As I started writing this blog post, I was trying to determine where these little voices inside my head were coming from, my personal Jiminy Cricket, so to speak. I came to the conclusion that for us widows/widowers, the little voices that echo through our heads have multiple facets. At least for me, they do. My own conscience is trying to decide if I am making the right decisions, the reality of widowhood plays a role, and then there is the voice of my late spouse, playing on a continuous loop in the background.
A little voice from myself about my oldest daughter:
“Am I really letting her go? Can I finance this and still be ok? Am I insane? I never talked to Steve about this. We never imagined this would be a decision we would make. She was 15 years old - just a freshman in high school – we couldn’t imagine how her life would evolve. She is in her second year of college now and is flourishing.
I think she can do it, she’s strong. She watched her Dad fight like hell through cancer for four and a half years. Then, she watched him lose. She is all about experiencing things, having adventures, having fun. She doesn’t know her expiration date so she lives like she doesn’t have one, or that it’s tomorrow. A little bit of both! I can’t blame her – I get it.
So, the answer is Yes, I must let her go. I must say goodbye to my firstborn, so she can study abroad for a semester in Costa Rica. She will go and trek thru jungles with monkeys and spiders and snakes and learn all she can from the experience. She will make wonderful new friends and references, spread her wings, and have her adventures.
I will give her a big hug at the airport and send her on her way. Then, I will take a deep breath and hold it, until she safely returns in May. She is not allowed to stay!”
A little voice to my late husband:
“I miss you. I miss parenting with you. I miss making decisions with you that affect our lives, our home, our children. It doesn’t feel right to be the only one in charge of all the things we built together, as a team.
I am helping our daughter make a big decision and I have not taken your opinion into account, AT ALL. It’s not that I don’t care what you think, because I will ALWAYS imagine what your thought processes would have been. You would have been scared and unsure about sending her to study abroad too, I know you would have! But I need to see past my own fears - I can’t think of this as losing another family member that I love. If I let my own experiences play a role, I won’t be able to let her go.
I am supporting her until the hug goodbye. I need you to watch her until she safely returns to me, her sisters, and her home. You are ‘on’ from February until May, then I can take over again. I still need you to help me parent – even if it’s from heaven.”
In any decision, we try to objectively weigh the pros and cons. That’s easy, we’ve been doing it all our lives.
Now, the voice of unwanted widowhood, gets a role to play. Maybe our loneliness and our finances effect our decisions. Maybe some of us need to move or sell our homes. Some of us may need to be closer to our families and support systems, some of us may need to be further away. Perhaps, we need to seek employment, put kids in daycare, investigate counseling and support groups, sell vehicles, address estate and legal issues, deal with family clashes, re-do our wills, and the list goes on and on. None of these issues would have been issues, had our spouses not died.
Many times, I know that I am imagining that my spouse didn’t die. Because I am trying to predict what he might say! How would Steve handle this? What would he say to our daughters? Am I parenting the same as I would have if he was still next to me? Would he think I am being too lenient? Too strict? Would we have come to the same decisions together?
When I finally stopped for a minute and sorted out all the voices in my head, I could see how all of my decisions have been guided. Jiminy Cricket went through grief with me and has been trying to help me sort it all out too. I just didn’t realize it so clearly until now.