|My New We|
Today is Blog Action Day 2012. The theme this year is "The Power of We".
Thinking about the word we brought back a vivid memory of the first few weeks after my husband Dave's death. I remember suddenly noticing how often I still said we.
I had many visitors in those first few weeks. I would hear myself telling them "We are getting new siding," or "We grew corn this summer but not last summer," or "We were going to go to Italy again," and the word we would punch me in the stomach, leaving me winded and nauseous.
My we had turned to me in an instant and my heart and mind hadn't had a chance to understand. The power of the loss of my we was immense and crushing. Almost a year and a half later and I'm still trying to understand it.
My we used to consist of Dave and me. He was my family, my husband, my best friend, my biggest fan and the person I trusted most in this world. And then I became just me. Overnight.
Everything was still there. His shoes, his wallet, his phone, his email account. But he was missing and so was the me I had been when he'd been here on this earth.
He had been dead for less than 3 months when I went to San Diego for Camp Widow. I was 35 years old and was completely consumed with the need to find my new we.
I vividly remember the feeling I had as the escalator at that Marriott brought me to the second floor where Camp Widow check in was taking place. I looked around at all the people milling about and thought "They're all like me," and I swear I took a deep breath for the first time in 3 months.
I was comforted just by the knowledge that I was surrounded by my new we. It wasn't anything like my old we and it couldn't replace my old we.
It didn't make the pain of his loss any less devastating, but it was power in numbers, and I didn't feel alone anymore. That first camp was the beginning of my re-entry into life.
When I returned home, I would picture all of those people I'd met, doing incredible things, like Michele Neff Hernandez, starting the foundation that allowed me to find my new we in the wreckage of Dave's death, and Matt Logelin, finding strength in his daughter and getting his beautiful love story to her and her mom out into the world and I borrowed their light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn't see mine yet, so I used theirs.
When I was sure I couldn't withstand the pain of grieving the loss of my old we, I would call someone I met at Camp, and even from several states (and a country) away they would extend a strong hand through the dark and pull me out into the light, reminding me that we were in this together at least for that moment.
When I'd do the same for them, I felt a connection almost as strong as any I'd felt before. It was as though I could suddenly feel the invisible cords from my heart to theirs, extending hundreds of miles, allowing strength to surge back and forth between us, as needed.
My identity from my before-life was gone, but my new identity was a WE again. A different we.
We widowed people are warriors.
We are heroes, the kind of people who have power from the depths they've clawed their way out of to find the light.
We are a force to be reckoned with.
We know intimately the true value of love and the impermanence of life.
I don't know if I'd truly understand that if it weren't for SSLF and Camp Widow.
Just the simple but incredible act of communicating online with widows from all over the world through this blog is a we that spans the globe and includes millions of people in its web of connections.
My neighbor, two doors down, just lost his wife to cancer and in my condolence card to him, I included one of the SSLF outreach cards I carry around. So, I've cast the net over him, too, including him in this we. Hopefully, he will not feel as alone just knowing that there's a we out there for him, too, whenever he needs it.
SSLF allowed me to have a we again, during a phase in my life that could have been isolating and horrifically lonely.
The power of we, indeed.