Year One of widowhood, the year when the grief is obvious and raw and ugly, gets all the support and attention. But Year Two & Three is just as hard, and in some ways, it is lonelier.
In the first few months of the first year, people check in constantly. They call, text, bring food, plan girls’ weekends and excuse — even support — the shuffling around in pajamas crying each day as we wait for the black, hollow feeling to lift.
From that point.... they get back to their lives and leave you to tend to yourself... alone.
The Year Two/Three widow, however, is comparatively abandoned to the continued reality of a new and unfamiliar life. We are among the “walking wounded,” those largely without outward signs of trauma (weight regained, estate settled, tears more easily stifled) but who are still under equal, if different, strain.
We're given this idea that passing the one-year mark means the hard part is over, like crossing the finish line of a particularly grueling marathon, or getting to the front of the line at Target on a Saturday. But it is not over.
The one-year anniversary of a spouse’s death is not a benchmark for being healed. It’s merely the day after day 364, followed by 366, 367 and so on. For widows, anticipating relief upon the one-year mark is to be lulled, then hoodwinked, by a false target that implies to others, and even us, that we must be out of the woods, and thus less in need of continued support.
Year One is a struggle merely to eat, merely to get dressed in the morning, merely to think straight while confronting a crushing list of knife-twisting administrative to-dos, like car title transfers and insurance claims and endless calls to robotic customer service reps to tell them to cancel your husband’s account/subscription/delivery because he is dead.
By Year Two....Three - those things are largely resolved. No small feat, yet it is all replaced by an equally daunting, though less obvious, list of onward years to-dos, like learning to live with a new, solo identity after years of partnership. Like knowing that other people must think you should be functioning and working at a back-to-normal level again, and being ashamed and frustrated that you are just not. Like facing the immutable truth that he is still — still! — gone, always will be, and there is nothing you can do about it.
In other words, if Year One of widowhood is a struggle for survival, The next years to come are equally difficult.... struggling to begin living life again. It is hard. Our spouses just keep being dead.
Some days I do not care about anything. Some days, I am tired — tired of fighting my way forward, tired of feeling untethered, tired of not knowing how to configure the printer, tired of figuring out all the finances, tired of needing the television on, tired of taking the trash out myself, tired of still having to cancel his mail, tired of everyone else having a spouse, tired of missing Ken. Just tired.
Bedtime alone is still hard. When I awaken in the middle of the night in a lonely panic, I listen to audio-bible or watch Netflix until my mind drifts to the story and away from my endless loop of “what will I do with the rest of my life … why can’t you be stronger.
It is a common refrain among widows that support tends to fall way off after a year. I wish more friends and family would reach out like they did early on. One friend used to send texts containing nothing more than emoji hearts, but it was enough. Some sent me articles or books they thought might help; others called to take me to lunch or dinner. Eating across from an empty chair — and knowing the reason for the empty chair — is difficult. Always initiating plans is tiring.
I want someone to really ask how I am doing, and say Ken's name or talk about him freely. It keeps him alive. I know people are trying not to upset me by bringing him up, but I promise, he is already on my mind.
I do not blame my friends for their increased absence. Supporting a grieving friend long term requires time and stamina. There’s an emotional limit, as friends and family look to return to the safety of equilibrium. There’s an intellectual limit..... How could others understand the breadth of such a loss unless they have gone through it? Spousal grief is like Vegas: One must experience it personally to really understand how huge and overwhelming it is.
The widow’s journey is a complicated and lengthy one.
As I settle in each night with a cup of coffee... one of our favorite Netflix shows and my crochet.... I look across the room at one of his pictures and tell him, “I am trying my very best, my love! "
ich liebe dich Ken!
•¨¯`• ♥ T ♥ •¨¯`•