Amongst my widowed friends I am one of the furthest out, meaning, that I’ve been widowed longer than most of the others in my grief circle of friends. I see their struggles, I feel their pain, yet I can’t go “back there”. On that same note, I’m at a unique place in my own grief journey which I’m not sure how to navigate. Grieving seems a bit more complicated these days. I don’t feel like I’m actively grieving, yet as I approach the 6th year of having lost Kevin and I’ve begun to feel that familiar tug at my heart. It’s difficult to know if it’s work stress, hormones, the business of life, or all of the above with grief mixed in. I’m at a point where I can’t distinguish if this is grief or just life in general.
I struggle with knowing how often to share my widowhood journey with others which becomes complicated because my memoir is based entirely on my life with my first husband and watching him die to cancer. Yet I’m happily remarried, no buts about it. It gets very complicated navigating the waters of widow/author and wife. It’s muddy.
This is probably one of the reasons why I value and crave my time at Camp Widow. I’ll be attending my 4th camp in just a few weeks for their first international camp in Toronto. I mentally know the timing of this is probably to my advantage – a month before the 6th anniversary of loss. While there I will be joined by my late husband’s mother and meeting up with my late husband’s cousins. And it will be time away from my everyday life, time that I can spend being a widow and allowing that grief to hit me in a safe environment. It sounds kind of awful when I type this out, that I’ve purposefully been holding off on grieving knowing this time is coming; but for me, the only way to really un-complicate this stage of grieving is to set aside time that I can openly and actively grieve.
I have an amazing support system of my husband, family, friends – all people who have watched me go through this difficult journey and have loved me in spite of the many ups and downs of my grieving process. But for me, at this point in my life, I don’t want to continue to lay on them the ups and downs of grief, especially not when I know I’ll have a specific time at which I can openly and honestly feel those emotions without causing anyone to feel uncomfortable. Camp Widow is my safe place to grieve and while it’s sometimes hard for me to go there, the relationships I have built and people I meet make that time so very precious to me.
My mantra has always been “you have to feel it to get through it” when it comes to grief. I never thought I would be at a point where I could tuck the grief back or aside when necessary. I’m typically a heart on my sleeve kind of girl. I don’t know if this is a bad change, but for me it’s a safe way for me to grieve and intensely feel those emotions when I’m able to give those emotions the attention they need. When I have time and space to process them and move forward from them.
Every year it does get a little bit easier. It doesn’t go away, and I never expected it to, but the sharp edges of grief are a bit more rounded these days. Even though it’s more difficult for me to define my grief now, I know that ultimately I have done a lot of healing, a lot of forgiving, a lot of introspective search. I like to think I’m a better person because of that journey but even that feels a bit muddy sometimes.
5 years ago as I approached the 1st year, that most dreaded of years after loss, I couldn’t imagine year 2, 3, 4, 5, and definitely not 6 without Kevin. That was incomprehensible. Now I’m able to see a life without him that is fulfilling, happy, genuine. It’s not what I ever imagined but it’s just as good as the one I once dreamed of having. It’s complicated in different ways and that complication brings me an appreciation for the people I have in my life that are here because of this journey.