I could be. Plus, I wasn’t sleeping and had SO much anger. I thought maybe working out would let me release some anger, take off some weight, and wear me out enough that I would fall asleep. It worked, on all accounts. I did get back on track and so did my periods.
Every experience has things happen that you could never predict. For me, some of these were amazing and restored my faith in humanity. Others, left me hurt.
I never could have predicted the wake would be comforting. The outpouring of support was so uplifting. They estimated about 475 people waited in line for over an hour and a half to see me. I expected this to be torture. I cried, but not as much as I had expected. What I found was he was loved by many. What an impact we have on others. They all had their own message to relay and usually involved a story or three about Randy. How amazing. Comforting. Also, many people donated money to help us through. Amazing donations from people who might not even be able to afford it. It restored my faith in humanity. It showed me that when the chips are down, people, even strangers will step in.
On the flip side of that, there were some things that happened that broke my heart. I would go to the grocery store and see people I knew. It was a blessing and a curse. Part of me didn’t want to talk. I was just miserable. Part of me felt comfort when they would over to talk. I can’t count the number of times I saw a person that normally would come talk to me, but instead, they looked at me and walked the other way. Hurtful. They didn’t mean to hurt me. I later would talk to some of them and say, ‘Hey, noticed you at Wal-Mart a while back, but I guess you didn’t see me’. Many said that they wanted to talk to me, but they didn’t know what to say to me and that it was just too painful to look at me. They explained that there was so much pain in me that it couldn’t be hidden.
As you move towards living again, you start wearing a smile. It’s fake, but you wear it because it makes other people feel better. People have preconceived ideas of how long a person should grieve. Some think you can grieve, but you have to be ‘normal’ again. They have no idea the depth of grief that lives in us. At first, people will call and they will make an effort to stop by. By the 6 month mark for me, I stopped getting visitors and calls. I actually had some people tell me that I needed to get my act together, it had been a long time. Who in the world are they to tell me how I should feel or for how long? It’s hard not to let that kind of stuff bother you. It’s just as important to not let that kind of stuff bother you. This is your journey on your time and if you want to go the long way instead of taking the short cut, you should do it. In fact, I recommend it.
I don’t want to bore you with little details or every single step I made. I don’t plan on taking you day by day account through my grief. Or even month by month. I would like to take you through some important aspects of my process. Just giving the highlights makes for an emotional and long read. I have some things I wrote way back then. I plan on sharing those, too. It’s interesting to look back at where my heart was then. There is something very unique about being a young widow. We may be different and walking on different paths, but we share that bond. There are those who came before you, those who walk with you, and those who will follow you. May you find kinship and comfort in that.