Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Widow Awards



I don't know about you, but when I make through certain milestones...I feel like I've accomplished something monumental.

I think I was prouder of myself when I got through the first anniversary of my husband's death than I was when I got my college diploma.  I want to jump up and down every year on the day after his birthday because I'm so excited to be on the other side.  And, frankly, I think I deserve a trophy every year on December 26th.

I'm actually cheating and writing this on Christmas Day.  But I can feel it mounting - that jubilation that only getting through the holidays can bring.  I've gotten through the build-up and what is sometimes the forced merriment of the holiday season.  Christmas Eve, and all of the stress that comes with it, is over.  I'm halfway through what I consider a successful Christmas Day (meaning nothing catastrophic has happened) and can already feel the relief that comes with getting closure on another December 25th.

I know that so many of us are sad that, not only are we missing our spouses, but some of the magic of the season is gone as well.  And I totally get that.  Even if you're fortunate to be with people during the holidays, there is still a loneliness that can't be explained to others.  The best way I can think of phrasing it is that even if you're with people you love...there is still a connection that's missing.  There's a separateness.  There is a caution that we didn't feel before, a worry that if we feel too much - whether it's sadness or happiness - that emotion might just be too overwhelming.

This is the reason why I love widow(er)s.  No one gets that like we do.  I can guarantee that tomorrow I will wake up to many messages from my comrades in loss, celebrating the fact that they've made it through yet another milestone (or maybe even their first).

How I wish we could get all together!  We need a big giant ballroom with an elaborate stage - even bigger than the Oscars!  We will all be nominated for different categories like Best Meltdown or Most Elaborate Comfort Food Creator or Most Realistic - Coping Category.  We will all applaud each other as we take the stage in our most comfortable sweats and each accept an award that we will proudly display in our homes that will remind us - and everyone we know - that we made it through another day.

Because it's big.  It's a huge accomplishment that most people don't understand.  I don't know one person in our situation who hasn't woken up one morning and thought, "I did it.  I made it through."  Others in our circles don't understand the energy, emotional control, and fierce concentration it takes to sometimes just live through a day.

But we do.

I read a quote the other day that I love (of course now I can't find it).  It went something like "I know I'm having a hard day, but so far my success rate at getting through tough moments is 100%."  And that's true.  I've done it before.  And I will have to do it again.  But I've proven to myself that I can.  And so have you.

So, I raise my glass you, my fellow widdas.  If you were here, I'd be handing you a tacky trophy probably made out of an abandoned Barbie doll and whatever craft supplies I have laying around.  But I would be giving it to you with pride, smiling at you, and congratulating you for making it through the day.

Because as we all know...that's huge.

16 comments:

  1. Just discovered your blog a few weeks ago. Your entries are spot on including today's. My husband died unexpectedly in August leaving me to raise 2 boys (ages 12 and 16). My normal, happy life has come completely unraveled. This first Christmas was tough. I finally had to resort to taking an anti-anxiety pill (I've been hoarding them for just this occasion) just so I could concentrate at work today. It's very hard to explain what you are feeling to family and friends, so I don't. Your blog validates what I can't share with others. Thanks. Have a restful New Years. Nancy Farmer Arvada, CO

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    1. Hi Nancy! Thank you so much for your note. I'm so sorry to hear about your husband and I know those milestones are so hard to get through. And that first year is such a blur.

      I'm having a book signing on January 7 at the Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch at 7:30 PM. Would love to meet you! And it might be a good way to meet other widows - I know that some are planning on attending.

      Best to you -
      Catherine

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  2. I snuck away to the bathroom for a little meltdown on Christmas eve, while our extended family was doing the gift exchanges among the young ones. A sister-in-law later came to give me a hug and told me she sometimes forgets how much I am hurting because I am usually so strong. Errgh. Catherine, I know you are right, I know I will get through this, I have seen maybe hundreds of widows over the course of my life pick up and go on. Sometimes I just don't want to make the effort. But, I surely do appreciate what you do to encourage us and help us understand what we feel is "normal", when everything normal about our lives has changed. To you I award the tallest soccer trophy I can find in the basement. I will pull off the little plaque that says best goalie in the age 8 and under league,and replace it with a sign that says "Most likely to try and find something worthwhile in this whole hot mess." I would also make a gold ribbon sash for the award and try to find a tiny princess crown to glue on the player's head. If I can't find a crown, I'm thinking a little tulle or gaudy lace ribbon to make a ballet skirt or edge the outside edges of the plaque. Yep, I can see it now....

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    1. Sharon,

      I would put that trophy front and center on my mantel with pride! And just so you know - those widows who look like they've just picked up and gone on with their lives are sometimes putting on a brave face, too. Even the widows I know who have gotten remarried still have those gut-check moments every once in a while.

      I'm so glad that your sister-in-law said that to you. Sometimes it just makes me feel better when people validate my feelings.

      Best to you and thank you so much for writing,
      Catherine

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  3. Starting at Halloween I put on my body armor and start getting ready for the holidays! Trying to make the most out of the holidays for my 4 kids is exhausting! Trying to make things normal! The reality of it all is that nothing is normal anymore! Having to be the Mom and Dad is not normal. It was never suppose to be this way! I am so relieved that it is December 27th! Now I just have to get through New Year's Eve and I will be done for a while! Soon I will be able to hang up my armor and breathe again!

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    1. We made it! Hope you were able to take that deep breath. We all need that every once in a while!

      Hugs,
      Catherine

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  4. I love your categories for Oscar-like awards for widows. I could win the best comfort foods award...I sure try hardest in that area.

    My husband's second sadiversary is coming up in January and I relate to your positive attitude for moving forward. Humor is also the best tool in my grief coping box.

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    1. Jean,

      Thinking of you. I know how exhausting getting through those milestones can be...especially when they're back-to-back like that. I have a month like that myself.

      Hugs,
      Catherine

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  5. Yes, you "get it" and everyone who reads and posts here "gets it". My late husband's family doesn't "get it" so I just stopped trying last year with them. My husband of 25 years passed away suddenly on May 10, 2012 from a Pulmonary Embolism. Our two daughters are now 20 and 16 and seem to be doing well in school and keeping busy with activities. This was our 2nd Christmas without him. Last year was a numbed blur but this year I was determined (after at first wanting to skip all the holidays) at least make it a happy one for my daughters. We went to Christmas Eve church service at 11:00 pm, had a wonderful Christmas Day dinner with my family, and I splurged a little more and got each daughter an item they wanted (the older one - a College JR - a pearl necklace/bracelet.earrings set) and (the younger one - a HS JR - a lens for her NIKON camera).

    And then I woke up the day after Christmas sick with what the dr thinks is the flu, my oldest daughter got a foster puppy to keep for a few weeks before it is sent up North, that then threw up all over me, and my youngest daughter said that I'm the mom and I'm supposed to do everything for everyone. That's when it hit me - almost a year and a half after my husband died suddenly - this is not the life we planned or chose. He worked full-time as a journalist, traveled a lot but also worked at home. I work part-time as a technical writer because I am also a 12 + years cancer survivor. Our family was lucky to have been able to travel and do things together. Now I am always tired and overwhelmed with so many legal and financial matters still. But I can feel myself getting stronger a little day by day. And I love that I found support from different websites online. Thinking of everyone...

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    1. Leslie,

      I spent a good portion of the beginning of my widowhood keeping as busy as possible and trying to keep life as "normal" for everyone as I possibly could. It wasn't until I sat down and truly let it sink in that my life would never be what it was - that the pieces of my life had changed so drastically that they wouldn't fit together as they always had - and that's when I truly turned a corner. I started communicating better with everyone about my needs and my limitations and, frankly, found little time for BS.

      Grief is exhausting - never mind all of the other stuff that comes with widowhood. Our lives transform so drastically and change seems to happen during every moment of every day. There are still some days I feel so energized and think I can take on the world. And then sometimes I just have to give myself permission to sit still and take care of myself.

      Thinking of YOU.
      Catherine

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  6. I just discovered your blog today. Hooray! Another woman who "gets it." Thank you for sharing the journey. It's easier to make my way with a little humor!!

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    1. Thank you so much for your note! Yes, I have found it a little easier if I can laugh at my grief! Best to you. :)

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  7. Love this entry...this is the second holiday without my husband, who died May 2012 from cancer. I have two daughters, a 3 year old and 14 year old. Not only was I struggling with my grief over the holidays, but also with a new trauma with my teenage daughter who is now suffering clinical depression from HER grief. I feel like I woke up Jan. 2nd from a nightmare (the nightmare could essentially just be named "December") and discovered I HAD made it through, but I had also done some damage to relationships along the way. Reading your story helps me understand that I'm not crazy, I'm doing the best I can to make it through...day by day...and some days are not as successful as others. All I can do is wake up, put on my boots, and try again another day. Thank you for the inspiration, the understanding that we are not alone in this pain, and the HOPE!

    You have a new blog-follower!

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    1. Carolyn,

      That is absolutely true! We can only do the best we can. Something that has really helped me (especially in this last year) is to just pause and take a deep breath and ask myself if there's anything I can do about a situation. If it's a big problem, I only think about the first step. I get easily overwhelmed so it helps me sometimes to not look at the "big picture."

      And that's the best I can do!

      I have had many times when I've had to go back to people and say, "I'm sorry about what happened/what I said. I was just going through a really difficult time." Most people understand that and the ones who don't...well...maybe it's okay that we weren't as close as we once were.

      Thinking of you and your daughter. I am so sorry that you're dealing with that. What a double whammy.

      Catherine

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  8. I just stumbled across you blog today and I have tears rolling down my cheeks, thank you so much for the hope and inspiration I am in much need of. I lost my husband to cancer in October 2012 and we have 3 children now aged 16, 14 and 11 and it is just a long lonely road. I have always being a huge reader but I have not been able to read a book now for at least 18 months but I am now looking forward to reading yours. This is the 1st time ever that I have posted a comment on a blog which is kind of weird because my husband was one of the 1st 20 people in the world to start blogging.

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  9. Tomorrow I'll have complete my 6th month as a widow, and while thinking I need to actually celebrate 'making it,' I ran across your blog. Looking forward to continue to connect this way with others. Thanks so much for putting it out there (in many ways) for the rest of us. Ginny in CA

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