Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

The Underground Widowed Network

Date: 
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Posted By: 
Jeannine Love

Today, we welcome guest blogger, Jeannine Love.  Jeannine was widowed at age 35 when she lost her partner Aric to liver disease on October 31, 2012. She now lives in Lincoln Square with her two kitties, Graham and Quincy, and dreams of a day when organ donation will be the norm rather than the exception.

When the possibility of losing Aric first fully hit me, my mother was with me in the hospital. I can’t remember the exact scenario, what the precise events were that led up to that particular breaking point on that particular day – so much of that time is a blur. But, I can distinctly remember clinging to my mother in the middle of a hospital corridor, sobbing uncontrollably and screeching: “I’m going to be a widow!” As I clung to my mom, heaving loud, vigorous sobs, the liver team came walking down the hallway. They were there to see Aric, to talk to me, but they took one look at me and kept walking. Later one of them would tell me, “You looked like you needed some time to yourself.” Indeed.

I had no idea how to wrap my mind and heart around the possibility of losing Aric. Honestly, I still don’t. But there was something about that identity,“widow,” that seemed so foreign, so impossible for me at the tender age of 35. I couldn’t begin to imagine the connection I would form with other young “wids,” the instant friendships that could spring from the reality of shared grief. But lately, I feel as though I have joined a new secret club: The Underground Widowed Network. 

There is a vast network of widowed folks out there. Those who have come before me have created social groups, online forums, blogs and various other means of connecting with other wids – even conferences and retreats. And each day newly widowed folks enter the ranks and find those resources, and the community continues to grow, expanding our connections through our shared grief.

But it’s not just any shared grief. After all, all of us have experienced grief in some form, and each of us can empathize to some degree across different kinds of grief. But the grief of losing a spouse is a special kind of grief – the way the grief of losing a child, or a parent, is a special kind ofgrief.  And the grief of losing a spouse at a young age is different still.

I don’t know how to explain it to someone who hasn’texperienced it. How can you describe what it feels like to find someone who truly makes your soul resonate, and then lose them in the midst of your lives together? With so many plans and dreams still on the horizon? One moment you are sharing life with someone who compliments you, makes you a better person, teaches you, loves you unconditionally, and thinks you are the most amazing person in the world – and you do the same for them. The next they are gone and you are looking at the long expanse of the future ahead of you – without your soulmate. 

It’s a very surreal and lonely experience to have your best friend and soul mate suddenly disappear. And no one who hasn’t experienced it can fully understand it. But anyone who has experienced it – just knows. No explanation necessary. No need to worry about how much to say, whether your grief will make the other person uncomfortable. Whether you need to try to hold back your tears. There is an ability to let your guard down, to honestly communicate your grief - and to know it will be understood and accepted. Such friendships are priceless. 

I have been so blessed in the months since Aric died to have made many “wid” friends, both in Chicago and online. I’ve heard my own thoughts and feelings echoed back to me in the words on the computer screen, in the eyes and voices of my friends. I have listened as they have vented their hopelessness, fear and anger. Have shared their memories of their loves. Have marked the passing of months, years, holidays, anniversaries, birthdays. Have reported in on their hopes, and growth and victories. And I have shared the same with them. We cheer each other on, encourage each other to challenge ourselves, provide shoulders to cry on when the grief gets too overwhelming or when acquaintances beat us down with harsh words. We share words of wisdom and bits of inspiration we come across, and we remind each other to be gentle with ourselves and to find and walk our own unique paths through grief.

Aric’s last day on this earth he wasn’t able to speak much. I am convinced, despite his fragile state, that he was paying attention to what was going on around him and fighting to stay with us. But, despite his best efforts he was having difficulty communicating. However, that last day he said two things to me that keep ringing in my head – repeating over and over. The first was: “I am dying. I know. It’s okay.” That one I am still processing, and will be for a long time to come. The second, the last thing he really said to me (unless you count a kiss on my cheek as “saying” something – which I admit, I kind of do) was: “Meet people.” Just those two simple words. My Aric, direct and insightful, as always.

Aric knew that my social life had been greatly limited over the years due to caregiving, work, grad school. He knew I am off-the-charts introverted. But he knew that I would need friends to help me along, to keep me going, to push me to continue expanding my horizons, to prevent me from shutting myself away and giving in to my hermitic nature. Aric knew I was losing my best friend and constant companion, and he didn’t want me to be alone. So, he told me to go out and meet people. 

I don’t think either of us could have imagined how many widowed people I would meet over the months following his death, or how much those friendships would mean to me. But as I’ve made those connections and have had to fight against my own introverted nature to do so, I keep hearing Aric’s voice in my head: “Meet people.” And I do my best to listen to his advice ... becoming part of the Underground Widowed Network is one way I'm doing so. My widowed friends are helping me answer those last words and I love them for it.

Comments

Thanks, Jeanine. Poignant and well written.

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