Becoming a widow was the most terrible thing that ever happened to me. Besides being heartbroken, I also had no idea what to expect or how to deal with certain problems that arose. Looking back, these are some things that I learned along the way. I would like to pass them on in the hopes of helping someone else.
1. It sucks. I’m not going to try to make it sound better than that. I can’t. It just sucks. Not only do you lose the person you love and your partner in life, but your children also lose their father. You must deal with all of this by yourself because the one person who is supposed to help you during hard times is gone.
2. You become “that person” people stare at in the supermarket. For months after my husband died, I didn’t want to leave my house. I felt like the whole world was watching me. It’s as if what happened to you is what everyone else is afraid of, so they just stare and pray they won’t become you one day.
3. People do and say the dumbest things around you. Some people seem to feel awkward and just don’t know how to handle the situation. That is their problem, not yours. I was once standing outside my hair salon when a woman I knew walked out. I noticed that she saw me. She immediately stuck her head in her handbag and pretended to be frantically looking for something. Then she ran back into the salon. I guess she didn’t know what to say to me but “Hello” or “How are you?” would have been fine.
4. Friends and family may not always understand that you don’t have time. Everyone means well with phone calls, emails and texts, but it is impossible to give everyone a response in a timely manner. You are adjusting to a new and scary life, and so are your children. I know I did not have the time or energy to focus on anything but that. There are those who might not understand this and might get insulted. That can be upsetting at a time when you do not need extra stress. But sometimes people will surprise you with understanding. My aunt once called to check on me, and I never returned her call. When I saw her a month or so later at a holiday dinner, I immediately apologized to her. Her response was, “You don’t ever have to apologize to me, I totally understand. You are going through enough.” I appreciated those words more than you can imagine.
5. Accept help when it is offered. I was lucky enough to have friends and family who were always trying to do whatever they could for me. At first, I resisted. I felt like this was my problem and I had to do it all for myself, and my children. But I realized quickly that doing everything is hard. Little by little, I began to let others do for me when I felt that they genuinely wanted to. It did make life just a little easier.
6. Those who have never experienced a tragedy such as this will not understand what you are going through. They will think that they do, or will try to, but they don’t. They can’t. Everyone means well. They will tell you to get out more, or go out less, or stop doing so much for your kids, or do more for your kids. You just need to do things your own way. You will, of course, make mistakes and ask for advice when needed. But go with your gut, and do things the best way you know how.
7. Do not do what you do not want to do. It may take a long time to feel comfortable going to events alone. This was one of the most difficult things for me. I learned the hard way. I felt obligated, and worse, I let others make me feel obligated to attend weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, parties and other functions before I was ready. I would go to these events and spend a large part of the evening with a big fake smile on my face, trying not to cry. Slowly, I started to decline the invitations that I knew would be too difficult for me. I was sorry if people were upset with me, but I came to realize that you need to do what is best for you or you will never recover.
8. You will never be the same person you were before. This is not to say that you will never be happy again — you will. But it is a different kind of happy. You cannot possibly be the same after going through a tragedy like this. Losing my husband has become a part of me. It no longer controls my every thought, but I now look at life in a new way. Not necessarily bad or good, just different. For so long, I only wanted my old life back. I now understand that this is never going to happen. It was very hard to accept, but now that I have, I am able move on to a new chapter.
9. Life moves on for your friends. You are no longer part of a couple. While your couple friends may still include you, you may not always feel comfortable being the “fifth wheel.” Their social lives will go on without you, too. This is understandable, but it can be difficult and sad to see others moving on while you may not yet be able to do so.
10. It gets better. You see your kids happy again, and that makes you happy. You are with friends one day, and you find yourself smiling and laughing. You feel comfortable going to a party, and you actually have fun. You may see the possibility of finding love again. The sadness and anger lessen, and you try to look at life in a positive way. You will never forget losing the person you love. It is not easy, but at some point, you will find a way to create a new life for yourself.
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.