Sunday, October 24, 2010

Somehow It Just Helps ~ Validation

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I sure love my wedding ring. Isn't it beautiful?

Last month, I was having a hard time and was surfing around on facebook, when I came to a status update of a fellow widow friend of mine, Jami. I don't even remember what it said, but what it said told me that she was going through a tough time as well... so I wrote to her and told her we should get together. I had never actually MET Jami in person before, I 'met' her through the world of blogging after I had a couple of people wrote to me asking me to contact her after her husband passed away last year. She had since moved to Utah and we had still never met up in person. So... after that facebook exchange, we set a day to meet up in Salt Lake with her son and my son.

We met at a park in Salt Lake and as we approached Jami and her son, I just knew we were going to have a lot to talk about. The first words out of our mouths were regarding the tough time we were both going through and while our sons played on the playground, Jami and I were able to talk for more than two hours about everything. About how we feel, about our experiences, about being widows, about how it affects the day to day life, about how alone we feel in a world FULL of people... even people who care about us and who love us.

This has been my experience with every widow I have met. It is amazing the connection and bond that is there when someone shares heartache for the same reason you are feeling it.

The reason for the photo above is this: as Jami and I talked, I asked her if she ever still wears her wedding ring or when she stopped wearing it? As I asked her this question, I held up my left hand and showed her that I was wearing my wedding ring at that time. Once I showed her, I was able to tell her that I wore my wedding ring for the whole first year, then for the second year, only really took it off when I was going on a date.

After that, I stopped wearing it as often, but I ALWAYS end up putting it back on when I am going through a really tough time. I told Jami that, for some reason, it helps. I don't know why, but it does. Wearing my wedding ring makes me feel more connected to Aaron. Wearing my wedding ring helps me to feel like I belong in certain places and in certain situations of life. When I am wearing my ring in public as Aaron Jr walks next to me, I feel a certain confidence that I don't feel when I am not wearing it. Of course, wearing the ring makes it so I don't appear to be single... BUT, when I am going through a tough time, I have a need to wear my ring.

Later that day, I got a text from Jami, and she wrote to me that she put on her wedding ring and I was right, it was totally helping her to feel better. I was so glad.

Recently I read an article that my sister in law Tawnie sent to me. I loved reading the words of this widower and his feelings about losing his wife. READ HERE. I was amazed at how perfectly his thoughts and feelings went along with mine. He shares what you SHOULD do and what you SHOULDN'T do when dealing with someone who is grieving the death of a spouse. His words are so true. I want to share some of the thoughts from this article. His name is Kevin Fitzwater.

One of my favorite things that he wrote was:
"Tell me that she loved me. Although it hurts to hear it, it is so important. Tell me that I was a good husband. Tell the kids that their mother loved them and still does."

One thing that I remember that I really appreciated, was when Aaron's brother, Steve, called me one day soon after Aaron passed away. Ever since his death, I had been struggling because I wanted to hear from Aaron that he loves me. I needed to know for sure. I needed to hear it one more time from his lips. But I couldn't get that... so it was on my mind all the time. Well, on the phone, Steve told me that he felt like he should tell me how much Aaron loves me. He wanted to tell me that he knows Aaron loved me and felt like he needed to tell me. That has stuck with me... and I don't even know if he realizes how much I did need to hear that. I still wish I could hear it from Aaron one more time, but I was so grateful to Steve for calling me that day to tell me that.

Kevin Fitzwater also wrote:

"People react individually to the death of a loved one. My experience taught me that adjusting to the death of your spouse is a lonely process. The support you need may not come, even from trusted friends, because talking about death is something most people avoid. Talking to a widowed person can be frustrating for people who don’t know what to say and who fear that they may say something harmful."

Just as he wrote, this IS a very lonely process. Even when I am surrounded by people who love me, I still feel so alone. No matter how loved I feel, I still feel a great lack of the love that will make me feel more complete.
I still feel like only half of me is here. Like there is something missing. I feel incomplete. It is tough trying to move forward in life when you are so often feeling like you shouldn't be moving forward alone, but that you should be moving forward with the person you thought would be there by your side throughout your life.

I don't remember where, but I think it was on TV the other day and I heard someone talking about the loss of a loved one... and what they said rang true to me. They said:
"...the whole world moves on... but the family is left to suffer in obscurity.
How true this is.

I still feel like I don't fit in in so many places or groups. In my own mind, I just don't fit in. Into what, I am not sure... but I don't feel like I belong in most atmospheres.

I don't expect anyone to change what they talk about around me or pretend they don't have a husband in order to make me feel comfortable, but so many things people talk about affects me. All it takes to feel out of place or uncomfortable is to have people start talking about their family life. Something as simple as them needing to get home to make dinner before their husband gets home from work. Yes, something as simple as that brings my painful reality back to the forefront of my mind and I sit in pain until I am able to push it away.

Like I said, I don't expect or want people to stop talking about their husbands around me... I am just trying to share how it may affect someone in my situation... or why they may react a certain way. I still WANT to hear about our family and friends lives and even about their family lives and marriages, and we are happy if they are happy and sad if they are sad... but hearing about those things that I cannot have in my life currently DOES bring on a certain pain and anguish inside. Feelings that I do try to hide in most cases, but sometimes I let it show or accidentally say something that makes the situation awkward. Oops. :) Sometimes I am just too honest. But I AM truly interested in hearing about my loved one's lives... no matter what. Because I love and care about them. I want them to be happy.

I am continuing to go through such tough times regularly. Almost everything still reminds me of Aaron. So many things continue to bring to mind the memories I shared with Aaron... sometimes I will talk about them, but most of the time, I keep them to myself so that I don't make other people uncomfortable... or so they don't think I am 'dwelling' too long.

I still have a hard time watching wives with their husbands, kids with their dads... living normal life and enjoying their time together as a complete family. I have a hard time hearing about the day to day events of the lives of my family and friends... watching them live life the way I always dreamed of living it... in a complete family... mom, dad, kids... a growing family. Living the dream... my dream. My only true desire in life... gone from my grasp. No matter how happy I am for other people and seeing them happy, it is still tough to know I don't have it. But I also still feel joy for them when they are feeling joy... even if I am feeling sorrow for me.

I am continuing to have those moments of complete and total SHOCK where, for a few moments, I feel the horror and the shock once again as though I am hearing the news of Aaron's death for the first time. I don't know why this phenomenon happens... but for some reason, every few days, I will be going about my business living life and trying to stay busy, when all of a sudden, something will happen or I will see something that affects me in just such a way. It will bring on that shock and I will start to panic and seriously wonder...

How did I get HERE? Am I seriously a widow? Is Aaron seriously gone? Am I really here raising Aaron Jr on my own? Is THIS seriously MY reality? NO, this is someone ELSE'S reality... not MINE.

Serious panic takes hold as my mind tries, but cannot comprehend the notion of the reality of these thoughts running through my head. Then once my brain KIND OF gets a grasp on what life has been like for nearly 3 years now... I try to push the thoughts out of my head so that I don't feel so paralyzed, so that I can breathe, and so I can function on like business as 'usual'.

One thing I will say for being able to associate with other widows is this: For some reason, when I am talking to a widow about the loss we have both experienced, I don't feel quite as alone on this path. When I am with another widow or talking to another widow, we can talk about how we feel, how life is now, and our wants and desires and heartaches and pain... and the other person just knows exactly what we are talking about. They just know. They can understand how a loss of this magnitude affects pretty much EVERY aspect of our lives. How everything said, every experience always brings our thoughts back to what is missing in our own lives... the person who should be there with us. It is so hard to explain in words, but for some reason... other widows just GET IT... they get what I mean when I am stumbling with my words like this.

In no way am I discounting all the other amazing people who have offered words of comfort or a listening ear... they have been so kind and thoughtful to listen and to be patient with me through so many break downs. They have been so willing to show patience as I continue to grieve, even though they haven't been through it. I love them all and I am so grateful for them all. They are all so important to me and I know they want me to be happy just as I want them to be happy.

The old saying about walking a mile in someone else's shoes to truly see what they are going through... it sure has merit to it. There are trials that other people go through that I would never be able to truly understand what they may be feeling, but if I talk to another woman who has lost her husband, I am able to understand exactly what she is talking about when she tells me what she is feeling... because whatever she is saying could be coming straight from my own lips... and vice versa.

A word that has been on my mind a lot lately is:


When I am talking to other widows, I feel validated in the feelings of pain, feelings of sorrow, feelings of displacement, feelings of loneliness, feelings of heartache...

When I read the words that widower wrote in the article I shared above, that is exactly how I felt... Validated.

There is something to be said about feeling validated. No matter who we are, no matter what we have experienced in life, no matter if things are great... or if things could be better, feeling validated is something we all need and desire... and we, as humans, will always gravitate to where we feel comfortable... validated.

I always manage to bring my postings back to this, but it is because He is such an important person in my life. The Savior. Jesus Christ. He is someone Who will ALWAYS make us feel validated when we come unto Him with sincere hearts. He will always lift us up when we are down... if we come until Him.

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I want to share a video that someone sent to me a while back titled 'Validation'. It is a short film and it is so good. When you have time, please watch it... it is worth watching.


Mindy said...

I'm so glad you can have the support of other widows... I'm sure it makes such a difference to talk to people who truly know and understand.

I am glad you wrote the things you did. I have a dear friend who lost her husband to cancer last July. We go on "girls nights" regularly, and oftentimes talk about husbands, but I feel that she likes to be able to talk about her Josh to me without feeling like it's always a sad thing. We talk about when she had her last baby, and how Josh would tease me and Brandon that we should join them and have another too (their older 3 are almost the exact age of our kids), and she'll tell me lots of stories of their marriage and such, and I tell stories of Brandon. I'll make sure to listen closely, and not close her out with talk of husbands... to try my best to sense her mood. It's good to hear what it's like from the perspective of someone who lives that particular heartache every day.

Love you!

Lisa Carter said...

Wow lady, I can just say dido right there! It sounds like we had the same kind of night. I was blogging about the same kind of thing last night. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend. Thank you for sharing such personal and painful experiences because they do help. Thank you for being so welcoming and kind. I sure love you.

The Michiganders said...

I am also so glad you shared this. First of all it reminds me how much I need to appreciate my life while all my family members are present and never take that for granted.

Second of all, I just had a neighbor move in next door. She is 36 with a 9 year old son. She lost her husband to cancer in July just a short 6 weeks after he started to feel ill. I am so grateful for your ideas about reaching out to her. I feel such compassion for her and want to lighten her load in any way I can.

I love that you share your thoughts. I am certain that they are helping many more people than you even know.


Kristi said...

I remember when Aaron first passed I didn't know what to say to you so I didn't say much. I took the "be a distraction from the pain" approach. I am glad to get an insight on what you are and were feeling. Hopefully, after receiving this insight, I will be able able to offer more helpful words to those who suffer this same tragedy.

Tiffany said... are really amazing. I agree with you when you say I know what they are talking about. Everything that you talked about crossed my mind the last little while. It was, what would have been, Kirt's 30th birthday a few days ago. I miss him soooo much, but all I want is to hear him say that he loves me, or have the chance to tell him. I have this little saying that I say to myself. Kirt used to say it to me when he was alive..."I told ya I loved ya when I married you and if it changed I'd let you know" It is a quote off a movie (not really sure what movie) but he loved it. Now I love it. We know that they love us. But sometimes it would be ALOT easier to go through life hearing from them again. I am so glad that I have gotten to know you. You touch many people's lives!!

Kate, Alek, Hank, and Cash (RIP RED) said...

Hey woman,
I wore both my engagement and wedding band the whole first year. Randy asked me to always keep my band on me but to move it to the other hand. After a year I finally put away my engagement ring and switched my band over. It does bring me a ton of comfort, I understand what you and your friend mean by that...God bless you for reaching out to others, I so wish I lived closer to you! Our boys are so close in age. I will FB you a message to dicuss a little more about why I stopped blogging!!
Hugs to you....

Brandy said...

You always know just what I need. How is that? How do you know me so well, when we've never met? You are so inspiring, Les. I am grateful for you.
I copied the video clip to my FB and my blog. I love it. It made me so happy.
I always feel so odd reading your blog posts knowing that I want to say something profound that might help YOU. Instead, I get a huge scoop of what I need for the day. So much love to you, beautiful.

Momza said...

HI Leslie,
Somehow, when I had a blog makeover last Spring, your blog completely disappeared from my list! Then today something I was watching on BYU TV reminded me of you and your Aaron, so I googled you and am so glad I found you again!
I am especially glad that you and Jami got to meet up and share a part of your journey's together! I don't know her personally, tho we share a mutual friend.
I hope the two of you have found strength in one another--you're both amazing exemplary women.

And holy-moly--Happy 5th Birthday to Aaron Jr! He's so handsome and bright! I hope your holidays have been full of joy!