I met Erin through the great “widow connections” on Twitter, and have since gotten to know her more intimately through a great widow forum we are both involved in: Widowed Village. Erin is open, raw, and at times very amusing both about her journey in loss and with her daily joys as a Mother. I am honored to have her share us today about her reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s death. You’ll read more about why I wanted to hear her thoughts below.
I heard the news in a phone call from a friend around 11:30 on Sunday night. “They got Osama bin Laden.” As someone who has fought in the war and lost friends as a result of this man, he was excited. Naturally, he thought I would be too. My reaction? “Oh. Okay. It’s about time. I’m going back to sleep.”
I slept fitfully that night and when I awoke the next morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. I already knew the feeling. I was going to have ‘one of those days.’
You see, I’m a military widow. I lost my husband, a Staff Sergeant in the USAF, to combat in Afghanistan in September 12, 2009 — the day after the anniversary of the tragic events 8 years earlier that propelled him to join the military. We were best friends since childhood, married for over 6 years, and were new parents to an 8-month-old boy. We never though it would happen to us, you always think and hope and pray that he will come home. And he had, three times. But not this time. This time, I answered the knock on the door that every military wife dreads and opened the door to a whole new life: a life as a single parent and a widow.
You’d think that the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death would have left me rejoicing. After all, it was his actions that took the lives of so many on that ill-fated day and the continued actions of his initiative that ultimately killed my husband. As I heard and read the reactions of my friends and family throughout the day Monday, I wondered why I wasn’t as excited as everyone else seemed to be. I didn’t feel anything, really. At least not at first.
But by the end of the day, ‘one of those days’ where my grief weighed on me and it was hard to think straight, I was left with so many mixed feelings. Strangely enough, the heaviest one is guilt. I feel guilty that I am not rejoicing over Bin Laden’s death. I should feel consolation, vengeance, and closure that the man responsible for my husband’s death is dead. But I don’t.
Yes, I am glad that the source of an evil movement has been eliminated. I am relieved to know that this man can no longer cause pain to others. I am proud of our military men and women who have worked so hard to reach this day. And of course, I am glad to know that so many, including my husband, have not fought and died in vain. There is a sense of finality and satisfaction in knowing that the person responsible for my husband’s death has been eliminated. But am I happy? Do I feel peace? No.
Instead, I feel sadness because I know that although Bin Laden is gone, his motive is not. The war is going to continue and now our soldiers who are still in harm’s way are facing the possibility of devastating retaliation. Instead, I feel bitterness because if Bin Laden had been killed or captured long ago maybe my husband would still be here. Instead, I feel empathy because I know that just like me, so many other families aren’t going to feel the closure they had hoped they would feel when this day came. Instead, I feel exhaustion because I know that for the rest of my life, any time anything like this happens, the wounds from the loss of my husband are going to be ripped open again and the pain will come flooding back, just it is now.
But there is one positive thing I am walking away from this experience with. Hope. It seems odd to say it, but the death of Osama Bin Laden has left me full of a sense of hope. The fact that I am not rejoicing over another person’s death has shown me that, even after the tragedy I’ve been through, my spirit has not been broken. As I continue this journey through widowhood, rebuilding my spirit and carrying my husband’s legacy, I will do so with love, with light, with grace and dignity — not with hatred or resentment. I believe that is what he, and many others who were lost at the hands of Osama Bin Laden, would want us to do.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ‘I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness – only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate – only love can do that.’
About the Author:
I’m a 27 year old mommy, photographer, blogger, and military widow living in sunny Florida. I lost my husband, SSgt Bryan Berky, in combat in Afghanistan in September 2009. I spend my days raising our 2.5 year old son, volunteering and advocating for service members and their families, and running a part-time photography business. I love coffee, reading, all things arts/crafts/style, wine, and blogging about the crazy journey of widowhood.
You can read more from Erin at: http://www.notyouraveragewidow.com/