If you know a young widow or widower and you care about them in the tiniest little bit…please read and share this article with them. It could very well change their life!
Today, I finished reading “I’m Grieving As Fast As I Can” by Linda Feinberg. This book is geared towards young widows and widowers. It is intended to help younger people cope and heal after the death of their spouses. By young, the author means anyone less than fifty. So, yeah that includes me…dang it. However, there are things that she (and I) point out that would be ever so helpful to those of you NOT in our unique group.
Let me just say that I found this book to be extremely helpful. In fact, I have created what I feel are the top 10 things that EVERYONE should know and understand about Young Widows and Widowers.
Here they are:
- The biggest problem at the one year mark for most young widows and widowers is: They have not met even one other young widow or widower during this entire year. Words like “Isolated” and “Alone” described how they felt reaching that first anniversary milestone.
- The anger felt by the widows and widowers is worsened by the loss of relationships with friends and family members after the death of their spouse. Just pick up the phone…or text…or Facebook…or send a carrier pigeon…whatever. It’s really not that hard to keep your relationships alive.
- It’s a danged-if-you-do and danged-if-you-don’t situation the entire first year for the widow or widower.
- Friends and family members mistakenly believe that it is OK to give you their unsolicited opinions and/or advise on every aspect of your life…and then get angry if you don’t take it. See number 3.
- Everything in your life has changed. There is not one aspect of your life that remains intact, whole, or untouched by the loss of your spouse. Not one.
- You are lonely no matter how many people you are around. The void left by your spouse can not be filled by interacting with friends, family members, co-workers, children, or new acquaintances. You only had one spouse and he/she cannot come back. However, this does not mean that being around people is a bad thing. See number 3.
- It matters how your spouse died. It also matters how you feel about the way your spouse died.
- You may not ever be able to throw your spouse’s toothbrush away…and that’s OK.
- Never assume that when a young widow or widower is ready to socialize that they are ready to date. Socializing and Dating are two separate things.
- You are different than you were before your spouse died. A large part of who you were died with your spouse. Now you have to create a new you. Regardless if you want to or not, you don’t get a choice. And, not getting a choice stinks.
I’m sitting at the 4 month mark and I can wholeheartedly agree with all ten of these points. Of course, there are numerous other points that are just as valid as the ones listed. I was very impressed to know that the things I have experienced and been hurt by are common among other people in my shoes. It helps to know that there is a very clear difference between young widows and widowers verses older ones. Almost every book I’ve read up to this point is directed at people sixty and above. I’m only 37…
So, one of the most distinct differences that I immediately noticed in this book was the fact that almost all young widows and widowers feel robbed or cheated out of their lives. They didn’t get to spend twenty plus years with their spouses. They didn’t get to fulfill lifelong dreams or participate in the milestones that older people got to enjoy. They aren’t settled into retirement or assisted living environments. Their children aren’t grown, married, or living on their own. Some may not have even had the chance to start a family yet. Younger people don’t have the same needs, desires, or financial abilities that older people often have later in life.
The differences don’t stop there. The divorce rate in America is at a solid fifty percent. Unhappy marriages and divorces are the norm. People move in and out of relationships with ease these days. Finding single people between the ages of 18 and 50 who have had multiple long-term relationships and/or marriages is not hard to do in our society. But, unlike divorced people…young widows and widowers didn’t get to decide that they would rather do life on their own. They don’t get every other weekend visitations, or holidays, or time to themselves. They don’t have child support checks. They don’t have practice, errand, or homework helpers. They don’t get extra sick days or the option of someone else missing work when a child is sick. The co-pays and bills don’t go down just because your spouse died. (I realize that many single parents don’t get those things either, but sometimes they do).
Young widows and widowers are a unique group of people. In larger areas there are support groups, meetings, and social events specifically targeted towards these individuals. Grief counseling and private therapy are also available. Regardless of the number of opportunities out there, the fact remains that most young widows and widowers rarely choose to participate in any of these events. The easy answer for someone on the “outside” is for those of us on the “inside” to jump back into life…get out there and find someone new. We shouldn’t waste our life mourning the loss of our spouses. We are young…there’s plenty of fish in the sea…and life has to go on don’tcha know?!
Please hear me when I say this…if you are a young widow or widower like me…take your time. Don’t let anyone tell you what you “need” to do with your life. Don’t buy into the opinion (of those who have no earthly idea what you are going through)that you need to “just go on with your life”. There is no “go on” with your life, because the life you had is already gone.
The only thing you can do is “start again”. The most important thing to remember is that YOU must choose to start again every…single…day. Decide everyday to just start over. That’s what I’m doing…and that’s what Mrs. Feinberg encourages us to do as well. We wake up everyday to a new beginning. We must choose to start again and create a new life for US…not for those around us or even for our children… WE must choose to start again for ME, MYSELF, AND I. There is power in realizing that you do get to make that choice everyday, even though you didn’t have a choice about being here in the first place. The fact is that you are here now. And, today is a real fine place to start…again.