January 1, 2020 was a milestone. I didn’t mention it to anyone. I never said a word.
Over the last 500 (now 508) days, I have written a lot of words about my grief, the unending sense of loss, the brutal physical and emotional pain, the heartache and the heartbreak, the deep-rooted trauma and post-traumatic stress, as well as many other things related to how I have been since becoming a widower. And my experience is not as unique as some may think.
Those who knew me before all this, know how much I adored Suzanne. She was my best friend. In many ways, and at many times, it felt like she was my only friend. In a recent blog post, a good friend (and fellow widow) said she missed being someone’s “first priority”. I was Suzanne’s and she was mine. As widowed people, I think we can all relate to that.
So where am I now? In the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and now more than a year since Suzi died, I have become a different person. Widows all do. Many of my “old” friends are no longer part of my life. Even if they were, they probably would no longer recognize me regardless. It’s not just physically that I have changed either (dropping nearly 20-lbs, growing a beard). It’s my mental and emotional Self that has changed. I am different.
What am I today? Who am I today? Someone who can’t watch the news because of the trauma of watching the suffering that is rife in the world. Someone who can no longer enjoy many of the things I used to love for fear of being triggered and “losing it” in public. Someone who wants to make a difference in the world by making it a better place for my girls. To me, that means helping smash the shit out of a patriarchal society we are enslaved in.
And I spend a lot of time alone. Completely alone.
Now, though, I am once again someone’s number one. Me. I chose me. And that means I am my own number one. In some respects, I think it comes with the territory of being widowed.
Most days, I spend the whole of the day completely alone, talking more to the fur babies (two dogs and two cats) than any other sentient beings. In recent days, this has changed as I have met someone who I speak with regularly. She brings much needed companionship to my existence and she is kind, caring, compassionate, loving, open, honest and a safe space for me and for my grief. She is a widow. She gets it.
The thing is, though, with or without her companionship, I feel I’m okay. I’m truly safe with my own Self.
It took more than a year to get here; and I truly believe the journey to my true Self has been worth it. It has been a significant challenge. I won’t lie. It has been quite possibly the hardest journey I have ever had to take. The thing is the journey was only around 16-inches… The journey from my head into the deepest depths of my heart.
This is one of the reasons I am no longer the man that most of my old friends knew. My journey has taught me that not only will I be okay being alone, but also I can still love. Fiercely.
It taught me that it’s okay not being okay some days. It taught me that it’s okay to fall apart, to cry, to get upset and to be vulnerable and still be my true Self. It has taught me that love—true love—is possibly the greatest gift we can give anyone or anything. So, I am now giving and receiving love. From and for new friends and old. From and for strangers. From and for animals. From and for Pachamama (Mother Earth). And I have decided that tolerance of everyone and all their beliefs is the first and most important part of this. Acceptance and tolerance of everyone and everything as they are. No more judgement. No more labels. Just live and let be.
My journey is not finished. I have a long way to go. I have new friends—mostly widows—that have shown me such amazing courage and resilience in the face of such tremendous tragedy, adversity and challenge. These women and men are so unbelievably amazing and inspiring. I sometimes wonder how any God could be so amazingly cruel to them. None of us have had a choice but to come face-to-face with our own realities. And most, like me, have truly learned to see beauty and love in everything.
Kindness matters. Love matters.
I am proud to have made so many new friends. Particularly, I have grown to have such a tremendous amount of love and a fierce desire to protect people I don’t even know other than through our common bonds and our friendships on Facebook. Yes, there several of widows I have met and I love them, too. So, this piece ends with a huge thank you to all my widows and widowers who have inspired me to be a better man. Thank you for helping me to address my insecurities and anxieties around being a widow. But most of all, thank you for allowing me to be. Me.