A wretched word.
I recently read a great descriptive, “We’d all seen the look. We knew our power to strike the fear of early death into everyone we met.”
Sitting in a group of moms the other day, that I didn’t know well, our stories came into topic. All sharing super juicy details of mom life. I sat back and just observed everything going on around me. Listened to the hobbies, activities, husbands jobs and other personal details. Out of normal Shelly fashion, I now sit quietly when introductions happen. Im usually deciding how much to share, what is the proper way to explain my life without shutting down the laughter and conversation that has been occurring. And almost always out of kindness, someone asks me to contribute. So I talk about the boys and I, all that is going on in our life. And almost always, the question of my husband comes up. And while I would just like to walk away before breaking the picture perfect mom chatter or at least divert the conversation to a different topic. It doesn’t work. And a group full of moms are staring at me with their sadness, the burden. I hear several “I’m sorry’s.” The courageous ask how, and how we are doing. Its only the very courageous who ask me about him, his character, OUR story. Those people make me melt. (in a good way)
Ive talked a lot about the Grief. The sadness. But widowhood is a whole other story. Its an exclusive club that none of us wanted invited too, but all of us understand. And Many widows will explain it in the same way. It gets even more shaky when you are a very young widow. You throw people for a loop in general. Most think it couldn’t possibly be true.
I started thinking about the concept of emotional freedom. Now more than ever have I been able to attach to this concept. I have the freedom to say I am lonely. I am super lonely. I am surrounded by two amazing little boys, a bunch of friends, and a supportive family. I am still lonely. And that is completely acceptable because of that wretched word. Widowhood. Losing your spouse leaves a space that I don’t believe will ever really be filled. Raising two children alone can be lonely. And every person I talk to about this concept, validate my points. The problem is, I know many married moms who are still lonely. Who crave more adult interaction, who wished their husbands worked less, and their children could talk more. And most of them, wont validate that loneliness. They scuff it off as no big deal and head on with their days. Because being lonely is vulnerable. The world tells us that it is a weakness and we have to fend for ourselves. And I know these moms are sad about this. They are sad because life feels busy, hectic, and overwhelming. But they sit in mom groups and hope one other mom will see that in their eyes and reach it out from their core. For me, Im allowed to talk about my sadness. And even 16 months later, I am allowed to cry in public. With no shame.
I never realized how many emotions the world told me to suppress, until my emotions were so intense the world told me, its now ok to not suppress them. This is one of the rare benefits of widowhood. Once you can walk around fully able to feel, a lot of life starts to click, and a lot of life starts to feel much richer, much more in tune.
The problem with widowhood is you have the reverse emotional freedom. Once your emotions don’t fully match the worlds view of a widow- you are told to suppress once again. A blank stare when you say life is going well. The question “are you sure that is healthy for your grief” the moment you talk of life moving forward. The world hates broken, but the world also loves to fix things. The problem is the gray area. Most people are uncomfortable with the gray area. I would say most seasons of our lives are lived in the gray. Where there are things to fix, emotions to feel, but happiness that is still overflowing. But we like to live in the black and white. We are either great or horrible. Ecstatic or Miserable. We have either moved on or are grieving.
Widowhood has given me the freedom to feel all of the black. To sit in the darkness and express to others the way that feels. To be free to feel the depths of my soul. And I took this grieving season to find me, to be free, to learn true authenticity. Right before Fareed passed, I was living in my most white of seasons. We had each
other, William, and Charles on the way. Life was amazing. A season of celebration and jubilee to be precise. And I started this blog to live authentically in that.
But now Im in the gray. Im learning to feel when the world says you should be here (or there). And learning to be free when societal norms feel like a thousand weights on my shoulders. And Im finding people who are great at living in the gray. The people who can be authentic when the black and white mix and they can live pretty beautifully amongst the Chaos. I have a deep appreciation for other widows because almost all of them have learned to live in this same emotional authenticity. To speak the truth, that I am ok, and not ok. I am happy, but I am sad and thats ok. That things don’t have to be XYZ. Sometimes it Takes Z to Cross over Y from X. That life cant be lived constantly in these extremes. That emotional health doesn’t mean you are at one place or another but an acceptance of where you are in the gray. Enough to say this is where I am vulnerable, this is what I need to be joyous, and these are the things that bring me to my knees. Healthy enough to say I miss this person, but there is still life without them. I can still be happy.
If that thought offends you, you probably aren’t very good at seeing the beauty in the gray.
And accepting the chaos.
So while the wretched Widow word makes things pretty awkward and has transformed my entire life.
It has also brought some beauty.
That I will carry into every season of gray.
That I can now carry those heavy seasons and topics with people.
That I can read the smile they carry with them.
A smile covering grief, a smile of pure joy, or a smile that says Ive walked and seen and Im free to be right here.