riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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An Open Letter to M, a New Widow

Dear M,

I’m writing here because I want to get my thoughts down in some semblance of order. When we spoke yesterday,  I’m afraid our conversation didn’t live up to your expectations. “How did you get through it?” you asked. I found it hard to answer, shocked as I was by the news that you, more than 10 years younger than I, not even 30 years old, married for less than a year, are about to be a widow too.

I had just seen you and your husband a few months ago on the eve of your move up North to start a new life. When I didn’t hear from you for a while after that, I figured you were in the throes of settling in. And you were – until six weeks ago when the shit hit the fan. You said you found it too late and now he’s on hospice with days to live. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. How was this possible? I felt silly saying, “I’m so sorry, M… I’m so sorry…” but I didn’t know what else to say. So, here are a few more words.

Contrary to your impression, I am not “the strongest woman ever.” I am the same as you. The difference is I had a little more time to deal with Kaz’s illness, 13 months to be exact, which is a lot longer than your 6 weeks.

I was also in denial most of the time. I didn’t believe Kaz was dying (as quickly as he was) until he had the seizures, ironically six weeks before the end. Then I had to accept the situation and things got a lot calmer. It stopped being a race against time and became more about his comfort and well-being. In a strange way, I think my being in denial helped me get through quite a bit.

When I wasn’t in denial, I had the equivalent of emotional blinders on. I focused on practical matters rather than on the reality that I was losing him. I pushed the reality into the recesses of my brain, consciously choosing to deal with it later. Sure enough, after he was gone, the volcano erupted.

Unfortunately, it sounds like you don’t have time to be in denial or have emotional blinders. Six weeks is a blink of the eye. Yet, some women who lose their husbands instantly would, no doubt, be grateful for six weeks. Every widow’s path is different.

As I told you yesterday (and glad it made you laugh), you can expect to cry A LOT. More than you ever thought possible. So much that it might scare you. You might think you can’t get through it, but you CAN get through it. I can’t tell you how exactly. I just know that you can – and you will.

The most important advice I can give you is to surround yourself with folks who love you, be they family, friends, neighbors, pets. Only good people and good energy. Even if you end up being alone, have these people on standby for the times when you need them. Anybody who gives you any kind of drama, or makes you feel bad about ANYTHING, avoid like the plague and don’t feel one iota of guilt. You don’t owe anybody anything. 

Your creativity might help too. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and unable to deal with the pain, try writing things down – a poem, story, memory, letter, journal entry – or pick up your camera and take pictures. Anything to direct your pain somewhere instead of letting it swirl inside you like a never-ending whirlpool.

To answer your original question, “how did you get through it” – it was a combination of the above, and it was also Kaz. I leaned on the memory of his character and his love. In the darkest moments, I could hear him encouraging me to keep going, to not give up, much the same way I had encouraged him. I knew that he wanted me to go on, that he believed in my strength, and I kept coming back to this over and over.

Keep your beloved S in your heart and mind, and he will help you too. Also, not to get all “new-agey,” but try to be open to feeling his energy around you after he passes, as he might not leave your side right away. It is my personal belief that energy doesn’t just evaporate, especially the powerful energy of Love.

I won’t give you this letter right now, it’s too soon. But I’m thinking of you. I remember how you helped Kaz and I when we were in the thick of things, and now I’m angry that you are suffering. I’ll never understand how unfair life can be sometimes. The pain feels unbearable but somehow we do bear it. As one who is further down this path of fire, I can’t tell you that it won’t hurt, but I can tell you it won’t last forever. You will come out the other side, and you are not alone.

I love you, and I’m here for you always.

Niva

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