A Keeping It Real Post
Last week I wrote about what it meant for friends and family to hold space for the newly bereaved. Thank you for all the comments, private messages, and emails regarding this topic and your personal experiences. Holding Space is clearly a grief support area where we need to do a better job.
Holding Space for Another Widow
Which brings us to today’s post, the Widow version of Holding Space. I’ve written that widowhood doesn’t make us experts at what to say or do in the face of someone else’s tragic loss. Sometimes it’s the exact opposite, and we say or do the “wrong” things BECAUSE we’ve been through it. So today’s post is for all the W’s out there, including me, since I screw it up a lot.
Just because someone is a Widow doesn’t make them a good listener or support for other Widows. I know plenty of Seasoned W’s who won’t let a New W share her grief story without vomiting their story all over her. That doesn’t make them selfish or insensitive. It does mean they don’t know how to Hold Space.
I’d say first of all, but it’s like the gazillionth time I’m saying it, THERE IS NO TIMELINE FOR GRIEF. You may have gone through it quickly. Someone else you love may be taking longer. That doesn’t make their grief time unhealthy or wallowing, just different from yours. And the flip side: you may have taken years to get your feet under you, or even still be struggling, and a newer widow is remarrying a year later. There is no timeline.
I Know Exactly How You Feel
Nope. Just don’t. No, we don’t know exactly how another Widow feels. We can’t. I know your pain. I know the anger, fear, anxiety, and all the other feelings that go along with losing your husband, but I can’t know how you feel. And you don’t need me to. You just need me to Hold Space, listen in silence, and share when asked.
I Want to Spare You
Sometimes we jump in with advice before it’s asked for or even needed. This is especially true for those of us that are fixers by nature. I’m raising my hand here because I’ve heard myself do it. It’s because I love you and want to spare you the terrifying unknown. For example, I remember the fear I was losing my mind, so I’ll tell you that XYZ is totally normal. In doing so, I’ve forgotten the two unbreakable rules about grief: There is no timeline, and our experiences are all unique. Thus my proclamation that it’s normal may actually freak a New Widow out if she’s not experiencing XYZ at that time. Oops.
The Rearview Mirror of Grief
I’ve also observed that the more time passes in the grief journey, the harder it is for some Widows to remember how raw it was in the beginning. Remember that Widow Brain Fog? Well, much like the pain of childbirth, those memories get fuzzy, and we lose the intensity of it. My friend Maddi describes it as looking at someone else’s grief through the rearview mirror of our own. We see it, but it’s far enough away; it doesn’t look the same. I love that analogy.
Holding Space for our W Sisters
So what do we need to do? I read a quote by Henri Nouwen that said, “A wounded healer is someone who can listen to a person in pain without having to speak about his or her own wounds.” That is some evolved healing, people, and a level of Holding Space for which we can all strive.
To all the New Widows out there, I need you to know that none of us is perfect in our grief support. I’m forever grateful for the Widows I’ve met in my journey. They have been a supportive and understanding group, become my friends and my sisters, and I wouldn’t have made it this far without them. Please know when we say or do the wrong things, it’s because we feel an intense need to wrap our arms and love around you as you start down your path. We can’t walk it for you, or even with you, but will always be beside you.
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
P.S. When we (me) do some of these things, please tell us (me) to just shut it and listen. I know, sometimes talking is hard, so “the look” or even a certain finger is also appropriate and received with love. I’ll stop talking now.