My EAP counselor suggested I go to an in person support group at some point.
While I don’t necessarily think we were well matched, I took the advice to heart. When I asked her how I find one, she was particularly unhelpful. She basically said to look for one on my own… and they are usually associated with churches. That was discouraging. But then I saw an advertisement posted for Haven of Northern Virginia in the waiting room of the girls play therapists’ office. There was a contact email, so I sent an email immediately. They contacted me and told me about an upcoming widow’s support group – 6 weeks and free! I read about the organization and it sounded pretty perfect. Unfortunately, the very first meeting was the day of Tim’s New York Celebration of Life, but they let me join anyway. I was sorry to miss the very first week when everyone shared their stories. I lined up childcare for the 5 Saturdays. This past Saturday was my first group meeting.
I had people ask me if it was something I needed, if it was something I’m ready for… at the end of the session, one of the women said she hoped I would return.
This made me smile. Maybe it was Tim’s rule following tendencies rubbing off on me, or his inclination to trust the experts, but it honestly never occurred to me not to return, or not to simply trust the process.
I don’t think I am going to enjoy it, but I simply recognize it as something I should do. One of the things that I should do. If I were my friend, instead of me, I would tell me to do it.
Early on, they pointed to where the group had written down what they want to get out of the 6 weeks, and I was welcome to add anything to the list. I just started at it. I racked my brain. I couldn’t answer that question. The Hermione Granger in me wanted to have an answer. People had written good things. Overwhelmed, taxes, the holidays… on and on. All I could think was “grief” but I couldn’t formulate a thought around that.
With a day to reflect, I think I realize now that this is just one of those things I am doing for me. I might not enjoy it exactly, but it’s a self-care thing.
Another thing the EAP counselor told me which really baffled me at the time she said it was that I was so busy, but I really needed to take the time to grieve. And I just kept thinking “what does that mean?!” She went on to say that she worried that if I didn’t, I would rush into another relationship. Um, no. That really turned me off. However, I think it was based on her personal experience with a similar situation. I just kept thinking at the time, how do I do that?! How exactly do I grieve? Do I pencil it in after the kids go to bed? Is there something specific I’m supposed to do? Grief is my constant companion.
Grief. It lives inside of me – in my chest, in my throat, in the pit of my stomach. I’m just plain sad inside, all the time. Even when I’m happy, I’m sad. It’s similar to being pregnant in that whatever you do, you have the baby with you, there’s no separating from that. The grief, the just plain “I miss him so much” of every single moment, it’s always there.
One woman shared something she had read about the fact that you can’t wait for the old you to come back. It can’t, it won’t – she is gone. There’s a new you, and you have to learn to accept her, love her. I think that really resounded with all of us. In my head, I’m still always telling Tim everything. My best friend, my soulmate. The father of the three small humans that I live with. It’s not just the grief that is always with me. Tim too, is my constant companion.
People are always telling me I need to take care of myself. That if I don’t, how will I take care of A, R and D? So attending this group is for me. I am taking steps to learn how best to handle the kids’ grief, and the many issues that will come up with them, and with being an only parent. (Another widow online gave me that term, “only parent” rather than “single parent” and I do prefer it.) Most of the women in this group do not have children, or dependent children, certainly none have children as young as mine. So in this group the focus will be on grieving as a woman who lost the love of her life. So I will “lean in” to the process, give myself over to it. It may not be easy, but I feel confident it’s the right thing to do, it’s what Tim would want me to do.
Most of the time, I grieve as a mother. I grieve their loss, I grieve the loss for them, I even grieve Tim’s loss…when D started walking and he wasn’t there to see it. But making the time every Saturday to go to this group, will be about my own loss. I go through my days, especially at work, pretty numb all the time. I turn off emotion so I can function. I need to function at my job, I need to function as the sole bread-winner, and when I’m not at work I need to function as their mother. I am always in charge as their mother. For an hour and a half on Saturdays for 5 weeks I can let someone else be in charge. They can moderate the group. I will move through the grief however it happens. It will be a time I can shake off the numb and let myself feel.