So here you are, suddenly alone, without your your life partner. And you have no idea what to expect. Your world's been turned upside down. And like a mighty oak caught in a fierce wind, you feel uprooted. Your feet don't touch the ground. Think you're crazy? You're not. You're just a new widow. Surprise! Your husband is dead and your life is forever changed. Learning to expect the unexpected will help you get through this most painful time in your life.
Here's my advice--10 things you need to know in order to survive:
1. Expect people to say stupid things.
Don't worry, you're young, you'll meet someone new."
No matter what your age, these words will sting like a hot iron on raw flesh. Your mind is on your husband and preserving His memory. The thought of another man in your life too soon after His death may cause you additional pain.
"I'm sorry for your loss."
If there is a "loss," this makes you wonder where is found? For a new widow, there is no found.
"He would want you to find a new man."
Hmmm… This writer takes umbrage to this one. Nobody can tell you what He wanted, except you. Nor, should they.
"I understand. I'm divorced."
Divorce is different from death. Though a divorced individual may wish her ex-husband to not be here, it just isn't the same thing. And while divorce can be painful, and having experienced one personally, the death of a soul mate is different. As this writer will attest, there is no connection.
2. Expect to be asked out--by your best friend's husband.
3. Expect to be asked, "Do you masturbate?" by your best friend.
4. Expect to break down in tears when you least expect it--At the sound of the doorbell ringing, at the sound of the telephone singing, at the sight of a man and woman walking hand in hand.
For all too soon the reality of being without Him by your side sets in and it will take time for you to let go of your past.
But you will.
5. Expect to begin each new day wondering how the heck did you make it though the day before? And expect it to end thinking you just can't do it any more.
6. Expect to feel weak, strong, suicidal, angry, happy, euphoric, glad, sad, guilty, alone, lonely, trapped, free, tired, bored, overworked, overwhelmed, silly, puzzled--Like you don't belong.
Why not? You have just experienced life at its worst.
But, I am here to tell you, everything will be okay.
Think baby steps.
Think, I can.
Think, I will!
7. Expect all your friends to run away.
They're frightened, too. And they just don't know how to handle your grief. Seeing you dealing with the death of someone near and dear is simply too close for comfort.
8. Expect all your friends to come back.
Give them time. The real ones do.
9. Expect to find yourself standing in front of an open refrigerator at 3:00 A. M. studying the expiration date on a bottle of ketchup.
Give yourself permission to process your grief any way necessary.
10. Expect to laugh when the dog pees on your living room rug, when the garage door falls off its hinges, when the refrigerator makes a puddle on the kitchen floor, and when the woman next door goes out on a date--With another woman.
Your life is forever changed now and so is your outlook.
In the big picture, these things become miniscule.
11. Expect to wish you were dead.
12. Expect to blame yourself for His dying.
13. Expect to ask yourself questions that have no answers.
Why couldn't I have died first?
14. Expect to make plans to run away.
15. Expect to cancel your plans, because you know deep down inside there is no place to run away to.
16. Expect to kiss a fool. Maybe two. Or, three!
17. Expect to feel like you cheated.
18. Expect to wish for a giant eraser to erase away all your pain.
19. Expect your pain to never end.
But in time, you'll learn how to manage it.
20. Expect to smile--When you feel like crying.
21. Expect to not sleep.
22. Expect to not focus.
23. Expect to not eat.
At first you won't be able to enjoy food. But it is very important to drink plenty of fluids. If nothing else, drink water to keep your kidneys flush.
24. Expect to eat too much.
25. Expect to not be in the mood for all the things you once were in the mood for. Imagine, This writer didn't want to eat chocolate!
26. Expect the sun to rise tomorrow, the daffodils to sprout golden in spring, the red breasted robins to sing merrily, every oak, elm, cottonwood and maple to shed its leaves in autumn, the moon to glow, the stars to twinkle, the earth to spin on its axis, and then to sit and ponder why?
27. Expect no one to understand.
Though they will say, "I understand."
They never will.
Not even another widow.
Grief is personal--Just like a thumb print, no two alike.
28. Expect to make mistakes.
28. Expect to forgive yourself.
Okay. That's it. Now I know what you're thinking – What's with this writer? She's listed more than ten things?
But to make it through your grief, it is important to realize we're not alone. And what you're feeling is normal.
Being informed is being prepared. This information will help you survive.
Remember: Expect the unexpected. And, like the mighty oak caught in a fierce storm bending in the wind to keep from being uprooted, you will learn to accept your plight. You will learn to remain grounded, and eventually you will be able to turn your upside down world right side up again.
About me, the author: My name is Linda Della Donna and I am a freelance writer and a widow. A graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature, I write for children, parents, adults, widows, and anybody going through the grief process. A student of Natalie Goldberg, I write the stuff that makes your hair stand on end--cancer, dying, death, suicide--and I write it from my heart. In 1986, I entered a writing contest. Based on a childhood memory, my short story, "The Year That Christmas Waited" won first prize--I've been writing ever since.
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