A Widow's Many "firsts"

by elaine williams - Date: 2008-05-05 - Word Count: 857 Share This!

The left side of the bed where my husband used to sleep remains neatly made, hardly a ripple disturbing the quilted surface. I sleep on the right side each night, where I had slept the twenty-plus years we were together. With time, I developed a habit of reading in bed. The left side remained neatly made, but on top of the quilted cover a mound of reading material gradually grew. I read about feng shui in the bedroom and wondered was I preventing another partner from entering my life by allowing that pile to grow? Was there a part of me that would rather be entertained by books than another partner?

I sorted through and cleared away my husband's clothes a few months after his passing, following an inexplicable but strong urge that struck me. Our bedroom was on the second floor, and with his illness, he had not been in that room at least six months prior to his passing. I went through the bedroom like a whirlwind, clearing out every corner, drawer and shoe box, getting rid of anything that resembled clutter or hadn't been used in years. I cleared all but the barest essentials for living.

At night, I would lie in bed and stare into the dark, feeling the emptiness of the room, as it matched the emptiness in my heart.

When I took off my wedding ring the first time, I put it on my opposite hand. It felt strange to be on a finger where it didn't belong. I got used to it after a few weeks, but I wasn't sure what the protocol was for widows and rings. After several months, I took the ring off and put it on my dresser, but then months later, I resumed wearing it again on my right hand.

Switching the wedding band around felt awkward. After several more months, I removed it for the final time, wondering if my kids would notice. My youngest son one day remarked that my ring was gone and I told him I'd put it as a keepsake in my jewelry box. The last time I wore it was two and a half years after my husband's death.

The first time I went to a social event without my husband felt incredibly awkward, as if I were an imposter masquerading as someone single. Two of my children went with me, but I wondered how many people there, most of whom I knew, wondered about my state of mind since I'd been a widow a scant two months. Did I look happy, sad, ready to cry? Inside I was shaky and struck with inadequacy, as if half of me was missing and the remaining half didn't know how to act. I certainly didn't want anyone's pity, but I had this crazy notion people were feeling bad for me. I didn't stay long, but somehow I felt it was important that I had gone.

My first lunch by myself I slipped into the diner booth hoping no one would notice me. I sat there self-consciously, wishing I had brought something to read so I could keep my head down, my own way of hiding. I had gone in there just to see if I could do it by myself, a test, if you will.

As I waited for my food I looked at the television showing the weather, the other patrons, and out the window at the rain. My food arrived and later when I walked out of there, it was like I'd cleared a monumental hurdle and taken another step forward.

It sounds trivial, and yet these little steps were my daily leaps forward. Progress was measured some days by how long it had been since I'd cried. Was it silly to drive down the road and suddenly hear a song that made you cry? Not because it was "your" song, but because the poignant lyrics poked at something hurting inside.

My first date in twenty plus years felt as foreign as if I was cheating on my husband. How do you pick up the pieces of a life gone awry, where it feels like you're a stranger in your own world? Where does loneliness end and desperation take over? How do you control the craving for human attention and affection? Many days I had questions and no answers.

The first wedding anniversary, birthday, holiday, Valentines day and the first anniversary of his death I told myself I was okay, these were merely days on a calendar. I lied to myself and on bright sunny days I walked into our woods and cried. Even with the sun's warmth on my face, I felt an emotional mess. The biggest sustaining factor in my life was my kids. I knew they needed me as they faced their own "firsts" without their father in their lives.

Gradually, time, healing and loved ones' support made all the "firsts" bearable. Four years down the road, I realize I've successfully jumped many hurdles. It had not always been with perfect execution, but with overall strength and dignity. I've come into my own power once more as I applaud my accomplishments big and small. Elaine Williams 2008

Related Tags: loss, grief, widow, widows, bereavement, widower, death and dying, death of a spouse, loss of a spouse

Elaine Williams is a writer across various genres, published in women's fiction, but also enjoys writing children's books, self-help and screenplays. She is a mother of three boys and when life saw her a widow at 47, she eventually picked herself up and wrote about her experience. The resulting book, A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss will be available June 2008, www.ajourneywelltaken.com

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