A Friends and Family Post
DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health professional. Please call 1-800-273-8255 if you are thinking about suicide, or believe someone else is.
My longtime readers have heard me lament that we are a grief phobic society. We are afraid to face death and its aftermath. So we force those feelings down deep, and we inadvertently push the grieving to hide instead of giving them a safe place to heal.
I’ve been open about hitting rock bottom after losing Dan (and believe me, I had a lot of counsel to keep it private). I know I had some very real angels looking out for me, or I wouldn’t be here today, with a breaking heart. The early months of losing your husband can be brutal. Over the last year and a half, I’ve attempted to describe how painful it can be, but words will never do it justice. And you know I don’t ever want you to understand because there is only one way you can.
But my heart is breaking because so many Widows feel utterly alone in their grief. This week I was part of a conversation in some of my Widow’s support groups where I learned so many of us had contemplated suicide or prayed to die, in the depths of our despair. That’s just one tiny group of Widows who were willing to share. What about all the rest of the grieving? It’s horrifying to contemplate.
Why am I sharing this? It’s not to bum you out or make you feel bad or ruin your holidays. And by no means am I saying that all Widows are suicidal. I’m asking you, friends and family of the grieving, to open a dialog. Share your feelings with your W, let her know she isn’t alone in her pain; that you loved her husband and miss him too, even though you can’t possibly understand how she’s feeling. I believe in my heart that the real reason many of you disappear or withdraw is that you want to shield your W and think that by hiding your grief at the loss of her husband, you are helping. You’re not. Not mentioning him, or pretending that he never existed, doesn’t fool our hearts into thinking we shouldn’t be so sad. It just makes us feel even more alone. The idea that our loved ones have moved on, leaving us behind in our grief, is so isolating. To think your kids have moved on and no longer grieve their Dad is awful. If you feel completely alone as you’re drowning in your grief, it’s hard to find a reason to continue to fight for air.
Whatever you do, don’t let her feel like she’s alone or that she needs to hide her grief. Don’t tell her it’s time to move on, or give her any more pressure to “get better” than she’s already putting on herself.
This last one is hard because I know how livid I would have been, but if you truly believe your W is at risk of suicide or accidental suicide (definition below), please talk to her about it. Call the number at the top of the post for suggestions on how to do that. My family and closest friends also knew how upset I would have been. Everyone was too afraid, so no one made that call for me. I was one of the lucky ones, and it turned out okay. Please don’t take that chance with your W.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Widows have a higher rate of accidental suicide than other groups. This typically involves risky behavior that increases the likelihood of death by accident. Examples include: not wearing a seat belt, driving recklessly, mixing drugs and alcohol, failing to take prescribed medications, etc. Be on the lookout for these behaviors.