Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unapologetic Warrior Widower

Grieve the Warrior,
originally uploaded by habaneros.

Today I have been reflecting on my recent posts. I feel that I am making significant progress in navigating through my grief. For too long I felt that I needed be doing better than I was. I have been going through some significant depression and anxiety with my grief, which has only been compounded with some of my kids' issues. People often mean well, but the message I often come away with is that they need for me do be doing better, and not be looking so sad. Of course there is yet the other response, which is to never mention my grief at all, as it can be awkward for them. And lastly, there is the response that begs me to 'look on the bright side'...you had several really happy years together, you two were able to do so much together, you loved each other so much, he is in a better place, he is no longer in pain, you were able to experience real love, you were exactly what he needed...blah blah blah. Now, these are all sincere sentiments, and when I hear them I smile, or just say thank you. But there is an alternative way for me to respond.

What I really want to say in response to Michael's death is that I really hate what life has given me, I am not wanting to be happy that he has moved on, he would be happier with me, we had only just begun our time together, I don't care that we all must go at some time. I am angry!

After writing about the theme of the film in The Single Man, I felt so empowered by my co-mourners. I felt completely acknowledged and understood. It feels so empowering to not have to have to feel grateful for what I had, and to not have to act like I am doing better than I am. He was my husband, and he died. No! I'm not feeling better yet! No! I'm not going to get through this anytime soon! No! There is no silver lining! Yes! You should worry about me! Yes I have wished for death. This hurts like hell!

It amazes me that people, myself included, do not, or did not, have a clue what it is like to lose your partner/spouse. I constantly look at people who are with their spouses, or reflect on the love and security they have with them, and think they really have no clue. You can try to empathize, you can try equate it with the heartbreaking end of a relationship, but I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you, you have no idea how much this hurts. You have no idea how lost you will feel. You have no idea how disabling this can be.

I am the Warrior Widower. I am here to fight off any attempts to smooth the edges around the appearance of grief. I am here to expose the raw truth, and to walk you through the dark and lonely path many of us are on.

I am the Warrior Widower. I am putting myself out on the line, right out in front, to show other widows and widowers that what we are going through is the biggest battle we will ever have to plow through. If you are experiencing injury after injury, often without time to heal in between, then you are authentically experiencing your grief.

I am the Warrior Widower, I am empowering myself to say this is real, this is torture, this is not pretty, this is what it takes to fight my way through this. War is not pretty. Grief is not pretty. As widows and widowers we walk among the living as testament to the dead. If you mistake us for single people, you cannot be more wrong. We walk hand in hand with the one we lost. We wear a cloak of darkness and death. We may not be dressed in black, but others see us coming. I recognize it all the time. Someone is approaching me, they are having just another day, they look up to see who is coming along the path, it is the widower. The other person immediately thinks of death. It can be a fleeting thought, or it can be a connecting moment, yet it is always there. In time it will change, and at some point it will be less distinguishable.

I am the Warrior Widower, I will not be afraid to share with you who I am.

I am the Warrior Widower, I will show my courage in facing each day.

I am the Warrior Widower, I will continue to battle my pain and loss.

I am the Warrior Widower, I will strive to greet the light of the new day with optimism.

I am the Warrior Widower. I will cry each day.

No apology.


  1. Dear Dan,

    Such a powerful and evocative post. In writing a response I feel torn between my desire to acknowledge you have been heard, and a sense of not wanting to intrude on your private grief.

    I identify with so much of what you have expressed today. The conversations with well meaning and caring people who attempt to leave us feeling better with their comments. I was appreciative of their efforts to connect with me and the connection itself made a difference although the comments themselves did nothing to take my pain away. I’m not sure people even expected their sentiments to make a difference, perhaps their desire was just to reach out and make a momentary connection with us. To keep us grounded in the world that we reside in.

    I wore that black cloak you describe. It felt foreign to me, It felt like it had been placed around me by a force beyond me. It felt suffocating. The cloak felt like it had drained much of the life from me to the extent that I didn’t feel alive as most people would understand the term…. Just surviving.

    Much of life experience, it seems to me, gives us the message that we need to be in control. For me this was reinforced by needing to retain a sense of responsibility in helping Chris face the challenges of his illness, looking after him and ultimately dealing with his affairs after his physical death.

    Having had to push myself to get through all these things, I think this sense of needing to control seeped into my sense of how I had to cope with the aftermath... my grief. In hindsight I was pretty powerless over this stage. I very clearly remember moving into a phase where I would feel OK one day, followed by the next day when the opposite was true. The feelings switched on a daily basis like some form of clockwork in my emotions. There was no sense to the daily reversals but they were so real they form a very powerful memory for me now.

    After a period of time, whether that be weeks or months, I’m not sure how long now, but the clockwork changed to a frequency of 10 good days followed by 10 bad days. Again even though it was me, living in my body, these emotional changes were happening without my permission, and to a large extent I accepted I was powerless over this, yet at the same time experiencing the need to try and keep going somehow.

    On reflection today, after reading your post, and to use an analogy I was like a goldfish in a bowl. I thought I was in control of my life, swimming around in the bowl, but the reality was I was completely powerless when the Universe kept moving the bowl around... not to mention warming and chilling the water I was swimming in!

    If nothing else I hope my comments have made a welcome connection with you Dan, and if I can offer a wish, however you feel today, may you feel at peace holding those feelings....

    God Bless


  2. Thanks Paul.

    Your words clearly come from an experienced wisdom that I have yet to reach. It's funny that you mention the idea of the cloak being forced on you. I have struggled with the concept that much of this much of this I willingly took on, but didn't quite understand what I was agreeing to.

    This past week I have been working overtime trying to wrap up the business of Michael's death, getting his legal affairs finalized. In our case it meant that family members were awaiting some financial inheritance, which has put undo pressure on me to move faster than I felt able to. Everyone has been careful not to rush me, but there were legal timelines that I needed to adhere to.

    It's a crazy concept that the primary person who experienced the loss is the one who needs to shift gears and take care of the estate. I don't know how others have managed. Yet again, this is what Michael asked of me, and though I agreed with much hesitation, I knew he trusted that I would be the one he could count on.

    Your words have made a welcomed connection. I thank you for reaching out.


  3. A cruel part of our reality is that not many others are out there who have experienced the death of a spouse in our age group. Hence the innappropriate but well-meaning comments such as, "We all have to go sometime," which was my personal favorite.

    The utter brutal honesty of your words had me crying reading them. Because you have described grief as it truthfully is - raw, heartbreaking, disabling, dark, deep and lonely.

    I grew weary of always wearing a game face and telling people what they wanted to hear - that I was doing okay. But I stopped doing that and just honestly told people the truth - that the pain was more than words could imagine. I said it sucked and I was hurting and I wanted to die and that life would never be the same. I know I shocked some people who wanted to hear that pat answer that it was hard but I was holding up.

    All this time I have been searching for answers within words. Someone (my grief counselor or another blogger) would say something that would be the key to helping me overcome the relentless pain within. Or I'd read a book that would offer me the key to fianlly moving on. What I've found is that there aren't any magical words. But my own words writing about my experience and then reading the words of fellow bloggers has probably been what has been the most healing and impactful.

    Thank you for your words, Dan.