There are worlds out there that I was unaware of…subcultures of people with experiences we don’t find until we are thrown into their world. We walk by these people every day, not knowing they belong, not knowing their pain or suffering…or joy and elation for some worlds and some people.
I used to belong to a world I knew well. I was married, had one child, then another. I liked my world. It was comfortable, predictable and I felt blessed. Even more than those things, I understood that world. I grew up in that world. The world of families, children, faith, and middle class were a place whose ideas I grasped daily. I was challenged in this world to be a better person, to give back, to love and be loved. I liked this world. It kind of feels like that world was a dream now.
First, I was thrown into the world of sickness, a world of the terminally ill. When Dave was diagnosed our world changed. We went to places like infusion labs, imaging offices and having blood drawn was so regular that his arms were black and blue. All of these places are crowded. There are old and young there. There are very ill and newly ill there. There are those recovering and those who will never recover. There were those with hope and those in deep despair. After being thrown into this world with Dave, I began to notice people on the street…not people I knew, but people who looked like us. People who looked like Dave was beginning to look. He was strong and robust, but so quickly turned fragile. His skin changed. His beautiful, sun kissed skin turned yellow and looked so thin and transparent. I notice people like this now. I didn’t before my entry into this place.
Now I live in a different place. The place of young (well, kind of young) widow is my new home. At first it was so foreign to me. I couldn’t navigate it because I couldn’t believe I was there. I didn’t understand. I couldn’t comprehend. I walked through the days and lived the reality, but I still didn’t believe it.
Time passed and I began to believe it. As time passed I met others like me. I would hear my pain through other men’s and women’s voices. It began with support groups, both face to face and online. We walked through the world and I don’t think people recognized us, but we recognized each other. I listened to their stories and they listened to mine. In some instances, strong bonds were forged and friendships grew. To the outside world we looked normal…we raised our children, went to work, did the dishes…but if you listen closely, our conversations were different. Our conversations were about pain and struggle and we often cried or held back tears. Our good byes after a cup of coffee ended with hugs that lingered and transmitted hope and strength to each other. We needed each other to survive, because we didn’t know how we’d get through the next day. Our broken hearts reached out to each other…across the room, the internet and the phone. Time together with those that understood became a lifeline.
Today I realized another new world where I belong. It is a world much larger than I ever anticipated. Some days, I am amazed and broken hearted that we are all here. It is the world of grief…and it crosses time zones and oceans. Through my writing, I have reached out to those I have never seen and they reach back to me. Through seeking out other’s words I have been linked to a world I never knew existed. It is a world where I feel less isolated and more connected. It is a world that I can access any time of day or night. It is the world where people share their most intimate thoughts and fears and make my loneliness melt away. I know they understand and I understand them. When my life is overwhelming, I can take a breath, go to my computer and find those who understand even though we’ve never met. Grief comes in all sorts, shapes and sizes. Grief can kill you if you are alone and not able to make connections with those who understand, those whose stories you can relate to, those whose words reach into your heart, bring your tears out and give you strength to try again tomorrow.
My deepest wish for all of us is that this wasn’t our journey, but it is. So, my second deepest wish is that our world, our community continues to embrace and hold the lonely and uncomforted. I hope that our words continue bring healing when time does not heal and to provide a world where connections of the heart are felt. To all of you out there who have the courage to put your pain on a page, to share your grief, your lives, your hopes and your struggles, I am forever grateful. To those of you who were brave enough to go to support groups and share your stories, listen to my story and let your tears, my tears and our children’s tears flow…I am forever grateful. Thank you for sharing your stories and for reading and listening to mine.