Dear Tender Heart,

This is hard. Grief is exhausting and mentally taxing. And maybe you’ve realized this by now; but I want you to know that your pain is fully real, completely valid, and entirely yours.

Being a young widow is difficult. People you encounter will try to be encouraging and say, “you’re young” and “will find love again.” They’ll give you a list of how “it could be worse” when really, this is the worst possible outcome you wouldn’t have imagined. You don’t need to find a bright side.

Being young doesn’t make this easier. In fact, in countless ways, it increases its difficulty.

Your days may be filled with tears, or you may have none at all, and either way is perfectly normal. Your brain may feel foggy for weeks, months, years even. I promise you that this too is okay. You aren’t crazy for forgetting the biggest and smallest things in life. You aren’t “stuck” in grief because you find it hard to go out, or because you avoid going to the places you once loved. No, you’re 100% normal. Anyone who tells you otherwise clearly has not experienced the pain and grief you are coming to know.

You aren’t “stuck” in grief in grief because life is hard right now . . .

I need you to understand that in losing your partner, there are secondary losses. Give your heart grace.

This may not be foreign to you: secondary losses adding up because the person you’d normally lean on is no longer here, but never minimize them. You’ve lost your at-home dinner date or perhaps the one who cooked for you. The view of an empty pillow is a constant reminder, and not hearing “I love you” daily hurts. Why should this pain be dismissed? Additional losses come in the form of questions: “Who’s going to fix my car? Who will call me at lunch to check in? My partner always took care of this; how do I figure this out?” You’re allowed to mourn all these things; they are a part of your grief.

Maybe your emotional response is anger. I know this well. I’m just like you, remember? It sucks. You may find yourself angry at God, a Greater Being, yourself, or even your loved one. Luckily for us, this is perfectly normal. And God, that Greater Being, or your partner? They are large enough to understand your pain and your shaking fists.

If it’s you that you’re mad at, remember to have grace with yourself; for if you could have changed the outcome, you would have already.

Please understand, grief does not come with a road map or a step-by-step guide.

Please understand, grief does not come with a road map or a step-by-step guide. How you loved, and how you continue to love through grief is unique to you. Forget the whole “stages of grief” thing. What you’re going through isn’t linear. It isn’t always smooth. Many will fail to understand you; friends and family may have abandoned you.

At some point, you’ll think “no one understands what it is to be me” and you are correct. So why let others determine how you get to grieve? How you get to express this great and overwhelming loss that they cannot comprehend yet? Be kind to yourself in this process. Rest when you need to. Stay hydrated. Take a shower and try to sleep. If any of these things seem hard to do, you aren’t wrong in how you feel. Grief disorganizes the mind and can be exhausting.

Grief disorganizes the mind and can be exhausting.

Try breaking your day into smaller parts: early morning, morning, afternoon, and so forth. You don’t have to take life a whole day at a time. All we have is this moment anyway, so breathe. One minute, one second, at a time.

Finally, Tender Heart, I want you to know the love for your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, spouse — whatever the title that sorrowfully turned you “widow” — never has to cease. You can continue loving them, thinking of them, writing, or speaking into whispered conversations with them. Death does not end love; it continues in the form of grief. And again, no matter how you choose to express your love while navigating loss, it is fully yours. You are entitled.

Carry this love onward; it is yours to keep.

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