I was recently in an online discussion with some fellow widows, and it dawned on me that the whole world could function like our hodge podge group does. The group is mostly comprised of women who were 50ish when their husbands passed away. No one is new to the widowed life, as I’m relatively certain everyone is at least four years removed from her loss.
About a dozen women from different walks of life and scattered all of the country, we have found a forum we can heart dump unashamedly. We are open—like very open—about challenges in this stage of life. From not knowing how to fix doorknobs to managing extreme emotional moments with our kids to sharing the deepest sorrows about loneliness, we delve into our hurts.
From celebrating new jobs to encouraging soul-searching trips to applauding life victories of all sizes, we lift each other up. It dawned on me the other day how just entirely crazy it is for this group of women who were strangers several years ago have been able to create such a community and fill some very big roles in each other’s lives.
As I said, we are spread all over the U.S. Literally, we are coast to coast. We are ultra rural to big city. We are financially struggling to financially solid. We have kids and don’t have kids. We are single and remarried. We are conservative and liberal. We are a group of sociological polarities. Social science would say we most likely would not be a bonded group, but here we are kicking that to the curb day in and day out. Let’s unpack some of the whys of how that has happened.
RESPECT — From the very beginning, this group has respected each other. We are all grown-ups. We know there are parts of our lives we interpret differently and things we value on different scales. At the core though, we value each other. There isn’t that uncomfortable tension that seems forced into other areas of society.
FREEDOM — Once people became comfortable, we just took filters off. On any given day, someone might say, “XYZ is happening, and I just don’t know what to do.” Within the next hour, there are almost always a couple responses. While oftentimes, there there is a common thread that runs through them, there are sometimes replies that are as diverse as our group, but someone is ALWAYS just a few keystrokes away. The sisterhood piece has taken off the formalities in phrasing, too. You might read something like, “That’s dumber than owl poop. You don’t have time for that.” The cool part? We read things as they are intended to be read. Feathers aren’t ruffled. If something doesn’t make sense, we ask for clarification. We act like people are supposed to act…hmmm…
BEING KIND — Losing a spouse is like losing 51% of yourself regardless of the dynamic of your marriage or the cause of the spouse’s death. No one who hasn’t experienced that can comprehend the gut-wrenching piece of that. One of the funeral directors at the funeral home who managed Michael’s services looked at me and told me no one grieves the loss of a spouse like the surviving spouse. Friends and family will experience hurt, but they will reach a manageable state quickly. Kids are resilient and will have more lingering hurt, but their pain won’t be that of a spouse. I don’t even know how many years this man has been in the business, but that has been his experience for a long, long time. This group of women gets that angst in a way most don’t. Even my therapist hasn’t lost her spouse. These girls get the inner raw emotion.
LOYALTY — This crazy group of ladies has a fierce loyalty to one another that is a product of all the things already discussed. In a world that pushes people to the side when they’re no longer considered useful, feeling connected is important. All of us have friends in our “real” worlds, but there’s an undeniable comradeship that carries a different sense of comfort with it.
I’m a bit of a people watcher and analyst, so when I started breaking down the social dynamics of this group, I realized how special it really is. The group defies odds with its diversity pushing all the edges of the box. If this sisterhood actually were microcosmic view of the world, the world would be a more pleasant place for sure.
Imagine that? People who openly disagree about some issues still loving each other through moments of more importance in the daily grind of life. That’s a place even Mr. Rogers would be happy about, I think.
Each day after my time at the sink, I do a quick check-in. Not every person in our little tribe posts daily, but most swing by to provide cyber applause or hugs as situations dictate. I’m thankful for this group and what it has meant to my personal healing.
Find your tribe and love them hard as only people on the same journey can…and maybe even do it by being kind and with a cup of coffee in hand…
Until next time…
Bio-Melinda Campbell is a retired educator who currently focuses her efforts on raising her two teenaged boys, advocating for individuals with special needs and against drunk driving, and serving in her local community. Melinda has been gaining recognition for her writings labeled “Reflections from my Kitchen Sink” since the tragic death of her husband Michael in 2015. In her stories, she shares observations from her daily life including moments she has as a solo parent, a widow, and a woman who battles significant health issues including fibromyalgia and depression.