A lot of it is the same as when a friend's child dies, so please read my last post if you are wanting to know what to do, but these things are specific to when someone becomes a widow or widower.
In the Early Days
When Aaron passed away it was a huge shock. We were on a family holiday, and the next day we drove back home and it was so nice to pull up and see one of my best friends waiting for me. I didn't want to see a lot of people, but I did want to see a few close friends and I was glad that she was there waiting. She didn't just sit around wanting to talk, but got busy around the house. She asked me what she could do and I knew I needed her to me sort out Aaron's life insurance. I was so glad that I could give her that necessary but stressful job.
We all agreed that we love it when people mention our husbands. We love hearing stories and memories about them. We love it when you bring them up in casual conversation. We love hearing things like 'imagine what Aaron would think about that!'. Hearing that other people miss them too, helps us to know that they're not forgotten, and that we aren't the only ones hurting.
It's The Little Things
You can't bring their husband back, but you can let them know they aren't alone. I have a beautiful cousin and special friend who don't live close by, but every few months they both let me know they are thinking of me, by just sending a card or something little in the mail. It means so much to me to know they haven't forgotten how hard it is every day.
Another great friend just makes sure she always checks up on me to see how I'm doing. She doesn't assume that because I seem okay, that I am okay, even years later, I know that she genuinely wants to know, and I feel like I can be honest with her about how I'm feeling and she isn't going to feel uncomfortable with what I say. She knows she can't fix it for me, but just listens and that means more than anything.
She also leaves little things on my car or at my front door on special days like my first day at a new job, a week that may be extra hard because of a certain date, cards at the cemetery and cards in the mailbox, just to let me know she's thinking of me.
Don't Forget The Kids
It can be hard for adults to know what to say, but it can also be hard for kids to know what to say to their friends, whose Dad has just passed away. Talk to your kids about what has happened, and remind them about what their friends may be going through. Let them know that they will need extra special friends right now, and that they will be sad, but will also want to still have fun. Get them to invite the kids around for a special play, just to have a distraction for a little while. If they don't feel like coming, remind your children not to feel offended, but to keep checking to see if they would like to do something special together.
When Aaron passed away Jalen got a lovely letter from someone his age who did an after school activity with him. He didn't know her that well, but just getting a lovely letter saying 'I'm sorry your Dad died' touched him a lot.
The kids now don't have a Dad on earth, and it's something they never, ever get over. My boys are still grieving so much for their Dad and miss the things he used to do with them. Every Friday night Harri still gets upset because his Dad isn't here to watch Friday night footy with him. Jalen misses going to watch superhero movies with his Dad. Kobe misses having Aaron to kick the footy with. Even though I try to do all the things that Aaron used to do with them, they miss doing the 'boy things' with their Dad.
Don't say 'let me know if I can do anything,' but ask if you can do something in particular. Ask and ask again. At first we may say we are okay, but there is a huge gap your husband passes away - in so many ways. There were so many things that Aaron used to do, that I found so hard at first, and have since had to learn to do.
If you are good at setting up electrical equipment, check to see if they need any help. If you are good with computers, ask if they need any advice or help with their computer. If you are a good gardener, ask if they need any help with their garden. If you are handy, do they need anything fixed around the house?
Some things that have helped me so much since Aaron passed away was some of Aaron's family who surprised me, by organising that our backyard at our new house get finished by having a beautiful makeover by some professional landscapers. So many family and friends turned up on the day to help out, and it literally changed our lives.
Since moving to our new home I've had some lovely friends just tell me they were coming to help me set up my veggie garden. It was something I had thought about doing for a long time, but wasn't sure how I was going to do it on my own.
Having friends offer to pick up and drop off Jalen for different activities at church has been such a great help, as it gives me a break from all the other things that I now have to do on my own.
I mentioned in my last post about how lovely it is to get cards and special gifts from people when your child passes away, and it was the same when Aaron passed away. One thing which has meant the most to me is a beautiful quilt which my cousin Toni made for me, out of Aaron's favourite t-shirts. If you have the talent to do something so special for a friend, I know it would mean so much to them. I love lying under my quilt every night.
A day or two after Aaron passed away I heard about a fundraiser that was happening for us. I knew of Naomi from Seven Cherubs, but had never met her in person. I was so touched that a stranger would want to help us, but at the time I remember saying 'it doesn't matter if they raise $2000 or $2,000,0000 - it's not going to bring Aaron back. But then the next day I realised how much that money was going to help us. At the time I wasn't working, Aaron's income stopped and his life insurance wasn't going to come through for a few months.
I am forever grateful to Naomi and the hundreds of people, including many, many strangers who donated money to help us. The amount she raised was incredible and without that money there is no way we could've paid our mortgage and bills, or have afforded to get Aaron and Noah's headstones at their graves. Having the fundraising money didn't bring Aaron back, but it did let us know that so many people loved and cared for us and took so much pressure off. Thank you Naomi for not asking, but just jumping in to do something so practical to help us. I still have some of the fundraising money and it has helped me a lot over the past two years when we have had to do things such as put in a heater in our new home, or have to pay a large bill such as insurance. Wjthout it things would be so much harder right now.
In the last two years I have heard a lot from others about how they grieved when they went through a divorce. I understand that you do grieve when go through a separation or divorce, but all grief is different. I know people are just trying to relate to what we are going through, but grief shouldn't be and can't be compared Even the grief that my widow friends are going through is different to my own. I've also heard things like 'at least you know that you will be with him again'. I know it, but it still hurts every single day.
They say time heals, but I've found that you adapt, but it gets harder as time goes on. Reality sinks in and the loneliness overwhelms you. As one of my widow friends said "the emails die down and the frequent "checking in" visits have became less. Life goes on and yet we feel like we haven't moved". We are 'single' but still feel like we are a couple. It's hard not to feel like a third wheel around other couples and families.
The days are long, and the nights are even longer. Weekends are extremely hard and long and there are many hours to fill in. School holidays which we used to look forward to, we now dread. It's so hard to see other families doing things together. It's hard seeing Dads at the park doing things with their kids. Being a single parent is exhausting, but being a single parent to children that are grieving while grieving yourself is overwhelming.
The hardest thing are the little things that you miss so much - like knowing you can come home to talk to them about your day. There are so many things I just want to talk to Aaron about. As much as I love my three boys, it's hard to just have them to talk to at night after work.
Aaron was the love of my life and is my eternal companion. We were together through the hardest times, but were best friends. Life was far from perfect and we had our ups and downs, but life was good. It hurts when others talk to us about getting remarried. We are grieving for our husbands and getting remarried is the last thing I am thinking about.
Although I am happy for anyone who gets remarried, it's not something that I can imagine or want to do. It hurts when people talk about it, like we have just broken up. It hurts when people tell you that 'it's time to move on'. It hurts because people obviously have no understanding of the enormity of grief, and how that's all that you can focus on. You can't ever imagine loving anyone else like you loved them.
I know that as time has gone on that it seems like things are a lot easier. At times it is easier, but then you feel like you overwhelmed by the grief again, and again. It's hard to not feel like your old self, and you wonder if and when you ever will. It's hard to not be able to do the things you used to without much thought. It's hard when you have to force yourself to do things that used to bring you so much joy.
My mind is often a fog as it's overwhelmed with grief, dealing with my boys who are grieving, working, and just keeping things going at home as best I can. Sometimes just being asked to do something that seems very little, is the thing that can tip you over the edge.
I hate saying no to people, but have had to learn to look after myself more over the past two and a half years, because I now know that taking on too much and dealing with grief at the same time can tip you over the edge, and it can be hard to then get back up again.
I hope that some of my ramblings may help someone who may have a friend or family member going through something similar to us. I have found that talking to my friends who are widows has been such a great support, as it makes me realise I'm not alone, and I know that what I'm feeling is all normal for what we are going through.