For those of us who’ve experienced early widowhood in our 20s and 30s – the effects can be devastating. Life comes to a grinding halt. Social relationships, careers and child-rearing take on new meaning.
Early widowhood taught me some valuable lessons in life. While there are some lessons I wish I’d learned sooner, I’m glad I had the chance to learn the following lessons on my own. Some are superficial, and some are more significant than others, but I’m glad I learned each and every one.
Here’s what Early Widowhood Taught Me About Life
I don’t have to say “yes” to everything.
Early widowhood taught me to say “No”. I used to say “yes” to so many different requests that I wasn’t giving my all to anything at all. If I’d realized this sooner, though, my experiences and self-growth would have been limited. Throughout early widowhood you will realize the things that are truly important, and now, I feel like I can (somewhat) confidently say “no” to things that aren’t.
2. Personal growth doesn’t happen overnight.
This one was a tough lesson. Learning to be patient with myself required fortitude and strength. I often found myself aggravated when it seemed the grief would never end. There were times when I could see a silver lining – I had a good day and then suddenly a memory would come back and simply wipe that all away. Throughout all of this I’ve learn’t that grief isn’t a linear process and that we all grieve differently.
Personal growth comes through self-renewal and reinvention. Not getting stuck on the old – but simply making way to embrace the new. Early widowhood taught me resilience and gave me perspective on personal growth.
3. Not all friendships will last through widowhood.
I assumed all of my friendships would stand the test of time, but time isn’t the only obstacle you face in early widowhood. Changing careers, relationships, geographic locations, and health issues are just a few speed bumps that can cause a relationship to change — or fizzle out completely. But those few friendships that did come to an end reminded me just how special the rest of my girlfriends are to me. I’ve found that a handful of long-lasting friendships are so much more valuable than dozens of acquaintances.
4. I am my own best advocate.
When I had to return to work after losing my husband – it was heartbreaking to leave my 4 and 1 year old to go back to work. After sometime I realized I still had to make a few more changes so we could adjust as a family. I advocated for a 1 year sabbatical from work to help my family transition through the grief. You are absolutely you’re best advocate – and no one knows your needs like you do. Don’t be afraid to make the changes you need to accommodate your new lifestyle. It turned out that the sabbatical was a blessing for myself and the boys. We learned to cope at our own pace and without the hassle and stress of the daily grind.
5. Gratitude is Key in Overcoming Any Obstacle
For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.
6. Life is A Beautiful Gift
Early widowhood taught me that life is a beautiful gift. I’m so thankful that I have a supportive and helpful family. But most of all, I’m thankful to be alive. Early widowhood taught me that there are hidden gifts in grief – if you look closely you will find them.
Hug your family, kiss your children, and call your parents. We are so fortunate to be living and breathing, experiencing the hot summer days and the rainy afternoons. Stop and smell the flowers, smile at the rainbows. Life’s too short to do anything but.