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Other Widows Don't Feel This Way

So there I was, standing in my garage with my late husband's car, losing all of my shit. As I emptied the contents into a garbage bag, anger was oozing out of my pores. My jaw was sore from gritting my teeth. I was mumbling profanities under my breath as a fiery rage bubbled up inside me. I could hardly see straight. I was furious. I felt disgusted and disappointed and I wanted to set all his things on fire. I was frustrated. How the hell could this even happen? I felt abandoned and helpless and out of control. How could he do this to me? I was betrayed. I wanted to throw myself down on the ground. I wanted to scream. I wanted to destroy everything around me. I needed to pull it together. I can't act like this. I shouldn't be thinking these things. This isn't even who I am. Other widows don't feel this way.

After my husband died, there was so much business to tend to it made my head spin. I dragged myself into the bank for a little assistance. I had some money that friends and family had generously donated to me. I felt lost and confused and stood in line trying to keep from breaking down. When I stepped up to the teller, I was trying to hold it all together and explained to her that I needed to make a deposit. I showed her the checks and told her, unnecessarily, that he had recently passed away. I didn't know her and the situation didn't really require a backstory but I said it anyway. She looked at me in total shock and asked me what happened. I was caught completely off guard. I hadn't prepared for this. Nobody had asked me that question. Everybody I knew already knew. It was still so raw and I hadn't said it out loud to a stranger before. I tried to catch my breath and find my voice. I could only manage to squeeze out one shaky word...suicide. Her whole body shuddered and she scrunched up her face in disgust. Not the reaction I would have expected. No sympathy. No compassion. Disgust. I felt ashamed. Like I had told her my darkest secret. She made me feel like he had committed a crime. It felt dirty. Like something I shouldn't even talk about. I was embarrassed. I felt judged. Other widows don't feel this way.

There was a while there, a long while actually, where I just kind of hated everyone. I would receive a text from a well meaning friend asking how I was doing. I wouldn't even respond. What I was supposed to say? I'm fucking shattered, thanks. Nobody could possibly understand. And these poor people just couldn't win. I didn't want them to bother me but felt annoyed that nobody was around. Where did everyone go? Why is nobody coming to help me anymore? How am I supposed to do this alone? And forget about social media. The last thing I wanted to see was happiness of any kind. But that didn't stop me. I spent hours numbing out to it. That's how I learned the art of scrolling. Nope, don't care, fuck you. Birthdays, anniversaries, vacations. All of it was awful. Everyone with their perfect lives and their fake smiles. I despised them. I was completely resentful. And I knew I was a terrible person. A horrible friend. A total bitch. Other widows don't feel this way.

At some point I was lucky enough to find my people. Other moms who had lost their partners as well. We lived in different places and our kids were different ages but we had this one unfortunate commonality. Finding a support system was a game changer. It helped me see that I wasn't alone and that there were (too) many other people out there who felt my pain. But if I'm being honest, I would find myself comparing our stories. I would fixate on how their husbands died. As you would imagine, there were a lot of heart attacks. There were a surprising number of brain tumors. There was a shitload of cancer. And believe it or not I was envious. I wished I had a simple story. I would have given anything to be able to tell my sweet boy why his dad is gone. There was an accident. He was diagnosed with an illness. Someone else did this to him. I remember thinking if only my husband had died in some heroic way like running into a burning building to save babies. But no. He killed himself. He gave up. And left us. What the fuck is wrong with me? Other widows don't feel this way.

Even though I did the majority of the parenting, the gravity of being solely responsible for my son hit me hard after my husband passed away. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was holding the trauma in my body. There was hair all over my bathroom floor. My neck was so stiff I could barely turn my head. My stomach slowly started refusing to digest food. And I was scared of dying all the time. I mean terrified. I would get light headed in Target and picture myself falling to the ground in the toy aisle. I would feel a muscle spasm in my chest and wait for my heart to suddenly stop beating. I would feel utterly exhausted and have myself convinced that my body was slowly shutting down. Every headache was a tumor. Every sore throat COVID. Everything else was cancer. And God forbid someone describe symptoms to me. I would stay up late at night, googling worst case scenarios, diagnosing myself and freaking out. Then I would worry that I was starting to lose my mind. I would imagine myself mentally unravelling, anxiety taking over my life. I knew this couldn't be normal. Other widows don't feel this way.

Once, my son fell off his bike and got scraped up pretty badly. When I got him home and tried to clean him up, he was screaming and pushing me away. My heart was broken and my nerves were shot and I just kept thinking "this is all your fault!" When things get hard, the easiest way to react is to blame my husband. If I'm being honest, I did just about everything myself when he was alive. We had an agreement. He would go to work and I would handle all the things. So he was not responsible for repairs around the house or disciplining our boy or picking up milk on his way home. But when I was scrambling through the medicine cabinet realizing I was out of bandaids, I nearly lost my mind. Let me clarify by saying not once was this man ever in charge of buying first aid supplies, but there I was, completely pissed off at him because I didn't have what I needed. What kind of wife yells at her dead husband for things that are not even his fault? I knew I was an awful human being. Other widows don't feel this way.

At some point along the way, I realized I didn't want to stay stuck forever. I wanted to move through my grief and not let it control me anymore. I wanted to stop feeling like a victim. After all, I'm not the one who died. I started to see a glimmer of hope. I might actually be able to be happy someday. And then there it was. The guilt. How could I move forward and live my life when my husband was gone? I felt so selfish. How could I laugh when someone I love has died? It seemed disrespectful. How could I feel calm or content or at peace ever again? I didn't want anyone to think I hadn't forgotten him. I didn't want them to talk about me behind my back. They might think I'm too sad. Or not sad enough. They might think it's too soon to move on. I wasn't even sure who I was supposed to be now on my own. I couldn't remember who I was before. I couldn't imagine he would want me to feel this way. He would tell me to live my life. I felt a little bit hopeful. Kind of curious even. Like maybe I can actually do this. Maybe I'll be okay. I was optimistic. I felt ready. But that's silly, right? Other widows don't feel this way.

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