Every loss is felt distinctly. Each person we lose in our lives affects us differently. Every grief is experienced in a unique way. To compare and judge one person’s pain against another’s is unfair. That being said, losing my husband has been by far the most difficult loss I’ve ever experienced. Am still experiencing on a daily basis. And from everything I’ve learned over these past months, will likely continue to experience for the rest of my life.
My husband was there for me through nearly all the losses I’ve suffered. Through the years he has comforted me when I lost my father, we’ve been there for each other through the losses of uncles and aunts and cousins and more, together we mourned the passing of three grandmothers and a grandfather, and I was there for him when his brother died.
We have encountered many changes – the loss of jobs, broken dreams, severed relationships, heartaches and pain – each one having its own challenges and necessary adjustment periods. But though all were different, he was my one constant through each one. No matter the details, the nature of the loss, or the depth of the misery, I could count on him to comfort and protect me as only he could.
The Holmes and Rahe Stress Inventory ranks loss of a spouse as the number 1 stressor a person can encounter, by far, well above any other life changing event, good or bad. It makes complete sense, as in one fell swoop I lost my partner, best friend, lover, companion, co-parent, walking buddy, bedmate, and so much more. We were more than just spouses – being married incorporates many distinct and overlapping connections with a single individual. So despite losing “just one” person, in essence, death of spouse means the loss of many relationships at once.
I had someone tell me a few months back that losing a parent was losing one’s past, losing a spouse was losing one’s present, but losing a child was losing one’s future. I disagree. When I lost my husband, I lost all three – past, present, and future. We chose to build a life together. It wasn’t DNA or serendipity that threw us together and created a bond. We forged that bond through love and determination and resolve.
It sometimes took work, and dedication, and a thick skin, and tears, and sweat. It also took love, and compassion, and forgiveness, and companionship, and tenderness. Although it may have looked easy from the outside, our marriage was cultivated and nurtured quite intensely from the inside.
Your parents raise you to be the best person you can be, then they set you free. You raise a child in the hopes that one day they’ll spread their wings and fly into the world to create their own beautiful lives, as well. Your goal with a partner, though, is to grow closer together through the years and make a life together.
All can be intensely beautiful relationships, yet so very different. One cannot be compared to other, and certainly not in the respect that it’s somehow “easier” to lose a spouse because I’m “only” losing my present life, or that because we were not connected by blood, it must be easier to let go. Quite the contrary.
It has sadly become crystal clear that the only way to truly understand what a grieving spouse is going through is to become one yourself. I’m guilty of not understanding the severity of the loss before this year. My hope for each of you is that you don’t have to learn the lesson for a long, long time. Just know that if and when you must go through it, you will be on your own. Your grief journey will be personal and you must go it alone.
May you find healing and comfort when you discover yourself here. Because it is a treacherous road, filled with detours, and potholes, and unseen hazards, and you will need all the strength you can muster to keep moving and not give up.
Though you may have the support of friends and loved ones, those who stand by you, hold your hand and try to keep you upright and headed in the right direction, ultimately they cannot journey for you. In the end, it will be yours and yours alone. And it is a long, lonely one.
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