Unless you walk in someone else’s moccasins

Yesterday, I reached out via e-mail to a woman who used to come to my MM support group. She lost her husband to MM a few months ago. I knew she was planning to sell her home and move to Florida and I just wanted to check in. I’d given her my phone numbers after Gene died, but she hadn’t called, and I was worried about her. She e-mailed me back later in the day and I read it last night. She is bereft. She said that Gene was the best part of her and she has been lost since his passing. Just when she was thinking that she was making some progress with the grieving process, her husband’s best friend died of melanoma and it kicked her grief into high gear again. She cries constantly and said she felt too badly to call me and didn’t want to bring me down. I replied to her this morning. I don’t want her to feel that way, even though I get it. Here’s the thing, no matter how long our spouses have been sick, and how sick they’ve been, we can never, ever, understand the pain of having them gone from us forever. It is scary to think about and I have seen so many people widowed by this damned disease, but, I remember when the older woman living next door lost her husband. She felt guilty for not reaching out to other widows prior to her becoming widowed herself and she then realized just how incredibly hard it was and wished that she had been more aware of that and done more. So, I continue to reach out to the widows I know, because it is the right thing to do. Because it’s a loneliness none of us could imagine unless we faced it ourselves, And because Tim’s family showed me just how cowards do things instead, and how hurtful it is when people drop out of your life when the sh*t hits the fan. I don’t for a second delude myself into thinking that I will not be dropped by (more) people if I wind up being widowed. I’ve come to expect that type of thing from people. I worry more about our daughter, and hope that she will not lose her support system if that happens. I wrote a long e-mail to this woman this morning, trying to give her hope without pouring on the clichés. There is one phrase I told her, that I heard from another MM widow, that I think says a lot. It is, “you are going to be OK, you just don’t know it yet.” If I’m not mistaken, it was another widow who told her that saying. The human mind, heart, and soul can adapt to and recover from the worst things life can dole out. The road to healing, after a devastating loss, is something more painful than any of us that haven’t been there can imagine. And, THAT is a very scary thought for me and something that has haunted me for a long time. But, I also see widows who have healed enough to find joy again, to feel at least somewhat whole, to learn to live with the weight of grief, to make new goals and wish lists for themselves. I have seen them make new and fulfilling lives for themselves, and, sometimes, even find love again. The engagement announcement the other day on Facebook of one such woman I “know” from the MM world was such an uplifting thing to see. She met a lovely guy, moved to San Diego, and now will be getting married. Life can be good again. There is always HOPE. But, it’s also imperative for people to reach out to folks going through this. They shouldn’t have to go through it alone. You never know if your call or e-mail might be the only one they get that week. Or maybe something you say can be the thing that gives them a little boost and helps them a bit. Lifting someone else up really does lift the lifter up too. I guarantee it. And it’s just the right thing to do.