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Short and Sweet Summary: Your grief journey is different from everyone else’s. Even if you have similar circumstances, you must still chart your own course, grieve in your own way and on your own timeline. There’s no sense in comparing your grief journey to someone else because we all start at the beginning.
How many times have you compared your grief journey to another widow’s and thought, “damn…I’m not half as with it as she is?”
Let’s see…ummm…(counts on fingers)…lots?
I’ve done it. We’ve all done it.
It’s like when you feel overwhelmed and out of sorts, why not compare yourself to others and heap on even more relentless negative self-talk? When widow brain is in full force and you feel like a failure because you can’t form complete sentences, why not compare yourself to other articulate widows who clearly don’t suffer from simple word malfunctions?
Because you’re comparing the beginning of your grief journey to someone else’s middle.
And these aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons. More like comparing apples to motor oil. In other words…there is no comparison.
I’m sure you’ve asked yourself the question how long does it take to go through the grieving process? And the answer is there is no answer. Or what is the right way to grieve? And the answer is there is no “right” way. Because everyone grieves on her own timeline in her own way.
I remember in my early days of widowhood reading everything I could get my hands on regarding how other widows dealt with grief. I was an undeniable anxiety-ridden mess and I wondered how other widows handled widowhood.
Some baked. I am not a baker. Some ran marathons. I am not a runner. Others hid away under mounds of blankets never to resurface. I didn’t want to disappear forever into the grief abyss.
During all of my reading and research, I found that no shortcut exists for dealing with grief. The widow in the middle of her journey? She suffered just like you and me in our beginning. Just because it looks like she’s got it going on now doesn’t mean she had an easier road.
It just means she’s been on her grief journey longer.
So, how you do stop comparing?
ACCEPT YOUR BEGINNING
Everyone has to start somewhere and your grief journey won’t get any easier without accepting it. All of it.
Grief is a bitch. And a liar. It will confuse you.
But here’s something really interesting you won’t understand until you’re well on your way. Until you’re in your middle.
Grief is also a teacher. It teaches you to accept pain, love, joy, sadness, and heartache all at the same time. Grief teaches you to surrender to what is, not what you wished or hoped it would be.
And it all starts at the beginning.
You can’t change your circumstances. Things will get a whole lot worse before they get better. I can only tell you that once you’ve accepted your beginning, and stopped comparing to someone else’s middle, you’ll figure out what works best for you.
And your progress won’t look like anyone else’s.
GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT FOR SURVIVING
You have survived an unimaginable loss. And each day you soldier on. You get up, face your grief demons, and start all over again the next day. When people say, “I don’t know how you do it,” you say, “I wasn’t given a choice.”
Everyone in the middle of their journey had to survive the day-to-day drudgery to get there. All of us were (or still are) overwhelmed, disorganized, and chronically sad. We go to work, take care of the kids, and manage our households while trying to keep our shit together. Even if we’re in the middle of our journey, we’re still surviving.
And you are, too. Give yourself credit for the fact that you keep going in the face of a debilitating loss. You are a survivor. That’s got to count for something.
ACCEPT WHAT YOU CAN’T CHANGE
One of the biggest challenges of widowhood is accepting things we can’t change. Or at least it is for me. I’m a certifiable control freak.
We know our deceased spouse isn’t coming back. We know this on an intellectual level, but emotionally, our hearts still hold out for a miracle. Death is really fucking hard to accept.
I’ve had to accept that I don’t control the majority of circumstances in my life. Lots of things are out of my control. Things I can’t change no matter how hard I try.
And people. I can’t control or change other people.
There is peace in acceptance. It’s taken me five long years since my husband died to accept what I can’t change. In the past I’ve tried to:
- control the Universe
- bypass the grief process
- alter people’s perceptions
- manipulate situations
All in the name of clinging to whatever shreds of control I thought I had left. Now, I accept what I can’t change and use my internal resources to focus on changing what I can.
It’s not easy to give up that sense of control. But it’s undeniably more peaceful.
VISUALIZE A SUCCESSFUL PATH
I’m in awe of the widows who have come before me. Those who have written books or founded widow organizations dedicated to hope and healing. Others who start nonprofits or share heartfelt blog posts about the messier side of widowhood.
None of these widows stepped into success. They all fought through the dark, chaotic, mess, and came out on the other side like you’re doing now.
They were beginners once too.
I’m sure they suffered from the comparison game a time or two also. It just so happens they’ve made lemonade out of their lemons, but I’m sure it took lots of trial and error to get there.
We all have to go through the shit storm. It’s inevitable. We can’t wish it away. However, I know that whichever path you take, whatever fork in the road you decide to pursue, lies a future you didn’t even know was possible. In the beginning, you don’t believe things will ever get better.
Those in the middle of their journey have already learned that things do get better.
I challenge you to visualize a successful path for yourself. Whatever that means to you. And keep the faith that one day you’ll be living the middle another new widow is reaching for.
WIDOW WRAP UP
Comparison is the thief of joy. It doesn’t accomplish much because we rarely compare two equal things.
Especially where grief is concerned, there is no equal comparison. Everyone has their own path to walk and my path won’t look anything like yours. We may both be grieving a death and be inconsolable, angry, confused, and overwhelmed. But even our feelings are different because our circumstances are different.
When you’re in the throes of grief and convinced you’re not handling your situation as well as other widows who’ve come before you, remember this:
We all started at the beginning.
No one jumped ahead to the middle. We all survived the chaotic, uncontrollable, confusing, PAINFUL beginning and continue to survive through the messy middle.
And you will, too.