On Wednesday night, I sat at a coffee shop with a man who had been widowed only two months.
I have spent time with other widows before, but never a widower, and never with someone whose loss is so fresh.
There’s camaraderie in people who have lost a spouse. Our stories are all different, but there are some things that are just so the same about loss. Some things that we all just get.
He wanted to know how long it was that I wore my wedding ring. How long before I was able to go back to our old haunts? How did I handle my in-laws? How long before I went back to work? What was it like for me to run into people who didn’t know the news?
I have no idea if it was helpful for him. I have to give myself lots of grace in this area. I spent a lot of time beforehand, just praying for his broken heart, and praying that I wouldn’t say the wrong thing. I have no idea if I did just that (say the wrong thing).
What was interesting was what it brought out in me.
I was surprised by what it looked like to see someone so freshly grieving. He is still struggling to not say “we.” It hasn’t sunk in yet that he is now an “I.” I had forgotten what that was like.
What was most remarkable, though, was, what it literally “looked like.” I felt like I could see his emotional pain physically on his face. He would say something and wince.
I wonder if that’s how it was for me. I don’t know what I looked like. I didn’t watch myself, as most of us don’t see ourselves as we’re talking. I didn’t look in the mirror much at all; I just didn’t care about anything. The way I looked was so arbitrary when I was hurting so deeply. I can’t think of one photo of myself from the whole first year of widowhood. I wouldn’t allow myself to be photographed because I couldn’t stand to see myself without him standing next to me.
Wednesday night was hard. I wanted to give him hope. I know that that’s not my job, but I wanted to so badly. Yet, I sometimes feel like I need to give myself hope, too. That’s what I struggle with the most. I wanted to tell him that it gets better. It certainly will get better than what he is feeling right now. But, he will never again be the man that he was before his wife died. Sometimes I think that it’s an amazing gift, widowhood. The depth of who I am as a widow is so beyond who I was as a wife. And yet, if I could choose to go back to the naive, care-free girl that was married to Sawan, if I truly had that choice, its pretty tempting to think that I would choose it.
I guess its good that we don’t get to choose. That someone else does the choosing for us. Otherwise, what a boring, vanilla world this would be. In the meantime, we move. Move towards hope.