If you are like me, on my first Valentine’s Day after loosing my husband, I felt like the entire world was screaming at me that he was dead. It was EVERYWHERE!!! LOVE and the celebration of coupledom was every place I turned. And it wasn’t just that my husband was dead, but it felt like everything about my future was dead too.
There were commercials on the tv and radio, and stores were like Valentine’s Day Soldiers!! I was attacked constantly! Target and Home Goods were no longer my happy place, as the second I walked in the store, I was assaulted by pillows, signs and lingerie that emphasized my aloneness.
I also felt extremely isolated in my grief because I didn’t know very many widows, and the ones I did know, had remarried. Bear with me as I go off-course for a moment, and say that that actually gave me hope.
I was 40 when Greg died and being alone forever terrified the begezus out of me. (note – my attachment issues were full blown because of his sudden death, but I wouldn’t discover that until 2020).
Time went on and I was remarried in 2010.
THERE – I’d done it!!!!!! I told death it could kiss my ass, and I knew I’d be spending the rest of my life as Mrs. Don Akers (because Death OWED me that!) and while I’d lost my world when Greg died – some part was salvaged and my heart was inexplicably put back together again.
Happy ending and fade to black.
But that’s not how things went.
PS – I don’t recommend telling death to kiss your ass – it evidently has no sense of humor and is a real bitch!
Because 4 years later, Don was diagnosed with ALS, and died 17 months after the initial confirmation. It felt like Death had called my bluff and won. I was only 49, and I was certain I’d celebrated my last Valentine’s Day in love and married, and I was PISSED OFF!!! Pissed at life, pissed that other people had what I wanted, pissed that I was in this freaking club again, but now with advanced stripes on my widow wardrobe.
Valentine’s Day felt like a very personnel attack on ME and I just wanted to climb in bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep that day away.
I imagine you might be feeling the same way. Angry, lonely, confused, and scared. Are you dreading opening up Facebook to see the onslaught of flowers, and pictures and more because it is a piercing reminder of what you no longer have? And even if you and your person didn’t celebrate in a big way, it somehow stings harder now doesn’t it?
Even now, 15 years from Greg’s death, and 6 from Don’s – I still remember how it felt as February 14th rolled around. But now, as a remarried, also twice widowed, woman – I find myself torn celebrating my new life on social media, knowing it might cause you emotional pain.
I feel guilty, at times, sharing the happy moments, knowing you are breaking inside. I feel weird posting my flowers on Valentines Day (or any other time to be honest) because I remember how it made me feel to be on the other side of it, and I struggle with how to hold space for you in an authentic way, that doesn’t come across as trite. Because in all sincerity, my heart physically aches thinking about you and your pain. I want you to know that even though I’m remarried (again), I will always be a woman who has twice been widowed. And while I love Jack and what we have – I still miss what I had with Greg and Don.
I still think about the way we spent that day and the special things we did that made our lives “ours”, and it makes me a bit melancholy. I also still wonder what our lives would have looked like had they lived and not died. And sometimes I get stuck – I get caught between the now and the then – and I don’t feel fully sad but I don’t feel…..I don’t know….as excited about the LOVE day as I used to. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s the losses or maybe it’s that I know how quickly it could be gone again, and I’m afraid that if I hold it too tightly, it will hurt even more should it happen one more time.
So, maybe this isn’t actually a post to the fresh widow, but to the widow who took the chance to give marriage one more try – and who sometimes feels guilty because of that – and especially so on Valentine’s Day.
As I try to close – I’m not even sure what the take away from this piece is.
Is it to live now because it can be taken so quickly?
Is it that your future could be better than you anticipate?
Is it that once you’re a widow, you’re always a widow (even if you remarry)?
Is it to say that I see you and I know you might be hurting and that makes me hurt on your behalf?
Is it that I contemplate sharing my joy on Valentines Day, because the last thing I want to do is make your day any worse?
Is it that being alone on Valentines Day sucks!!!!!???!!!!
Regardless of how you feel after reading this, I hope you know that I care. That you are not forgotten and the love you shared with your spouse, continues on inside of you. Perhaps you can find a way to honor the uniqueness you two had, when February 14 gets here. Find a way to celebrate and to smile, even if through tears, because there are many people who never had what you two did – and even though it hurts intensely to loose it – try to cherish it as the rare gift it is.
Your husband is still with you. He still loves you and I have no doubt he is beyond proud of how hard you are working to make a life for yourself.
So…..Valentine’s Day…..do what feels right for you. This is your journey and there are no should’s as to how you live it. You do you and to hell with what anybody else thinks or feels about your choices. You get one life – live it well!! Celebrate, or cry, or do both. Go to dinner with a friend or stay home and binge eat your favorite food. Read a book, take a bath, scream, pound your fists at heaven as you ask “Why me…why HIM!!!???!!!” Look at your pictures or don’t. Go to the cemetery and talk to him or stay home and do it from your comfiest spot. Feel your feelings and don’t try to just push them down and happy soldier on. That doesn’t usually end well.
However you choose to do this day – remember that it’s one day – and you have already survived your worst day.
If you need a place to talk to others, reach out to widow groups in your area. You can always find me on FB at GOOD GRIEF!!! A widow’s journey to healing. And remember that you are stronger than you think and you will survive this journey.
As always, with much love, from my re-assembled heart to yours.