In this four-part series, I discuss the things that remain for me (and for some of my readers) in the years after widowhood.
For many years, I convinced myself that if I just did all the right things, nothing bad would happen.
I knew it was a stupid way to think. I’d lost my mom young, so I knew random horror was out there in the world. But I figured I’d had my share of bad luck already, so as long as I didn’t invite any more, life would be okay.
After Shawn died, I obsessed about the unfairness of his death. Furthermore, I was irate that all the hard work I’d done to make our lives perfect had just disappeared in an instant. I wrote about this in the blog post, “I Followed the Rules“. Here are two parts of that post:
I followed the rules.
They weren’t written, of course. They weren’t even said, at least not explicitly. But they were there.
Find a nice man. Wait to sleep with him until you’re sure he won’t run out the door the next morning. Make sure he knows you are in the relationship for something serious. Get engaged while you’re still young, and married within a year after the proposal.
Buy a house as soon as you can afford it. Don’t go to Starbucks every day if it means you’ll get to buy that new couch at the end of the year. Don’t drink too much or do any drugs, and call home to check on your family…
They weren’t all bad rules. I had a good life for a long time, and maybe some of that was from following such advice. But under all of these unwritten rules was this message: do this, and you will live a happy life.
It didn’t really matter in the end, did it? I followed the rules. I played nice. I checked all the boxes.
But I didn’t get the end result I wanted. My husband still died right when I was supposed to be reaping all the rewards the “rules” said I would get.
It made me furious. I was such a rule follower, and look at what it had gotten me! I could intellectually understand that wasn’t how the world worked, but it was a system I’d bought into. And I’d been screwed!
It infuriated me. And for the first time in my life, I started throwing “the rules” out the door.
The risks I took in those early days were not all good. Not at all. Some were out of necessity, but others were simply because I felt like it. What else did I have to lose?
Of course, there’s always plenty more that a widow could lose. For starters, I was (and am) in charge of three kids, so that was something I had to consider. I couldn’t lose my job and health insurance. I needed to keep paying my mortgage. And for some widows, there are things you simply have to do because you have no other choice, like move or find a new job. Those changes are not ones that I’m talking about in this blog post.
No, this blog post is about the other risks I took that really helped me become who I am today. I went back to work full time – because it was necessary – but it also meant that I was such a part of the school that I was chosen by the students to speak at graduation. I started dating, got really into food, and played on a recreational soccer team. I did not succeed at all of them – 2 of those 3 things I was quite bad at – but taking new risks in my life made me realize that I could do things I didn’t previously think I could do. (And I’m a decent cook now!)
Some of my widowed readers have shared with me that they also started taking more risks after losing their partners. And while not everyone flourished, a number of people mentioned how important risk was to their new life.
It’s still important to mine, too.
It’s funny, because I still try to “follow the rules” in much of my life. But now, I feel much more okay when I decide to do something against the norm.
It’s all part of living life, right? And that’s what we are doing, even after loss.
We are living.