Dear Tender Heart,
Grief is hard. It is exhausting and mentally taxing. And while I’m sure you may know this, or have experienced glimpses of this by now, I want you to know that your pain is fully real, completely valid, and entirely yours.
Your pain is fully real, completely valid, and entirely yours.
Being a young widow is difficult. People you’ll encounter will encourage you that “you’re young” and “will find love again.” They’ll give you a laundry list of how “it could be worse” when really, this is the worst possible outcome you could have never 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; and either way is perfectly normal. Your brain may feel foggy for the first 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 you avoid going to the places you once loved. No, you’re 100% normal. Anyone who tells you otherwise has clearly not experienced the pain and grief you are coming to know.
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. Never minimize these losses. You’ve lost your at-home dinner date or perhaps the one who cooked for you. The constant view of an empty pillow is a 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 your loved one. Luckily, for us, this is normal too. And God, that Greater Being, or your partner? They are large enough to understand your pain and shaking fists.
If it’s you that you’re mad at, remember to have grace with yourself: If you could have changed the outcome, you would have.
If you could have changed the outcome, you would have.
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?
Be kind to yourself.
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 depletes the body.
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 into a “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 it 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 and through; it is yours forever.