I’ve been a fan of Gillian’s blog for a while now, but I’ve been a Gillian fan since 1996. We met when she was one of the cool, single adults on the team of Americans that my family went to Ukraine with, and I was just a 17-year-old kid.
If you were to look at our lives, I think you’d be hard pressed to find similarities. She has been married for thirteen years. She is a mother of four beautiful girls. One adopted. Two special needs. Her days are filled with doctors’ appointments and play dates and laundry and caring for a family.
I’m a young widow. I’m a hairstylist. I work at a cute little salon and try to fill my life with as much distraction as I possibly can. I have arranged my life so that I only do 3 loads of laundry a week (that’s just mean, Noel, you shouldn’t brag about such things). The highlights of my week are what’s on TV (I actually have time to watch it. STOP, Noel, they’re going to hate you!) and how many bugs I’ve squashed in the Victorian home I just moved in to.
But I actually think there may be quite a bit of similarity, beyond just us both writing a blog.
In August of 2009, my whole world got turned upside down. The story that I had written for my life was right in it’s middle. I was happily married. The man that I loved and I were just about to start a family. I was just managing things at work to go down to an easier schedule. Finances were going to get better. We had a plan.
And then I came home to wake him up from a nap and he had died in his sleep.
Now, two years later, I’m trying to figure out who I am again. I’m no longer reeling from loss, at least, not like I was in the beginning, but I still struggle daily with thinking “this is not the life that I imagined.”
I would venture to guess that a lot of you feel that way, too. I don’t think that it takes losing your husband to get that dreams don’t always come true, that life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan for it to.
The beauty for me has been the way that it allows me to relate to others. Because I have experienced deep pain and loss, I can relate to others who are grieving in a more meaningful way, understanding that I don’t “get” their personal pain, but being able to just be with them in their grief, and to just hold their hand as they walk through it. I think that people feel that they can talk to me more about their pain because they know that I do “get” pain. I have had conversations with hairstyling clients and friends about a little of everything: miscarriage, the inability to conceive, losing a father, losing a job, divorce, and with other young widows as well, where I can just listen and encourage. I am still here. I’m surviving. I’m the visual aid.
Widowhood for me has been a calling. A calling to a “big-ness” in my soul (Is that even a word?). I want something good to come from all of this pain and loss. I want to have gone through all of this, to come out the other side and know that Sawan (my husband) changed me. Our love changed me. Losing him changed me. I want it to count for something. It’s still a struggle to learn this new life without him.
But, there are good things that are coming from it, as well. This “bigness” is something that I think about regularly. I picture it in my mind…like a warm, inviting cave in my soul, that gives shelter to the wayward hiker caught out in a storm. It leaves room for “gray area” in emotions (I can be unbelievably happy and yet devastatingly sad...all at the same time). It has lots of room for grace. Grace has been a huge thing to learn in dealing with this loss. I have to be so gracious with myself on a regular basis. It’s so easy to beat myself up. To think, “Noel, you had such plans. You were so stupid.” But also, to be gracious with others. People say the wrong thing so often. But I practice thinking the best of people. They’re certainly not trying to hurt me. They are trying to be loving. They don’t know what to say. So they try. And I give grace. And although sometimes it’s no fun, I like the new me. I like the practice and the grace and the bigness. I wish my husband, Sawan, were around to see it.
What I know about grief is this: We’re all doomed. On some level, we’re all going to experience loss of dreams. Pain. Suffering. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. But there’s hope! You have strength you never knew was there, and, you can enjoy the “bigness” in your soul, too.
Check out Noel's Blog, Good Grief: A young widow's journey, here.