A couple of weeks after Reg passed away, one of his coworkers contacted me. While Reg had worked on a project with her, her husband had died of a brain tumor. She was my same age, and though we had never met, she knew my pain. Her husband had died 355 days before Reg. She took me to lunch and brought me a packet of tissues, knowing I would cry. I asked her, “How did you get through this?” She said she didn’t know. I remember feeling I could breathe for the first time. Someone understood how I felt! I knew I didn’t have to figure out how to survive.
That night, I felt like eating dinner for the first time since Reg had died. I actually had a second helping of chili, which was almost shocking to me. Before that, I couldn’t even eat a single serving of anything. But, I was so relieved to know someone understood.
In addition to Reg’s coworker, I also received tremendous support from Reg’s sister, who had lost her husband five years before Reg died. Unfortunately, she and Reg were not close. But she and I became close after he died, and she listened to me and empathized with my feelings. She helped me feel normal because she had felt the same as me. I was so incredibly grateful to her for understanding and for helping me realize my feelings—including the deep sadness—were not wrong; they were normal.
Because of these two women, I decided to pay it forward. They had helped me so much that I wanted to help other widows and widowers as much as I could. I also realized I felt best when I interacted with other grieving spouses. While I was grieving the loss of Reg, my closest friends were chasing around after their toddlers, worried about career stresses, making vacation plans with their husbands, and living the life I used to live (minus the kids). Now, I couldn’t relate to them. I could, however, relate to other mourning spouses.
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