Female Veterans Programs

On Losing My Spouse: A mother's guide to moving through grief

Nineteen months ago my husband was taken from me and my kids with 10 days’ notice. The details of that will be reserved for future posts. During the last year and a half, I’ve hit the lowest lows and have fought to rebound to see emerge – a new me. It’s been a journey of intense pain and great sorrow. But it’s also opened my eyes to a world I never took the time to see before. The new me is forever changed, but I’ve learned that change doesn’t have to be bad. I’ve written this post 20 times and deleted it 19. Now I’m in a place that it’s time. Time to help those who haven’t experienced traumatic loss to understand the complexities. This is important. Because with the incredible blessings and support does come a microscope and judgement. Those of us who have experienced it can probably all relate to being on “display.” This isn’t meant to be controversial, rather an expression of my emotions. If another person who grieves can relate and it brings comfort, that is my hope. BUT ... Everyone’s journey is different and very much their own. So here goes friends.

Raw and uncut.

Grief is like a scar. It heals but it’s wound is always there to serve as a reminder of that biting moment. You can try to cover it but it remains. I choose to let the world see my scar, and I hope in time you don’t see just the scar, rather you see just me. In time, you don’t see me as the person who that happened to, but the person who I now am.

This wound I carry may look like a weakening of the skin, but really it’s a strengthening of the soul.

Grief will grab the strongest of spirits, rip it apart and dare it to heal once again. Taunting you; its relentless pursuit of who you once were screaming at you to fold. Slowly, minute by minute, then hour by hour, and eventually day by day you win the battles.

You begin to accept, and then genuinely appreciate the new you. If you are ready and quite brave enough, you embrace it. And then dammit you do something with it. These new stripes that you have earned will not be in vain. It’s your new teachable moment. You learn how to view the world. You decide which moments you soak in, and the ones you cast aside.

Seeing the new you is terrifying at times because you’re winning the battle. The suck is still there, but you now know how to allow it to be part of you. You own this fight.

So there you are. Feeling with heavy heart and a deep breath; ready to move forward.

And boom – the world tells you you’re moving on.

I pray that those with opinions never have to experience what they are so quick to judge. Another lesson learned. Another opportunity for strength.

So if you lost a spouse and you’re dating much to the eyebrow raise of others, so be it? We, who have lived it, all think the same thing. I pray to God you never have to sit in this seat to understand the complexities.

If you don’t show your grief to the world, that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. You have the right to grieve privately. Your job isn’t to make everyone else comfortable with this process. Those with opinions aren’t invited over at 2 a.m. when the raw emotions are taking their toll.

So because they don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I once had someone say to me, “You must be all ok now because I don’t see you really upset.” That stung. I have been very private. By choice. Please don’t insult those in grief because you’re too arrogant to see that us not sharing it with you means we aren’t feeling it.

If you lost a parent and people think it’s time to stop feeling sad, too bad- it’s your journey. Take your time. With no explanation.

If you’ve lost a child and someone thinks having another will make it all better- turn the other cheek for they don’t have the emotional capability for proper empathy. But you also don’t have to allow them back in. Sometimes the toxicity is too much; and some people have to be excused from your life. And that’s ok.

My message is this. No rule book exists, no guide to grieving. There are no words to make it better. Sometimes, we have to sit through the suck. Sometimes to help someone who is grieving, we have to be uncomfortable. Sit in silence with that person. Just be.

As I move through my journey I have so many blessings. God. My children. My family. My friends. The people who have done more things than I could list. I will never take them for granted.

And yes eventually, I allowed in the love of very patient man. A good man. A wonderfully kind, caring, funny and as sincere a man I know. Patient, understanding and willing to do the work involved in a relationship with a widow and three kids. So no, I haven’t moved on. I’ve moved forward.

At first because I had to ... to save myself.

In time because I wanted to ... for me and my kids.

Now ... because I’m lucky enough.

Lucky and blessed and so very happy. The heart expands and allows for multiple loves. Because why wouldn’t it? It’s complex and messy, filled with doubt, guilt and fear. And also love, hope, laughter, smiles and safety. But that’s what makes it living. And I simply refuse to just function.

I. Will. Live. Everyday.

Without explanation.

And I’m privileged to be able to do so. Privileged every morning to wake up and take a breath. So simple. So pure. So basic.

This is how I honor my late husband. I live my life. I don’t apologize for it. Anyone who knew Bill knows he wouldn’t have. He made zero apologies for who he was. I know he’s proud of me, approves of my choices, and would high-five my results so far. Bill was a live in the moment man. He encouraged me to do the same. I struggled with that when he was alive. I won’t make that mistake in his death.

I love the man with whom I shared 21 years, three children and a lifetime of memories.

And now I also love the man who wants to move forward with all of us in this next chapter.

And that’s ok. And healthy. And right where I should be.

My one request. Don’t just function. Don’t just get through the day-to-day. Make them count.

Just live my friends. Truly live.