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Truth: I regularly contribute to a blog for widows but feel like a fraud when I do.
Not because I’m not one. I assure you I am, and have been for five years and 10 months to be exact.
The years since my husband’s death have been some of the most challenging and foggy times of my life. But if I’m being honest, the pain, sadness, and trauma of loss started long before his physical death.
I suppose this is similar to widows and widowers who witnessed and stood alongside their spouses battling fatal diseases before their untimely passing. And I can also relate to those who lost their loved one suddenly, in a tragic accident or instantaneous cardiac arrest, events that left no time or space for preparation or goodbyes.
My heart hurts with and for those in the midst of this loss, this grief.
Where it diverges for me is the nature of the void, and the truth about what I miss.
When I watch movies like “Forrest Gump” or “We Bought a Zoo” and the scenes where Jenny dies and is buried under the great, big tree of birds “flying far, far away” or where Matt Damon’s character finally breaks down watching home videos of his deceased wife, I think, “Wow, that’s so beautiful and sweet.”
I understand the sad death part but I wonder what missing that person, that love, feels like in real life.
Which movie resonates more for me? Where do I dissolve into a puddle of a human being on the couch? Well, it’s the latest Netflix series, “Maid” about a young mother who flees an emotionally abusive relationship, denying it was abusive because she was never physically harmed, and is determined to build a better life for her and her daughter.
Is her character a widow in the series? No. Do her financial struggles parallel my life at all? Thankfully, no. Do I viscerally experience the range of emotions in the fictional narrative over the loss of self, innocence, and faith in a relationship? One hundred percent yes. Thanks Netflix for connecting me to my spirit animal, Alex.
Truth: I miss the man I married.
The one who made me laugh when he broke out in random song and dance while walking with me out in public or back spun into breakdance moves at every wedding we attended, including our own.
I miss the friend who told me he believed in me, in my dreams, and let me cry on his shoulder after a long day at work or after petty friend drama, which happened well into my 30s.
I miss the father of my children, who enthusiastically coached both kids’ sports teams and championed their lives.
I miss the family of four we once were, a family that fit perfectly—both energetically and logistically—in a minivan set up for road trips equipped with luggage and snack bags to boot in the back seats.
I miss the co-parent I could turn to when one of the kids was hurt or sick and would help me game plan the “Best Way to Make them Feel Better.”
But that version of Steve died years before I became a widow.
Truth: I don’t miss who he was in the end. I don’t miss him from the point of widowhood—at all.
I don’t miss the rage, the unhealthy emotions spewed out to every corner of the home, in front of our children.
I don’t miss the icy stares I’d receive when trying to distract myself from my own anger and frustration by texting with friends and working to build my new online business.
I don’t miss the way the kids would act up or cry because their sensitive souls instantly picked up on the uncomfortable shifts of energy in the house.
I don’t miss the emotional gaslighting and the mental tornado it created.
I don’t miss walking on eggshells, holding my breath, looking over my shoulder. The crying. The sobbing.
I don’t miss the loneliness of being married to a man who mastered the art of playing the fun, cohesive family and loving husband in public but rejected any advances of affection and connection behind closed doors.
I don’t miss pleading for couples therapy only to sit on that couch in disbelief listening to him twist the truth and confess his undying love for me. (I’ll never forget the therapist pointing out the discrepancies in his stories and him storming out, leaving me on the couch the way I always felt anyway—alone.)
I don’t miss—not for one f*cking millisecond—the shell of a woman and mother I found myself turning into. The shell that collapsed into a capitulated heap on the sidewalk in front of my home the morning I learned he had killed himself in our bedroom. A bedroom that served as a “movie theater” for every family movie night as we cuddled on the bed, a family of four. A bedroom that reminded me every night how lonely it was to be married.
A bedroom I would be spared from seeing after it became the scene of a crime: bedsheets covered in blood, the dark stain on the carpet where he stood and crumbled, the shattered glass of the sliding door from a single bullet that opened up onto the backyard porch. A bedroom that, in the space of our tiny 980-square foot home, housed so many memories, laughter, pain, and tears.
Some days, I miss that bedroom more than I miss him. Ironically, it was the brightest room in the house with its many windows and points of entry for sunlight.
My therapist reminds me that it was no one’s fault. Brain chemistry. Faulty body alchemy. Mental illness. A glitch in the marital system. Not my fault.
Not my fault.
And yet, all of the responsibility. Of the aftermath. Of healing. Of burying him. Of raising children. Of showing up to Christmas and Thanksgiving gatherings for his side of the family. Of moving through life differently. Stronger. And also broken and more often than not, lonely.
I miss what was. I miss what could have been had he gotten help, had we grown up together, grown old together. I miss our family. I miss parts of him. And I don’t miss so many other parts.
Am I relatable? Is this normal?
In a relatively dark period recently, through a long night of crying and trying to self-soothe with music and meditation, I scribbled on a piece of scratch paper:
Depression is abysmal loneliness lost in a game of Marco never hearing their Polo.
Maybe others can relate?
Marco? Are you out there?
I feel guilty writing all of this. And even more guilty when I share this with other widows, who are already hurting in their own lane.
The truth is most people had no idea what was going on in my marriage behind closed doors. Likewise, I have no idea how others are grieving behind their own doors. Only in opening mine can I invite the connections I’m meant to find with those who I might be able to support on our healing journeys.
The most authentic and sincere space I can offer to anyone, especially through my writing, is my truth.