Tuesday, July 1, 2014

An Open Letter To A Fellow Young Widow

  Last week I was watching the local news and the story of a missing mountain biker from my town caught my attention. Partially because it's a sad story with what seemed like an inevitable ending, and partially because of the parallels between the missing biker and Jason. This biker was also young, around our age, and also into mountain biking with friends on the same trails Jason liked to bike on. Social media doing what it does best, I started to learn more about the biker, Wes, and learned we had some mutual friends. I learned he had a wife, Shelby, and 2 young children, close to my kids' ages. I learned that Shelby works at the same hospital where Jason took his last breath. I paid attention to the posts of my friends as the story unfolded and learned that the search for Wes was taking a long time. All of his family's greatest fears were confirmed and I finally learned that I had yet another thing in common with this family. I have had Shelby on my mind the past week and I wanted to write her a little letter to let her know she's not alone. This is for her and for all the Shelbys out there. 

(The new bike Jason bought, without my knowledge, the week of his death. He never got to ride this one but had plans with his 2 best friends to ride that same Saturday he died.)

  Dear Shelby,
I've thought of you so much this week. I've flashed back to my own memories of moments that seem like only yesterday, yet a lifetime ago. Memories of planning my husband's funeral... at 32 years old. My children running around the house looking for daddy. My home full of people, yet feeling so alone, like nobody could possibly fathom this feeling. I can still feel that numbness I felt after picking out the right green shirt for him to wear at his service. I still feel that seemingly enormous weight of picking out pictures to put on a DVD for the service. Seeing pictures of him and our kids was like purposely stabbing myself in the heart repeatedly. I still feel tired from the countless hours I didn't sleep when I should have. I know you're feeling it, too. I know you're feeling shocked. I know you're feeling scared. I know you're watching your phone, like he is going to text you at any moment. I know soon you will wonder how you can maintain the whole house alone. Who will mow the lawn and what about the air filters? I know you feel like you're in someone else's life. After all, this isn't the shit you signed up for. Just 2 weeks ago, your biggest concern was which TV series you two would watch together on Netflix. Now you have to reconfigure your whole life and be solely responsible for the well-being of 2 little humans. You have to tell them about what happened. How do you tell children that they won't see their father again in this life? I still don't know that answer, Shelby. You now must concern yourself with how to afford to live and eat and get through life without your life partner. I know you are reading back through old texts and love notes. I know you're replaying your last conversation with him over and over. I bet you're even thinking of your last fight and what you could have done differently in your marriage. I know you have used dozens of boxes of tissues and yet feel like you have barely cried at all.
I know that above all else, your concern is for your children. More than for yourself. Because you don't know heartbreak until it breaks for your child.

All of that just makes me want to vomit right now. In the most literal sense. I have a physical reaction to reflecting back to that first month after he died. I have to stop myself because it is such a DARK place; a horrible time in your life. But you are not alone, friend. There are more of us. I feel your pain, too. I will carry some of this pain for you now. And one day, you will carry some for another of us. When you want to hate your best friends because they still have their spouses, just change your focus. And when you've seen one too many "great daddy" posts on Facebook, log off. And when you can't take it anymore, and you feel you're going to lose this uphill battle, get on your knees. And pray. 

But let me tell you what else is going to happen. You're going to be an empowered woman. You're going to build massive amounts of strength and character! I'm talking about becoming the kind of person you read about. The kind who are made out of wisdom. The ones who had to live it. You will become (even more than you already are) a fierce woman who took a horrible circumstance and rose. There will be moments when it all feels brand new again, as if you just found out what happened. Those moments will knock the wind out of you. And with each of those moments, you will build a little more character and a little more strength and get a little bit stronger. And your life experience will create a new and unique perspective for you. And you will emerge greater than you were. You will love harder and appreciate life even more than you did before... eventually. I'm still working on it. Everyday.

Someone once asked me 
What advice do you have for other grieving widows?

And I said, "I'm no expert at this early point in my journey. But the best I can tell so far is don't give up on yourself and YOUR life. It would be so easy to just quit caring. But you have the gift to be here. Use it. Breathe deep. Use your lungs. Yell. Run. Use your legs. FEEL things! Feel pain. Feel pleasure. Get out of your climate-controlled state of mind. Be hot. Be cold. Sweat. Listen to loud music. Be alive. Do what feels right and believe in something, whether it's God, your kids, whatever. Something out there is greater than you. 
Know that, and you're going to make it."

I stick by that, Shelby. I may be a stranger, but please, call on me anytime. Things will get a little better when you are ready for them and want them to. All on your own time.

          Love, prayers, healing and hope,



  1. Beautiful letter, wish I had this when I also lost my husband, aged 32. Hope Shelby gets to read this and knows she's not alone.

  2. It is cathartic to share with someone going through similar tragedy. I found comfort and release when talking to another mommy whose baby was buried near my stillborn son. I'm glad that you wrote this letter.