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  • Writer's pictureLeslie McCaddon Mendoza

To be seen

Dear Widows,

I think sometimes we just want to be seen.

I think sometimes we post on social media how HARD it all is, how much being a widow sucks, and how sad we still are because we want to make sure that other people don't forget. We are scared they forget our dead spouse, our loss, our enduring pain.

We are crying out to be understood.

I'll share a little secret with you: "They" will never understand.

If you have not had your heart ripped out of your body, squeezed, wrenched and then pulverized before it is recklessly returned to your wounded body and soul then you can't even begin to understand what grieving a spouse is like.

Here is my advice: Stop Trying To Make Them Understand.

Trying to describe grief to someone who has not experienced it personally is about as effective as trying to explain a rainbow to someone who has been blind since birth. You're just not going to connect over that rainbow. You're not going to finally use the right words to describe the indescribable.

You are, however, worthy of being seen and understood. And, I totally get why we all keep trying to convince ourselves there must be something we can DO to make that happen.

Well, I'd like to argue, there is something we can do.

My dearest widow we can put all that energy and effort we use to try to make others understand us into understanding ourselves.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (who tragically lost her young son) wrote:

I don’t believe grief is impoverishing or a waste. Neither do I think grief is simply to be endured. It is a live emotion, like joy, love, or anger, and, like all strong emotions, it can enlarge life. Unlike depression—which is not a life emotion, but a withdrawal, an ebb tide—grief is a full tide. It sweeps away irrelevancies and distractions. Petty emotions are lost in its path. Even regrets and remorse are washed out to sea. One is left closer to the mysteries at the center of life.” Against Wind and Tide

Remove the distraction of trying to make sure others "get it." Instead, enter fully into your grief so that it may fully transform you. Let yourself feel the grief-- the love, the loss, the changes--but, also feel the love, hope, and power beneath the lesson to appreciate each moment as the immensely precious gift that it is.

When you do the work of grief -- on your own, with a therapist, with a grief group, with a coach -- don't lie to yourself and say you're doing it so you can try to be "normal" again and go back to fitting in. No, dear widow, you will NEVER be the same and that can be such a beautiful thing. You can be the woman in the room that makes an impact. The man in the room that redirects everyone away from pettiness and back to love. Be the person at the party who dances like no one is watching because you know better than anyone that the very brief audience to your life will remember MOST the times you lived life to your fullest and showed others how it is done.

When you learn to stop trying so hard to be understood by others and just focus on being the absolute best version of yourself you can be today, your whole world will take on a different clarity. You will no longer seek to be understood so much as seek to accept yourself just as you are.

"Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance."

-Brene Brown

When you see yourself, understand yourself, and accept yourself -- oh, just imagine the depth of what you'll have to teach the world about love and legacies and life! You won't have time to spend another moment looking for validation about how much it sucks. You'll be too busy looking for all the ways your life is beautiful.

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