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Moving through life stages without them

When we marry, we imagine all sorts of future events—traveling, careers, having children, family events, graduations, weddings, having grandchildren, and various gatherings. In these visions, we always see us with our partner. We imagine the happy moments shared celebrating the life milestones as a family. We now get to move through life stages alone without them. This is part of the widow journey that no one can prepare you for. It is part of the journey.

Those bittersweet moments can be things like your child’s first game or another event without them. Going to support your child while missing your partner and their parent. You want them there and you feel that they should be there. You also know that they will never be there again and that they will never see all the milestones that you are now seeing alone. Additionally, there may be times when you can feel the sad, knowing looks others give you.  

This widow life means that all the things we should be doing together we are now doing alone. We have to be both parents. We have to take care of both the house and the finances. These are things that we know have to be accepted, and we do our best to handle everything. However, when it comes to those special moments we should have shared, grief takes on a whole different realm.

In trying to create some normalcy, you may plan a trip for you and the kids. Taking that first trip or vacation without your spouse can be difficult. You have to do all the planning, driving, etc. This can cause some gut-wrenching emotions as you attempt for some normalcy and family fun. How can we have fun without them? Making new memories is important and something to cherish. Intellectually, we may realize the importance of creating new special moments even as our hearts are crying out. We encourage you to do so when you’re ready, even if it feels hard. 

Jeni and Bob had adopted three teenagers just a few months before he died. As a result, they didn’t have time to enjoy a true family vacation together. Together, she and the children decided to visit an area where they had all been before the adoption. They used this vacation time to tell stories of what they had seen individually (the children as a group and Bob/Jeni as a couple) and also to tell stories of the dad/partner that had been lost. It was a week filled with tears and stories. Though a difficult week, there was also some laughter and healing. It was a time to bond, view what life might look like in the future, and build some new dreams. 

Another major life milestone might be your child’s graduation. Celebrating that major life event with your child can bring up a multitude of emotions. They have reached this major achievement despite the death of their parent. That in itself is a huge accomplishment. Friends and family may help you celebrate and make the day special. However, there’s the elephant in the room. The other parent isn’t there. It’s palatable. At times like this, you may have widow waves come crashing in – that’s normal and, unfortunately, part of the process.

That first time when your child brings home someone for you to meet can be challenging. You now get to be the one who asks the pertinent questions and provides the reaction for your child. You are also the one who will be there when they get married or enter into a committed relationship. This special life stage may bring up thoughts of Dad who should have been here to see this or to give her away. The other parent should be here to celebrate, mentor, and guide them through this process of relationship and love. But no, it’s just us fumbling along, doing the best we can. We may wish, pray, and cry out that our loved one was there to help us, be a guide for us, and be there for our kids. But, they aren’t. This reality can be challenging. It is one of those holes that just is never filled. They may be in memory on the special table for those who’ve gone before us in a photo, but they are not physically there to celebrate yet another life milestone. 

When grandchildren come along, there’s so much to celebrate, and they are such a blessing. Life and new life are so precious. We, widows, have those moments where we wish they were there to reap these incredible special moments. They’d make such a wonderful grandparent, and it’s sad they are missing out on all of the fun and new memories. As the grandkids grow, we may have to answer awkward questions about their Grandpa Who Died. Explaining the family dynamics to our grandchildren is another part of the movement through life stages. We get to tell our loved one’s stories and share their special place in our grandchildren’s lives even as we miss their presence. 

Something to consider is that we are blessed to be alive and living through these life stages. We get to celebrate and enjoy life as we move through these stages with our family as it changes. Know that you’re doing the best you can and moving through these life stages the best that you can. Some events will be easier than others. Give yourself grace as you process each event and celebrate your victories.

We encourage you to celebrate, take pictures, attend the events, go on vacation, make memories, and participate in life as much as you can. As we all know, we never know how much time we have left with our loved ones. Live, love, and laugh a lot. Life is too short not to participate.. 

Peace & blessings,
Jeni & Teresa

PS: For additional support, you can download our free copy of 10 Ways to Move Forward After Loss

The First Days: Coping with Life After Loss is a resource for the first days after a loss – available on Amazon in paperback.

My Journey as a Widow: A Widow’s First Journal  is a follow-on journal for processing complex emotions and moving forward with hope available on Amazon in paperback.

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