Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

I Am Not an Expert, I Am Just a Veteran

Date: 
Monday, October 13, 2014
Posted By: 
Diana Maggio-Gumushian

In the last 6 weeks I have attended 3 wakes: one for an 83 year old neighbor, one for the young husband of a friend with young children, and one for the father of a co-worker. Attending all of them stirred up difficult emotions, re-awakening feelings I don’t like to think about, or that have long been buried. It also causes others to look at me, or to me, like I should know what to do, that I should have the answers, or could offer some insight. Yesterday, I was told I’m an expert at this and asked for my “sage advice” on how to get through it.

I have both floundered and succeeded along the way, and it’s a trial and error experience. What worked (or didn’t) work for me in the beginning has been an evolving process that continues to change with time and need. My heart breaks every time I see someone who has lost a spouse or partner and know what is in store for them. Seeing the dazed look on their faces brings me to my knees, not only because it forces me to relive my own experience, but because I hurt knowing how difficult the journey will be in the days, months, weeks or even years to come. We all share one common thread- the loss of a lifetime partner - but experiencing death is just as unique and varied as all of our collective experiences in life. I spent last night thinking about the process of grieving, surviving and hopefully thriving. This caused me to reflect on why I am involved in the CYWC.

I am not an expert in grieving or being widowed. I feel “veteran” is more appropriate term. Aside from the military definition, veteran is defined as experience though long service or practice, or having served a long period of time. Six years and 3 months qualifies as a veteran of sorts, and feels more appropriate than expert. I don’t claim to know it all in anything, least of all, being a widow. Having my own experiences to draw from can qualify me to offer assistance and suggestions to those who are newer to their journey. I can empathize and sympathize with the horrible, painful process. I can (hopefully) offer a safe place for grieving, sharing and support from someone who has “walked in your shoes” or “come before you” or “knows what it’s like.” I can try to be there in the darkest of times, the bleakest of moments, when someone feels there is no one that can possibly understand. Perhaps I can be there to laugh with, cry with, or support someone through the most painful parts of grieving. I might even encourage them in knowing that it’s okay to laugh, to feel like a person outside of grieving. Sometimes, you just need someone to say it’s okay to be filled with rage, anger, sadness, despair, pain, and utter loss of hope, because it helps you to get to a better place where you can actually feel better, feel hope, and perhaps happiness... and it’s ok. There were “veterans” before me that helped me to achieve all this and many other things, but the friendships that evolved were one of the most important factors in me being able to achieve my veteran status.
No one can ever replace the scar on our heart that belongs exclusively to the one we lost. Although the pain lessens and changes, it has changed who we are, both in knowing them, and in losing them. With each new widowed person that comes after us comes the chance to be there for someone, to make a connection that binds us together. My hope for everyone reading this is that you have found one person that can make you feel less alone, understood, and supported, that you find comfort in seeking out and knowing a “veteran” and that you one day feel strong enough to do it for someone else. Be kind to yourself...and let someone else be kind to you.

Add new comment