I have belonged to numerous "groups" over my lifetime: girl scouts, soccer teams, tennis teams, youth groups, Bible studies, study groups and many more. I have always enjoyed being a part of a team or group. There is a sense of camaraderie and unity unlike any other. And the newest group that I belong to… by far my favorite. I belong to an amazing group of women and men that we refer to as "military widow(er)s."
One week ago, I was fortunate enough meet my first military widows since Dan's passing. Taryn, the founder of an amazing organization known as the American Widow Project, and Sonia, another awesome widow, and myself, all had the opportunity to get together in Santa Paula, California. We got to take part in a great adventure. We spent the afternoon triking, which is much like a seated hang glider. It was one of the best things I have ever taken part in. As we were soaring over the ocean with the sun setting in the distance, I couldn't help but sense Dan's presence. I felt so at peace at that moment, so connected to my lost love. It was one of the most exhilarating and relaxing days that I have ever experienced, and I will never forget it.
But aside from the thrills of triking, I experienced something even more real and more amazing, a connection with two widows. When you lose your husband in your twenties to war, those around you offer you countless words of solace and comfort, but very few can actually relate. And those words are comforting, don’t get me wrong. However, when I had the chance to look into the eyes of two other military widows who know exactly what I have been through and exactly how I feel, there are no words. I realized that day that we are all so similar, yet so different.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, but many people think that there is. Over the past almost twenty-one months of widowhood, I have often thought, "I am doing this wrong." Did I laugh too soon? Did I pick out the right casket? Would he approve of his headstone? Should I have already gotten rid of his belongings? Should I take off my wedding ring? Should I NEVER take off my wedding ring? These thoughts and thousands of others have plagued my mind, causing me nothing but stress and unnecessary sadness. It wasn’t until I met these widows, when I realized, we all do things in our OWN time, and in our OWN way. Some widows date instantly, and some take years to even consider looking at another man in that way. Some widows quit their jobs and take some time to travel, and some immediately jump into the routine that she knew before her Husband passed. Some widows leave their Husband's belongings in the closest for years, and some clean it out within a few weeks or months. Every single decision that I have made since Dan's passing has been right for ME. That doesn’t mean that other widows are doing things wrong. My grieving is going to look much different than every other widow's grieving process. Dan's belongings are still in his closet, his body wash is still in the shower, my rings go back and forth from hand to hand. That is what I need to do, and no one has the right to judge those decisions.
Regardless of what I do and when I do it, I have a connection with other widows that I will never have with anyone else. We all received that dreaded knock on the door. We all were handed a folded flag in our Husband's honor. We all now have to check the "single" box when filling out various forms (I choose to create my own “widowed” box if it doesn’t exist!) We all had our lives changed in an instant. We are a sisterhood. We don't judge each other, we support each other. I will continue to reach out to my friends and family when I need support and love. But, I also know that when I am around other widows, I can ask the crass questions, discuss the innapropriate thoughts that have crossed my mind, and be completely, 100% MYSELF. And THAT is something that I will forever cherish. Thank you to all my fellow widows and widowers who share in this sad, depressing, crazy, life changing experience with me! Much love! xoxo