This month I will pass a milestone that people typically either rave about getting to or loath that it’s happening to them. The big FOUR-OHHHHH, my 40th birthday. I’ve been watching those blessed to be born in ’77 reach their dates for months and have been patiently waiting for my turn. And I’ve been reflecting, sometimes quietly, sometimes publicly, about what this milestone means for me. The conclusion? I already have my “40 badge”…because grief, and healing the wounds of grief, gifted me that badge awhile back.
If you scroll through some of the holy shit I’m gonna be 40 blogs, or the 40 is the best age on earth blogs, there are some common themes. I’m certain my badass widow tribe will agree with me and shout – we got this shit handled already, regardless of the number on our birth certificates. And yes, I know a lot of widows who are under the age of 40.
Here’s what I see as the top three 40 is awesome claims, and how healing my widow wounds already granted me my 40 badge.
1 – turning 40 gives you confidence, a better sense of self and this general “comfortable in your skin” sentiment
This one is prominent in most of the 40 is the best age blogs. Its one of my favourites and the rationale behind it is often something along the lines of learning to love yourself and not be as critical as you were of yourself in your “younger” days.
Here’s how widowhood already gave me that confidence…
The moment I received the news of my husband’s suicide my world came crashing down, and so did I. Literally a fell into a heap. I then spent about a year sobbing into alcoholic beverages on my kitchen floor. But I kept functioning, through immense pain, and grief often is physically painful, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Caring for my children and rebuilding my life. Anyone who experiences profound loss knows they have experienced their absolute worse day on this earth. Waking up every morning I give thanks for my life and I know, with confidence, and in my heart that I can handle anything this day tosses my way. Grief teaches you what you are really capable of. You cannot manufacture that kind of confidence, and you don’t need to wait for a magical birthday to get it either. Grief shows you your absolute ugliest side and then teaches you that to heal you need to love that ugliness. It makes you want to literally scratch your skin off and then shows you the beauty of what you still have, including that skin you so wanted to remove.
2 – at 40 you are seasoned and experienced
What the blogs say about turning 40 is that you have now magically entered a phase of life where you are wise enough to begin giving advice, instead of just taking it. And that this is some sort of privilege reserved for the 40+ crowd.
Widowhood catapults you into the land of the old wise one…
This one I didn’t expect at all to be given by grief. Actually it wasn’t grief itself that gave me this one, it was the healing. Once I got beyond being able to just function on a daily basis, and slowly began to thrive again, suddenly I was an expert on a wide range of topics. People called me bizarre things, like “inspiring” – yikes! Even as a remarried healing widow there are days when I can barely manage to scrape myself off my kitchen floor and I’m inspiring?!?
I started to get asked for advice on a variety of topics that I didn’t expect. It seems as though people thought – if she can do IT having lived through THAT then she must know a thing or two. “IT” topics included parenting, relationships, exercise, job choices and other random topics. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, widowhood causes a near instant loss of filter. So my ability to spew opinionated advice on such a variety of topics is pretty damn impressive.
Overall healing through grief gives you an unparalleled perspective on the world as a whole. While I would never wish the kind of pain I have endured to get to that perspective on anyone, I do wish more people in the world could embrace what I know as truth. So when asked, I’m happy to spew away.
3 – when you turn 40 you stop worrying about what other people think
Read this a lot in the 40 is awesome blogs. Usually before this one is covered there is a long list of all the not-so-nice body changes that happen when we age, then a list of carefree clothing choices (I stopped wearing a bra!) and then the proclamation, I stopped caring what people think of me.
This attitude is a prerequisite if you are to thrive in widowhood…
Here’s what happens when you are a widow. People think widowhood is contagious. They look at you like you have 3 heads. After the initial “acceptable” grief period when everyone shows support, people drift away (check this blog by the amazing Michelle Steinke Baumgard) And when people do start to drift away you begin to feel like you have the black plague. In the healing process you will learn that it’s not about you, it’s about them. And you literally have no choice but to stop caring what people think if you want to keep leading a normal functional life.
Then…healing, and…GASP…remarriage!! Make that 4 heads with medusa snakes added in for that “oh no I can’t even look at her”. Those living the reality of widowhood are judged most when they make the terrifying decision to love again. Two amazing widow bloggers prove this with their most popular posts, the incredibly brave Erica Roman here, and the queen of widow dating Kerry Phillips, here. Widows/widowers that walk this road absolutely must let go of caring about the opinions of others. No need to be 40 to stop, if are have lived through grief, you already have that ability. You work your ass off mentally to achieve it, regardless of the age on your birth certificate.
Like I said, I got this shit handled. The stuff people rave about that your 40’s will give you…grief and licking my wounds gave me that perspective already. And the stuff people fret and worry about when they hit this milestone…I’m too damn busy enjoying the daily gift of life to be worrying about that shit. So big FOUR-OHHHHH…Bring. It. On.
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.