Photo by: Shutterstock

Empathy for the Widow

by Debbie of "ChildThingz"
Photo by: Shutterstock

‘I didn’t want to bother you but I’m desperate – I have no one else to talk to who would understand.‘ Her email was brief, but outlined her story over the years since we’d last spoken, and my decision was made before I finished reading it. We were only a week away from our annual summer vacation in the UK, and in that respect my friend’s timing was perfect.

‘I’ll call you when I’ve landed at Heathrow and I’ll make arrangements to fly on to you as soon as I get Joey settled with my family.’ Over the next few days I emailed her words of comfort, encouragement and hope, sent prayers and texts to keep her going until I could be with her. The decision to go wasn’t hard; I knew she was without support and I couldn’t let her go through this alone, but in the days leading up to my flight, I felt physically sick. The idea of putting myself through it again churned my emotions into turmoil and I prayed to God and my husband to give me the strength to get on the plane.

By the time I got to Germany, my friend’s estranged mother had agreed to look after the two older boys for a few weeks. As I’d never met her husband, it was a blessing that she didn’t want me to see him in the condition that a year of fighting leukemia, intense chemo and stem-cell surgery had left him in. While the cancer was in remission, a lung-infection had resulted in an induced coma, under which he’d had a stroke and the prognosis was weak. If he survived, the certainty would be brain-damage. The most useful thing I could do for her was to care for her 6 month-old baby boy, while she sat by her husband’s bed in the ICU.

I stayed with my friend for a week in a small room in the nurses’ accommodation that she had rented cheaply, and we ate our meals in the hospital cafeterias. As had been in my husband’s last weeks, the sun shone ironically down on us as we talked in the graceful gardens of the hospital grounds, offering us unfulfilled optimism with its warmth. I nursed and comforted the baby with lullabies, as I benefitted from his innocent smiles and gurgles. I tried to provide her with the balance of hope she needed while her husband was still breathing, whilst preparing her for the future and the possibility of continuing to live without him. I knew that the false comforting words that the uninitiated offered were pointless and only added to the pain, and so I shared with her, as honestly as I could, the path through grief which had finally led me to be strong enough to be there with her. I told her anecdotes about my late husband that made her laugh for the first time in months.

On our last day together, we took a break and visited a nearby palace. The baroque gardens were breathtaking, with fountains and flower beds that under any other circumstance would be a joy to behold. As we pushed the stroller in search of the Orangery, I had told her of the comfort I found in the signs and symbols that I had been told to look for from our lost ones; the unexpected white feathers of our angels keeping guard over us, and the coins that appear from nowhere. As she struggled with reality, she asked me questions that a sage would struggle with, and somehow I hope I found the words to give her strength.

Once inside the Orangery, we wandered, lost in our own thoughts, through the Sleeping Beauty maze that had been erected to symbolize the fairy story; we both stopped suddenly – staring in awe at the centre piece. It was the most beautiful arrangement of roses, strung with threads and ribbons from the glass ceiling, and weaved between the roses were brilliant white swan feathers, glowing down at us, reflected in the sun.

Later, as the taxi pulled away from the hospital, I stared out the back window, with tears burning my eyes as I saw her cross the path back to the entrance, with her face buried in the bundle of this young baby that I had come to adore, clasping him to her bosom. And my heart broke all over again as I watched another sweet soul who would grow up without his father, and a young woman who would never again lie in the arms of her soulmate.

My friend’s husband passed a few days after I returned to England, and in the heart-felt calls that we shared in the long days and weeks that followed, we talked of how hard it is for widows with young children. Like me she found little support in the advice for single parents; the difference when solo parenting is caused by bereavement is sparsely covered, and so now I work to find a way to share the unanswerable questions that we crave, and write the words to help her, her children and others like us.

And I thank God and my husband that I had the support and love around me, that although I couldn’t see at the time, kept me strong until I could stand again on my own. Because only now do I realize that he never left me and that neither I, nor my son will ever be alone.

If you have any words of wisdom and experience to share, please do.

Debbie Green writes as ‘MomThingz,’ part of the ChildThingz website she set up to re-love used kids clothes, toys and thingz. She covers many issues, including single parenting, bereavement, and the journey to reconstruct her life after loss.

Like This Article

Like Mamapedia

Learn From Moms Like You

Get answers, tips, deals, and amazing advice from other Moms.

You might also like

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us
Want to become a contributor?
Want to become a contributor?

If you'd like to contribute to the Wisdom of Moms on Mamapedia, please sign up here to learn more: Sign Up

Recent Voices Posts

See all