The Ins and Outs of Being A Young Widow

 

I thought I would be more specific in the things that I have experienced and learned in my life as a young widow. I tried to include  the main logistics of things that needed to be done after his death too. If you know of other young widows that this might help please share this blog because our experiences can be different from older widows. These are the main things I could think of. Please comment below if you can think of anything else! Here my list:

  1. Things that need to be changed after death: I had to notify different places of his death and take him off accounts like: our bank, internet, phone, electricity, his old credit cards, auto insurance, cable. Be prepared to send the death certificate off to MANY places. Getting at least 5 or 6 original copies of the death certificate is a MUST!  And always try to keep at least one or two copies with you at home at all times because some businesses are able to settle things on the phone if you have the death info ready. Each business has their own rules. Some don’t require a death certificate so you have to call each one and see what each one requires and what paperwork to fill out. Ben was cremated and I ordered the death certificates through the mortuary and it was sent to our house about a month later.
  2. Important places to contact: I needed to call, meet, and fill out paperwork from Ben’s work It is also important to find out if he had  life insurance through work . Ben had a small amount of life insurance. I also went to Social Security and since I am young and have a child I get some help from them each month. I never knew Social Security took care of young widows!
  3. I planned the memorial service. I got tons of help from so many people but I came up with the songs, who would share, what the program would look like, and the structure of the service. It is important to do what you are able to do and not to push yourself though. Once I had the structure of the service my parents helped me delegate jobs and tasks for different people.
  4. It disgusts me to even fathom that people will take advantage of widows in their grieving but sadly it exists and people have NO MERCY and they do not care if they lie to you. A few months after Ben died I got threatening letters from a  debt  collection agency, which I didn’t know to be fraudulent at the time, that said I had to pay off Ben’s school loans, which was a substantial amount. I met with a family friend earlier, who is a financial  planner, and he already confirmed that since Ben acquired the loans before we were married I was NOT responsible for paying his loans back. The debt collector lied and would state half truths and pressured me to pay off at least $8,000 within the next few days. I was so confused at why I owed money if I was told earlier from our family friend I didn’t owe anything. But the debt collector made it sound true and they are trained to sound convincing. I  ended up giving her my routing number and bank info. (NEVER DO THAT!) I called my dad right after and he said that I shouldn’t have done that. I had to close my bank account that same day and open a new one so they wouldn’t take the funds out. Lesson learned: Usually when people pressure you to pay something on the spot it is NOT to be trusted. I should not have given the debt collector any info and should have  said that I would like to talk to another person first. Always get a second opinion and meet with financial planners who know the rules and ins and outs of things concerning death and debts that are owed. I later called Ben’s loans and they also confirmed I didn’t owe anything.
  5. People project their own fears onto you when it comes to your financial stability. Many people came up to me, who weren’t widows, and said I needed to do X Y and Z when it comes to money. They do not know that being a widow is totally different than being a divorced or single mom. Lesson learned: Don’t believe the fears that people project onto you and just let all the negative comments just slide off of you like water off a ducks back. What is most important is to find out what is true about YOUR PARTICULAR situation and get help from experts who actually deal in the specific areas you that deal with death and widows.
  6. People project their own experiences as a widow onto you. Some widows were helpful and some not so much. People automatically assume that since they are widows they understand you and what you will feel. It is true that we (widows) grieve and feel the same things but how we deal with it and what we do with our grief can be totally different.   Lesson learned: I do think I will always be in love with Ben but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to love another. I would like to quote what my counselor/mentor said again, “God can always redeem what was lost.” Yes, I lost Ben. Yes, it hurts and it is heart breaking. BUT as I mentioned in previous blogs, if we let God into our healing he can slowly comfort and give us new dreams (beauty for ashes).
  7. As a couple we had certain traditions or things we did together.  I learned that putting myself in situations that could make me cry or be emotional can be a good thing. For example, Disneyland was Ben’s favorite place but it was something we both enjoyed together. I think it was important to go to Disneyland to learn how to love it without him. The first time I  would go to a place or to something we use to do together was ALWAYS hard but it was needed to grieve the whole person I lost. Each situation is different so it’s important to wade through if you can handle doing it or to just rest and not do it. It’s important to go with what you are able to handle each particular time.
  8. When it came to parties, weddings, and showers oh my! (especially baby showers) those all triggered so many emotions. I experienced feelings of loss, anger, sadness of seeing husbands and wives together, comparison of my loss and how I don’t have a husband to help me at different social functions. I know for me I didn’t want to completely isolate myself the first year either. Because ultimately people do want me there and my presence DOES matter. I was not able to go to all the events I would have wanted to go to but that is OK and ACCEPTABLE! So, I went to what I could handle at the time and what worked for me.
  9.   I had people that I had to  put boundaries on seeing for a year. These are the people who didn’t get grieving, would tear me down and demand unrealistic things from me, people who were friends of Ben’s but not respectful to me, and so on. I didn’t have to surround myself with negative people or put myself in unsafe situations while I was grieving. If there was a situation that I would have to be around these kind of people it  was important to have a game plan of not being left alone with these people or give them boundaries ahead of time.
  10. It’s important to realize many friends and loved ones deal with your loss and even their own grieving differently. Some friends don’t know what to say, some say things that are not helpful, some keep their distance because they don’t know what to say or afraid they will say something dumb, some can’t be around you because it is painful to see you in so much pain, the list goes on. The best thing I found helpful to do was to realize that  I am NOT RESPONSIBLE to help people in their grief journey. It doesn’t mean I don’t pray for them or stop being their friend it just means I realized I can’t fix anyone or how they deal with their grief. I am responsible for ME and my son and helping him cope with the loss of not having a dad.
  11. When “special days” like our wedding anniversary, his birthday, Father’s Day, ect were coming up I found having a game plan of what I was going to do helped. I would do what I knew would be life giving like: going to a park, eating at a fun restaurant, going to my parents house for the day. I never knew how I would do the day of. Some special days I would cry all morning and some I would be fine and break down at the end of the night. So, it’s also good to be flexible and be easy on yourself too because sometimes I would plan something and then realize I just needed to rest or change the game plan. So, it’s important to explain to people that you would like to do something but the day of it might change and catch you off guard. And that is ok because emotions and grief can be unpredictable!
  12. It’s sad to think about or do but since my son only has one parent it was suggested I think about life insurance in case something happened to me. I actually did it through my AAA and made my son the beneficiary. AAA monthly payments are not too bad and the paperwork for it is one page and way easier than most paperwork I have had to fill out for Ben’s death.
  13. Ben and I were semi-good about knowing each other’s passwords for things. Thank goodness I told him to keep all his passwords saved somewhere that I knew about. However, there were some that I had to figure out. So make sure you and your spouse tell each other ALL the passwords to things like: utility accounts, health insurance accounte-mail, Amazon, iTunes, even pass codes for their phone,ect. Oh my goodness especially Gmail! They are so strict about not even giving out the passwords to spouses and loved ones!
  14. When it comes to healing do what works for you! Some people think you should join a widows group, or join a grief group, or connect with other widows, or read specific books, ect. I definitely thought about being in a grief or widows group but I am more introverted and being around other people and their grief, especially if they are not handling it well, seemed like it would cause me more stress. I know what I did will not be what works for someone else but this is what worked for me: I surrounded myself with positive and uplifting people that understood grief, met with people one on one or connected with the widows I felt comfortable with, I continued to go to my inner healing counselor/mentor, I journaled and did listening prayers, I did read some books on grieving, I stayed in my church community and vulnerable with how I was feeling and when I needed help, I had and still have a private prayer group that is constantly praying for my family and I keep those close friends up to date in how I need prayer and encouragement. The number one thing I sought was what I felt God was leading me to. His voice is the one that matters and if I stayed connected and seeking him in my healing He was able to reveal what I needed and what truths to listen to and what he was speaking to my broken heart.

Overall, the first year especially, can include many raw emotions that seem intense and all over the place. I don’t think widows should EVER feel guilty for how they feel or what they can’t handle. If you think about it LOSING a spouse is a BIG THING to lose. Our lives are so intricately interwoven and intertwined in a way that is not like other relationships on earth.

I had hopes and  dreams with my husband, we fought and we resolved conflict, we had mutual friends, we raised our son together, we encouraged each other, we prayed together, we came up with game plans of how to handle different events with a child, we planned our daily schedules and year together, and so on.

I think that is what made it so hard to start life again without him and why almost everything reminded me of him because our lives intersected and crossed in all areas of life. 

I think watching the movie Inside Out was such an amazing thing to see recently. It was like a visual picture of what I felt when Ben died and what it looks like when there is a huge loss. It’s like your whole world crumbles and all your emotions go haywire because your “normal” is gone. However in the movie, like Jesus, we can have new dreams and life can go on. It will NEVER be the same and it shouldn’t. But it can be different and that can be a good thing. 

Living without my best friend and the love of my life is one of THE HARDEST things I have ever experienced  but thank goodness for a God who is Emmanuel (God with us), who promises to comfort and be with us in our grief and never rushes us in our healing process.  It astounds me to have a God who cares about my WHOLE BEING: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical and how he can show us how he can heal ALL OF THOSE if we let him. And then he doesn’t stop there, he turns our mourning into dancing and our ashes of old dreams into sparkling new ones. He gives new dreams to us when we are ready and that is a BEAUTIFUL  and HOPEFUL thing that just astounds me everyday.

A Widow’s Perspective On Being Single Again

I have been working on this particular post for about a week. These are the three main things I wanted to share with all of you. I hope it makes sense. Enjoy!

THOUGHT 1: I think marrying for the second time around things will be a lot different. Before I dated Ben I thought being in a relationship would be great. He was my first serious boyfriend after 4 1/2 years of not having a single boyfriend in college.

Ben and I on Halloween a few weeks into dating
Ben and I on Halloween a few weeks into dating

I was beginning to give up hope because I didn’t have a boyfriend in high school either. No one asked me out. And it didn’t help that I went to a Christian college where many people got married very young. I remember a wise mentor saying to me in college, “Who you are when you are single is only amplified when you are in a relationship because when you are in a relationship you have to deal with your baggage and their baggage.” I understood what he meant but not FULLY until we got married. I soon learned, in order to maintain a healthy relationship a lot goes into it. We were dealing with his family baggage, mine, and each other’s. There was a  LOT of hard work, patience, and conflict resolution. We only had 3 short years go marriage together and the last year was the 14 month cancer battle and that was very testing on our relationship and marriage on so many levels.

That is why this second time around I really want to step back and use my time of being single to work on my issues and my connection and relationship with God. I now know the good and bad of being single and married. I really wanted to grieve well this whole year was so that when I do get married again I am coming from a solid foundation and a fresh place to start again. I don’t NEED a husband, I WANT one. I am not desperately searching for someone to become my husband because I feel I’m ok with being a single mom and confident in who I am. But I do want someone to share my life with. That is what I feel is lacking. I miss having deep conversations with Ben, praying with each other before he went to work, raising Zeke and enjoying the good and bad moments together, and so much more.

A wise mentor couple of mine in high school and college taught me to realize that I AM a COMPLETE person. Mark 10:8 says that “the two will become one.” It doesn’t say “the two half people will become one.” God created us to complement each other NOT complete each other.  These same mentors said to think of your relationship and walk with God like you are running a race. And to look for someone who is running alongside of you who can run the race with you. This wise advice is something I took the heart the first time I got married and is something I am taking to heart the second time as well.

THOUGHT 2:  I think the interesting thing about being a widow that sets me apart from other single people is that when trouble came and cancer threatened our marriage and our faith I did not back down or walk away. I honored and followed through with that vow of “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” It’s one thing to say you will do something but when a crisis or hard time hits that’s when you’re true colors show and your words and your vows are put to the test and pushed to the limits.

Life threatening cancer and death are some of the most traumatic things a couple will deal with in a lifetime and I dealt with BOTH. 

And NOTHING about it was easy. There were definitely days when I wanted to walk away. There were days when I had to clean up BOTH Ben’s vomit from when he got sick from chemo and Zeke’s vomit in the middle of the night; There were days when I wished I was single again so I didn’t have to take care of someone so sick; There were days when I wanted to throw his strict diet and alternative medicine regiment out the window and not make his special juice which took about an hour to make each day. But like I said, not only did I not back down  or walk away but I chose to walk it WITH JESUS. I chose to let Him be a part of our journey; I chose to be honest and real with how I was really feeling; I chose to let Him comfort me even when there were no answers; I chose to listen and go deeper with Him, and I chose to love and trust Him even after Ben’s death. I have learned to simply not push through things but really take time to sit in the most painful areas of my life WITH JESUS and let Him comfort, speak, and ultimately give me the strength to not just to survive but thrive.

THOUGHT 3: Healing, especially from a death of a loved one requires healing of the heart, mind, body, and soul. I think so many times I see people just focus on one or two of those things but not all. For example, I have seen people have this mindset of putting all their energy into getting fit once their husband or loved one dies. Not, to say that is bad, because actually I have been enjoying running more and being able to be fit again. But I feel bad when I see comments of women who say, “Well I tried fitness and being fit but then when something hard came up I sank into depression and now I can’t understand why I just can’t  run or find the motivation to work out when I know it’s good for my body.” And then the response I see is even sadder “Well you just got to start running again and your depression will go away.” In some ways that is true because working out does give you endorphins, which makes you happy BUT in the long run it doesn’t fix the heart and the deeper issues. It’s like a toddler throwing a fit in the grocery store because  they have been to several stores that day and are tired and want to go home and then the mom says to shut up and suck it up. You can tell a kid to stop their behavior and you can get results but the deeper issue is that they are tired and their body needs rest. However, if they are throwing things off the shelves they do need to be told to stop and clean it up, but what they REALLY need is to be comforted and their heart tended to because it’s not easy to shop all day when you are toddler…and of course the toddler ultimately needs physical rest as well!

My son, almost a year old, resting peacefully in his crib
My son when he was a baby resting peacefully in his crib

And as adults, are we just like that toddler when we are hurting?  We can be told to change our behavior by: running, getting fit, buying more things, being in a relationship, ect. But at the end of the day and if we are really honest with ourselves changing behavior does not change our heart or the inner issues that are at war within us. God created us to be whole people.  And everything: the body, heart, mind, and soul need to be all working together and ALL TENDED to to find healing.