Earlier this week, comedian Patton Oswalt shared a post on Facebook about the 102 days since his wife passed away.
I read it nodding and agreeing with his colorful and accurate descriptions of grief, having lost my husband in January 2015. Oswalt’s post resonated with me deeply; I remember how difficult those first stages of grief were, and I’m thankful to have walked through them to a more hopeful season of my grief journey.
So as a grieving mother who has been in his shoes, here’s what I wish I could tell him about what comes next. I hope that these words might encourage him to keep moving through the grief, even when it seems impossible.
I’m sorry you’ve had to wrestle with the grief beast these last 102+ days. It’s terrible, isn’t it? It’s been 576 days since I was widowed. As you said, life feels like a “nightmare swamp” and the grief beast has sucked any energy and focus I once had.
The night after my husband died, I remember lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering what had gone so wrong. It all felt like a movie in the worst way. There I was, eight months pregnant, confused and angry and unsure of how I would parent two children without their dad. I was standing in the middle of the carousel watching everyone else having fun: picking horses, spinning around, up and down.
Crushed, heart broken, and sad don’t begin to describe the sensation of losing the one who makes your heart sing. It’s more like someone has dropped your heart on cement, smashed it with a hammer, sent it through a wood chipper, and then lit it on fire. You don’t get put back together after your spouse is gone, but there is hope.
576 days ago, I couldn’t see my feet in front of me. Part of that was the baby belly, but you know what I mean. I had no perspective. All I knew was that life would never be the same.
And it hasn’t been.
It’s been terrible. My daughter was born into a world without her dad. My son had a first day of school without his dad. Birthdays and holidays come and go and our family still has a piece missing. It’s not something you can just “get over” or “move on” from.
The world has terrible advice for dealing with the grief beast. So many expectations. So many things you should be able to do after a given time.
But what the world doesn’t know is that grief isn’t bound by time.
We’ve never met and probably never will, but widowhood makes us friends in a sick and twisted way. So, new friend, here’s what I’d tell you if we were chatting over coffee (or a cocktail. Let’s be honest, parenting alone is not for the faint of heart).
Give yourself permission to live outside of the expectations. Grieve how you need to grieve. Feel the depths of the emotions even if someone tells you not to feel that way.
It’s terrifying to feel the depths of those terrible, lonely feelings. I didn’t understand this 576 days ago, but I know now that the only way through grief is directly through the worst parts of it. If you try and avoid it, the grief beast will hunt you down. You have to face the grief sooner than later. I’m proud of you for wading through the nightmare swamp muck.
474 days ago it had been 102 days since I lost Keith. 474 days ago, I was barely surviving. 102 days into widowhood, it felt like I’d be spinning on an eternal hamster wheel.
474 days later, more days have passed and I realize that how I felt then isn’t how I feel anymore. I see hope now. I laugh more now. I sleep better. I eat better. I have fun again. My family is still broken. My grief is still there.
But it’s easier.
The grief beast is shrinking. The nightmare swamp is getting shallower and I can see dry ground.
Keep moving, friend. Not because Michelle would have wanted you to. Not because anyone expects you to. Keep moving because the burden gets lighter on the other side of the heavy. Keep moving because that’s where the dry ground is.
Maybe you won’t be ready for the dry ground when you get to 576 days. Maybe you will. It doesn’t matter as long as you keep moving.
Wishing you strength and prayers,