Widows group 1: Mary, Dovett, Gayle, Diane and Ginger from The Widows Group on Mary’s deck where they can share the heartbreak of being a widow with others who have shared this horrific loss. Together, we are learning to laugh and start to enjoy life again.
Widows group 2: Gayle, Ginger, Mary, Dovett, Diane and Laura of the Widows Group were at this event in Crestline where 120 women gathered to hear other ladies share their difficult stories.
The widows among you
By Dr. Ginger Gabriel
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
There walk among us a significant number of grievers. The losses on our mountain from COVID are immense. The “walking grievers” are those who have lost a loved one: a spouse, a child, a grandchild, a sibling, a special friend or other family member. For some, the loss of a pet can bring on grief and loss.
Those of us who experienced our loss in December find it a particularly difficult time. It seems as though the whole world is in holiday merriment mode, when we just want to crawl into a hole. Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away.
There are two ways to handle grief: stuff it or do your grief work. Grief work is the hardest labor you will ever attempt. It takes time and courage. Even if you choose to do the work, there will be times of denial, pretending that your person is just on a trip and will be walking through the door soon.
I choose to be a little more aggressive in my grief work. I had attended GriefShare (four times), a program to help the “walking grievers.” I knew there were other widows in our class and I had questions (not found in the work book) I wanted to ask them.
Mary, another attendee, and I had been texting and phoning throughout the COVID shutdown and I wanted some one-on-one. We decided to go see the movie Top Gun. Afterward, we went to her house, sat on her deck and talked. She had similar questions to mine.
We later invited other recent widows – Laura, Gayle, Dovett, Debi and Diane – to a Thursday meet-up at Mary’s house. We had all been in the same Valley of Grief and began helping each other climb out. The summer schedule was Thursday night on Mary’s deck and Tuesdays kayaking and boating on Lake Arrowhead; anything else was a quick group text and “I’ll be there or not.” One part of being lonely and not having “that person” to do things with has been addressed.
We became the Widow’s Group, not because we liked the term (none of us wanted to be widows), but nothing else seemed right.
We learned that the first task of grief was to come to an awareness and acceptance that the loss actually has occurred. The person was GONE and would not return. This is our reality. None of us wanted to think about that. It seemed so harsh. Our lives had changed, but without our permission.
Last year was my first year as a widow. Stan died on Dec. 27, 2020. The first year of being a widow was something of a fog and massive amounts of paperwork and more COVID and isolation here on the mountain.
At a recent regular Thursday get-together time, I asked everyone to describe their first year of being a widow.
Laura said, “I don’t know where I’d be without this group. I was angry. This wasn’t supposed to happen. My friends, down the hill, couldn’t know what it was like for me. They all went home to their husbands after they had been up here for a ‘girls’ get-away. It all changed when we started the widows group. I didn’t have to explain how I felt. You all ‘got me.’ I began to grow as a person and in my faith. Now I don’t sweat the small stuff. I am more relaxed.”
Debi quoted from the book The Midnight Library: “Life begins on the other side of despair.”
Gayle added, “My husband had Parkinson’s and I was his caregiver for 15 years. I also taught school during that time. He never was interested in church. As soon as he was gone, one year ago, I thought, ‘I want to go to church.’ It almost felt as though God took my hand and walked me back to church. It felt like home. I had been in a caregivers’ support group so, when Ginger invited me to the Widows Group, I was all in.”
Dovett shared that this first year has passed as though she has been in a fog. It has been a great help having this group to be a part of. “I know you all care.”
For some of us, this is our second Christmas as a widow and the Christmas celebrations are easier to engage in. We already see ourselves as more than widows. We are women who have experienced a life-altering trauma and are becoming overcomers.
We are seeing what Anne Brener wrote as true for us: “Fully engaging in mourning means that you will be a different person from the one you were before you began.” We can see this in each other. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We trust that this Old Testament prophet is speaking to us.
The GriefShare seminar/workshop has played a large a part in our coming to see that our lives, after losing our dearly beloved husbands, are not over. It is different and it has taken a lot of work for us to accept in our hearts, minds and bodies that our men are not coming back.
Abraham Lincoln, the voice of reason said, “The best thing about the future is that is comes only one day at a time.”
The GriefShare program will begin again after our winter weather has subsided, usually in March. The content includes: Is This Normal?, Challenges of Grief, The Journey of Grief, Grief and Your Relationships, Guilt and Anger, Complicating Factors, Stuck, Heaven? and What Do I Live for Now? These classes are held at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church. Visit www.griefshare.org or call the church at (909) 337-1412 for more information.