Everyone will encounter a time in their grieving when they honestly believe no other pain could possibly match their own. To an extent, this is true, but as I move forward in this process I also realize how narrow this belief really is.
I’ve spent the past two weeks visiting with Pete’s family and friends on the East Coast. It has given me a lot of insight into the depth of loss others feel in his absence. Up until now, I had justified my belief by saying, “Everyone else gets to move on with their lives; go home and go to work. I HAVE to wake up to our children everyday. I cannot escape the reality that he is gone.” Like I said, this is true on some level, but the thought that my pain could somehow be far greater than that of anyone else’s reeks of arrogance.
While traveling, everywhere I went seemed to be a shrine to Pete and the life he lived. At first encounter I was overwhelmed with emotion. I walked the perimeter of my sister-in-law’s house, in awe as I took in each little reference to him. She has done a beautiful job honoring him throughout her home; I savored every last detail, even if it did cause the tears to burst out from within.
The reminders did not stop in Massachusetts. They continued at my in-law’s house in North Carolina. Yesterday my mother-in-law and I shared a heartfelt discussion after a particularly rough day with Lucas. Earlier in the morning he had gotten in trouble for hurting Izzy. Just as I was about to spank him, he cried out for Daddy. My heart broke. I did not know what to say but knew he still deserved to be disciplined for his behavior. My nerves were shot and my emotions were a wreck but felt I had to remain strong. As any grieving parent would tell you, the heartache of your children is far more painful than your own. My heart ached because of the longing he has in his soul for his daddy, but even-more-so that he does not understand why Daddy had to go.
Later on, while at the mall, Lucas threw a massive fit over apple juice. Only this time his outburst was unrivaled by any my in-laws had witnessed. Lost in his rage, he shook with anger and bit at my scarf. When taken to the bathroom, he screeched as he threw punches at the trash can and bathroom stall with tears streaming down his face. He was clearly upset about more than just apple juice.
After he calmed down, their grandpa took both the kids for rides up and down the escalator. My mother-in-law, Melody, and I sat across the table from each other in silence. Frustration and sadness welled up inside me and I decided to break the ice. I told her I could not do this parenting thing by myself anymore. I told her how Lucas follows any man around like a lost little puppy dog. I told her how I had underestimated how much I would desire a partner to share my life with. I told her how much I missed Pete and wished everyday that he did not have to say goodbye. I told her not to be surprised if I am remarried sooner rather than later because not just ME, but WE need someone. I also told her that I had found him and believe God has a plan. And I told her that Dave had not only lost his wife but his dad when he was 10 years old and that he understood what the kids are going through. Then, she gave me her blessing as she told me, through tears, that she understood.
For the first time I felt the depth of her pain. It took me back to that moment on March 18, 2013 at 7:35pm when she emerged from the bedroom and uttered the words, “He’s gone.” It was yesterday, that I was completely convinced I had not only said goodbye to MY husband and the father of MY children but she also said goodbye to HER son and, as a result, hurt just as much. I also realized how much courage and love it took for her to step out of her pain to bless my future and that of her grandchildren.
In my endeavors to understand widowhood, I have encountered many people who subscribe to an US against THEM mentality; those who are widowed and those who are not. People forget that it is in the depths of our pain that we truly connect with one another. Letting down your wall and inviting others to experience your pain alongside you is perhaps one of the most empowering steps you can take to begin healing after loss. It is in our vulnerability that we connect, despite our pain, and out of that, receive love.
I am eternally grateful to Melody for joining with me in my pain and in turn, offering her love and understanding. Although my pain may not be identical to hers, I will never again find myself comparing the two.