WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby
Grief can be like cancer, festering in your body and soul until it corrupts and destroys all that is good in you. If grief is left alone or ignored while it mutates into something that threatens your very existence, it can:
- send you to the hospital with very real health issues (mine was an emergency hernia operation), or
- cause you to self-isolate and cut yourself from all those whom you love and who love you, or
- ferment anger that can build up as a response to your loss, and real or imagined wrongs, or
- accentuate the bone-crushing loneliness you feel after losing a spouse who can lead to sleep deprivation, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
There are several ways you can learn to process your grief in healthy ways and begin your healing journey. These may include burying yourself in projects which honor your wife (mine was to clean up and organize her craft room), joining efforts to help your community, engaging in parent or grandparent duties, or even reorganizing your home. Each of us must find the way that works best for us.
An alternative method, often used by widows and widowers, is storytelling or journaling. For me, this took the form of writing a series of 33 blogs that began shortly before my wife’s passing. These blogs, which were shared via Caring Bridge (see https://www.caringbridge.org/), a website which offers you ways to connect with family and friends during challenging times.
Each blog was written to share our experience with those closest to me and my family. It provided them with a way to stay in touch without my having to speak with each one individually. These blogs carried over into my in-person conversations with family and friends, as well.
I found that each time I told my (and Theresa’s) story, I would heal… just a little bit. It helped me to allow others into my grieving without them or me being intrusive. I could be completely honest about what my daughters and I were going through while still allowing myself private time for my grieving. I found it freeing and therapeutic.
Through my blogs, I was also able to advise my friends and family on how best to interact with me. This included a warning to them that if they were going to help me through this, they had to understand that there would be times when I would cry or become choked up. I also encouraged them to share their own special stories about their time with my wife. This helped me immensely as I became even more aware of how wonderful she had been as a wife, friend, and family member.
Eventually, these series of blogs, together with my verbal storytelling, became the foundation of my book, Widower to Widower, which I published last year. While not every widower will want to follow this path and will not become an author, I do encourage everyone to reach out to others and share your story with them. You will usually be rewarded with love and support.
Those who love you most will stick by you through this hell on earth experience, especially if you include them rather than shut them out.
Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower which can be found on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday.