I had a lightbulb moment this week . At the time, I was half way through the book Confessions of a Mediocre Widow by Catherine Tidd. She writes about her encounter with another new widow. “There were others in the room, family members and friends, who had either already heard the stories or had been there to witness them. Every once in a while, one of them would chime in with what they remembered. But they all seemed to benefit from having a fresh pair of ears who had never heard any of it laughing along and enjoying the history “That’s it,” I thought. “That’s what we all want. To tell our stories to someone who cares to hear them. I don’t have to say a word. Just let her talk.””
It hit me like a million bricks. SO MANY PEOPLE had asked how they could help the days and weeks following Fareed’s passing. I had no idea. I look back now though and realize the most beneficial thing was for someone to listen, to let me honestly pour out my heart, to let me tell our stories. This may be the exact same reason I find blogging and sharing photos so therapeutic. I just want to share our story, my story.
I started to reflect on the research I have done on Young Widows. Yes, Research. That may sound a little bizarre but, when you become a pregnant widow at the age of 24, any sense of normalcy helps. So I researched. Although a young widow is often considered a widow under the age of 50, and well I’m half that age- it relieved some of the insanity. I found people who could relate. People with children, people who lost their spouses so suddenly, people with stories. Plenty of memoirs, blogs, poetry, and songs to choose from. Lots of articles on how to cope, what to say to the grieving, the stages of grief, advice on your wedding ring, or helping your children cope. One similar tie, there were lots of stories. I find it very true that their is healing in our stories. That reliving them, acknowledging them, and moving forward in them is a vital part of our existence- especially as survivors.
My life before Fareed revolved around the theme of stories as well. I actually started a non profit called Chapter of Thirst, on the basis that we all have a story to tell. I wanted to help share the stories of those who were thirsty- the poor, the weak, the tired. In April 2011 I wrote “This is where it starts. This concept that we are all part of a story. Everyone we know or have ever met. We are tied to each other. We all know what it means to suffer, to smile, to be silly, to be frustrated, to be broken. As people, most of us understand the concept that we all have a very beautiful and personal testimony. Where your testimony drops off, another picks up. The chapters of our lives play roles in the chapters of other peoples lives and we become one story.”
These words are now speaking directly into my soul. I have known suffering, and it helps to read the stories of those who have known that same suffering. I can smile knowing that other young widows felt a little insane and upside down after their spouse passed away. That other people thought about how important it would be to get back in shape vs have that mom butt. You may not laugh, but most young widows will understand this- because it is part of our story. I have found that reading other peoples stories who are not similar to mine has grown my empathy and patience as a person. I have learned that the surface isn’t always what it seems to be. We truly are all part of one story. It is a very small world and at some point all of the pieces become intertwined.
On multiple occasions I have had people tell me I should look up X or contact Y because they have been through a similar situation. Shouldn’t it seem odd that we want to hear our stories come out of another persons mouth? We would never wish our pain or suffering on another person. But, if someone has been there, felt that, and rose from the ashes- I want to hear about it. I want to hear about the hope, the courage, and the struggle. I want to know that what I’m feeling is normal, that I to will be happy again, that my children can live a somewhat normal life. This is why support groups are so common and often recommended while we are going through a difficult situation. Sharing our stories and relating to those who are on similar paths can be life giving.
So I’m going to do just that- keep sharing my story. I’m going to write about my life now, and my life then. I’m going to write about the ups and I’m going to write about the downs. I’m going to continue to read similar stories to mine. I am going to continue to read different stories than mine. I am going to listen to the stories people tell. When I can see the relief in their eyes, I am going to ask questions allowing them to feel free to speak more about their story. Often widows think they are making others feel uncomfortable by talking about their late spouse- I hope to be a person that allows others freedom to tell the story they want and need to tell. When I ask what someone needs during a hard time, I pray they will know that my ears are something that I will give. Call me when you need a cup of coffee, I will sit and listen to your story. No unsolicited advice, no over sympathetic words, I will just listen and wait for your cue. Thanks for doing the same for me. Thanks for being part of my story.