This Is For All The Young Widows Out There

Brooke expected her thirties to be a time of happiness and growth for her young family. Instead, after losing her husband to cancer in April, she is facing the world as a young widow and struggling with how to be enough for her two boys.

“...And they lived happily ever after.” Except my husband and I didn't. Our life has been left broken and in shambles by a cancer aggressive enough to take down my strong, smart, funny, 38-year old husband; the loving father of two boys who will only remember him through stories, photographs, and, if they are lucky, pieces of their memory.

I am a 35 year old widow.

I am a rare breed. In fact, the percentage of widows under the age of 60 is in the single digits. Most of the resources I have found online (in the middle of the night, when I can't sleep) are geared towards the elderly and I don't see myself in those words. So, I write this for any of the other young widows out there, in the hopes that you might see yourself in MY words.

Now four months after my husband's death, I am slowly emerging from a fog of grief. I get up every morning. I get the kids dressed, fed, and out the door. I go to work. I see friends. I smile and laugh. But I feel empty inside. I am faking it, most of the time. And even when I am not, the sad feelings immediately follow the happy ones, like a punishment. I still expect to see him, just around the corner. I listen for his footsteps. His clothes still show up in my laundry basket, but it's because I am wearing them. Is he really gone if his mail still arrives? If his shaving brush is in the shower? If his clothes hang in our closet?

Yes, yes he is. But I can reach over and feel the imprint of his body on our bed. Now my days are filled with worry. Will I be enough for these two boys? I don't fish or camp and although I can throw a baseball, I never could figure out what "offsides" meant in hockey and sometimes the electronics in my house act weird and I can’t fix them.

I want desperately to be the fun, cool, happy parent...but I know deep down that lately I am not that fun, not that happy and certainly not cool. I don't want my boys to think this is all that I am, but it's all I can be right now. For now, I am just focusing on getting by.

My husband John was the step-father to my oldest son, who is lucky to still have a loving dad in his life. But that makes me worry even more for my youngest, who is just four. Will he have envy and resentment for his brother? Can I be both mom and dad, and is that even the right way to think about this?

I worry about having to make all the decisions. I worry about how hard his death was on his family. I worry about forgetting the details of our life together, because when I am 80, our marriage will be 45 years ago. My heart feels closed up in a box. I get upset when I see a sweet, older couple holding hands on the street, because I will never have that and it fills me with rage and self-pity.

I now realize that while all the tough things about raising kids are made tougher by being alone (obvious), the happy things are now tough as well (not obvious, at least not to me). I can no longer have a truly happy moment with my kids, because all I can think is that John is missing it. I can't just enjoy something delicious, because he would have enjoyed it too. I deliberately choose movies that he wouldn't. I can be blindsided at any time, by feelings of intense grief or by anger and frustration at being left behind with a family missing a very important piece.

Right now, I can't look too far down the road. I take small steps every day and sometimes those steps are backwards. For now, all I can hope is that the passing of time will bring more peace and fewer tears, but will not erase the memories of one I loved so much and so briefly.

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(Image courtesy of Brooke Bryce)