It's no secret that the holidays are tough for the widowed community. There's a bunch of blogs out there on what our triggers are and what to say and not to say to us. I'm not about to start re-hashing those here. I have one clear message for you today. If you know a widow and see her this holiday season, give her a hug.
You may want to ask first...in case she's having a bad day and you try to hug her without warning and her last self defense lesson kicks in. I wouldn't want to see anyone get hurt.
When you are done hugging her, and I can almost guarantee you she won't let go first, tell her she's doing a fucking awesome job raising her kids without their father around. Look her in the eye when you say it, because not many people have the balls to look a young widow in the eyes, and mean every word you say.
And then you will have given her an incredible gift this holiday season. One that you can't wrap and put under the tree.
From the Kitchen Floor
In my early days of widowhood I spent a lot of time on the kitchen floor. Usually drunk. And alone. The comfort I get there is inexplicable. And more so now that I've connected with other widows /widowers who also end up on the kitchen floor for emotional breakdowns. Who knew it was such a common place?!?
I've made a shit ton of progress in my journey as a widow. And now as a remarried widow I don't spend as much time there. Nor do I spend as much time alone as my fellow young widows. But there's one area of widowhood that always drives me back there. Worry about my parenting skills with my round one kiddos. The overwhelming desire to talk things out with their Dad and have his input. The frustration of not being able to do that.
I consider myself fortunate to have easy access to an adult to hug. And one who tells me regularly that I'm an amazing mom. And will also tell me on request, "Please just tell me I'm doing a good job." He's happy to oblige. But recently I was thrust back into the memories of the early days when I didn't have that someone and was reminded of how incredibly hard those days were.
In October I made the 7 hour trek to visit my suicide widow sister, my Redneck wifey, to see her and her amazing kids through their 1 year deathaversary. There are 101 moments from that trip that I could blog about. It was an incredible eye opening experience for me. But this blog is about the hug in front of her garage.
She had been trying to get the kids ready to head out the door. They were being challenging. Pushing limits as kids love to do. And more so when there is company around to watch. It got to be excessive and some disciplinary action was needed. I gave them some space and shortly after my wifey wandered outside behind me.
She was standing in front of the garage and I could see it in her eyes.
Young widows question their parenting all the time. It's a regular topic in our widow/widower groups - the safe places we go to express ourselves. Those of us who have lost a spouse to mental illness - be it suicide, drug overdose or other ends - have the added stress of being ultra paranoid about the mental health of our children. These concerns are amplified around times of discipline.
More than words
So there she was standing in front of her garage. And I could see the look in her eyes. I knew that expression. And it all came rushing back to me. The early days of widowhood when I needed so badly to be reassured - but not with words. When you question those parenting moments, you just want someone to hug.
As I walked towards her I knew it was going to be an emotional one. I couldn't just see it, I could feel it in the air between us. It was pulling us together.
I'm a pretty strong woman, physically and mentally. I can toss around a 20kg kettlebell and I've navigated my way back to mental wellness...but my wifey is strong AF. As I approached her and opened up my arms to pull her in and give her exactly what she needed, she attacked me...she grabbed me and pulled me in.
And she squeezed so hard it knocked the wind out of my lungs.
I tried so hard to match her force I strained a muscle in my back.
All those nights on the kitchen floor alone came rushing back. Agonizing over my parenting. Having no one to hug for reassurance. And I knew that this hug was about more than just the discipline incident of that day. It was about all the ones prior when she had no one to hug. And all the ones still to come. That hug has been with me ever since. And the desire to plea with everyone I know to hug more often. Because in that moment I was reminded of how much we as humans need that physical connection and reassurance.
We live in a society that is starved for affection. In the land of the widowed (and single) this is amplified. "Maybe lets give people real hugs. Real hugs to single people and widows." One of my widow idols, Erica Roman (who discovered she was pregnant with her second child during her husband's funeral), wrote a beautiful blog about this.
If there is one thought I can leave you with let it be that - hug people, often, hard. Don't let go. You don't need to say anything. Just hug.
I am Michelle. Above all I am a mother of four incredible little beings. I am a certified Personal Trainer and Healthy Eating Coach, an educator and a real estate investor. I am a coach who also participates fully as a fitness enthusiast, a runner, and a swimmer. I speak from the heart and have no filter left to tolerate bull shit.