Effects of death on young widow (now firmly middle-aged) almost seven years after the tragedy?
I am cooler.
Not hipper. (Hardly)
I just don't get as riled up anymore about "difficulties". Can't get so hot under the collar, if you know what I mean. I listen to people and their problems and I think about how the problems they are having now will pass altogether, or perhaps there will be worse problems down the road, or maybe this problem will lead to something positive, or maybe they'll have a good, long stretch with no problems at all. (Should you find yourself in this situation: Be Grateful. Don't be bored. Be grateful. A life without crises is a life to be applauded. Bowed to. Look up at the sun shining down on you and be thankful. Lack of crises=good.)
I think people like to make up problems. I think I used to be one of those people but that was before I faced THE BIG PROBLEM, that being death of my husband, my rock, my world, my source of inspiration and happiness. (And by the way, no more of that. No one thing or person is my world anymore. My world is what is happening around me on a day-to-day basis, good or bad.) Yes. People make up problems to fill up their lives, I guess. I don't want to do that anymore. And I try to catch myself now when I find myself making a problem. Cancer is a problem. War is a problem. Poverty is a problem. If you are sick or poor or living with a real fear of violence, I understand that these are really difficult problems that merit lots of attention, support and empathy.
As for me and my peaceful and currently healthy world: Cooler. I work to see no problem, if there's no problem. And most challenges aren't really problems. They're just unexpected events that aren't unfolding as we may have imagined in our minds.
I like this new version of myself better, the me that doesn't get troubled as easily. I've recently re-entered the workforce after a long stretch of child-raising and a long stretch of cancer and subsequent death world. So when I encounter challenges during my work, they don't feel like problems anymore, or the kinds of issues that used to give me headaches or make me angry, or make me go over and over what someone said or did in my mind. Maybe a lot of this new, cooler me is just new, older me. But I'd like to give a nod to my old frenemy: loss.
I firmly believe that if you're going to endure a major loss, like losing your spouse, you might as well get something good out of it (other than social security benefits, thank you government, death benefits help!). Find meaning in the loss. Is that too much to ask? For me, it is essential. I don't believe there is a reason Ken died, but I do think I can make my own meaning out of it. The meaning changes as I move through the years.
Today, the meaning is about how much cooler I am now. The meaning lies in understanding, finally, how to be grateful for daily life, even if everything isn't following the fantasy script of my own mind. The meaning for me is in taking it easy when life is easy to take. The meaning is in not making up problems to fill time. There are plenty of better ways to occupy myself.
My husband Ken knew all of this already way back when I met him in 1991 and he was Director of Residential Group Homes for a social service agency, dealing with very troubled children, with very troubled lives. He was cool, not only in his work, but in daily life. I just watched in awe as "problems" just woooshed past him. I didn't understand how he could do it. How could he be so unflappable? Isn't it awful that it took his death for me to become more like that? But maybe that's looking at it like a problem. Re-frame. Thank you Ken for showing me that most challenges are not really problems. Thank you for modeling a life of appreciation and light-heartedness.
This month would have been your 59th birthday. You have been gone almost 7 years. You are still teaching me things through your absence.
You were so cool. And now I'm just a little bit cooler too.
- Jill Schacter
- My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.