I have been away from the widow board for 6 months now, so I was surprised yesterday when I received a PM from a member there that I had talked to in PMs and via various threads when I was still active. Apparently, I was missed by one person, but my absence from the board had exactly the effect there that I imagined it would: none. It WAS the right time for me to leave, and these 6 months have proven to me the correctness of that choice for my mental and emotional well-being.
After I responded to her, I took a look at the main board and saw a few of the old names, and a lot of new ones. This wasn't surprising, but sad nonetheless: there are always new widows. I saw all the same kinds of topics—the thread titles with the swearing in the new widow section, the calmer ones in the BAG section. Same old shit-stirrers up to their usual antics. Same majority of people who really just want to help each other and themselves get through the horror. It was like walking into someone else's family reunion: all the same dynamics, even if the names and faces are different.
I realized, as I slipped back into widow mode in talking to my sister widow, that I had indeed managed to slip out of it in these 6 months. I think of myself more as a bereaved person than a widow at this point; this is probably in large part due to the fact that the role of Widow was largely denied to me. The emotional loss was, and is, the same, but the way I navigated through my days, and society, in my grief was necessarily very different. In hindsight, I can see that there were good and bad aspects to that. I don't think if I traded my experiences for a more conventional widowhood that I would've come out ahead; neither would the person I traded with. It is what it is, and for the most part, I'm able to accept that now.
In any case, being at the widow board reinforced my being a widow every day for me, and being away allowed it to evaporate to a large extent, and make room for me to be more present to the rest of my life. And yet, I realized as I wrote back and forth with my former boardmate, that my widowhood—the feelings, the experiences, the hurts, the outrages, the empathy—was easily accessible at will after all. The distance between me and it can be bridged in a heartbeat, if I choose. No adjustment, no awkwardness, and, for the most part, no particular pain. I suppose that means that I have integrated this…that what was an experience to get through has now become a state of being, or one aspect of it, anyway. That is a good thing, I think. I have more than once wondered if I'd run out of compassion, and maybe I have not.
The widow who contacted me is facing her one year milestone soon. I was kind of shocked, as I guess I hadn't realized she was so early out; I was nearly 4 years out when I left, and I'm half-way to 5 now. So strange. She said she may be coming to the end of her run at the board already…she's starting to feel it. I said that that's the way it is…a good support is one that allows you to eventually walk without it, or is flexible enough to morph into something else that is more appropriate for your needs. There will always be 10-year and 4-year and 1-year and new widows, and each "class" will graduate into helping the one behind it, while others graduate to not having, or needing, to be active participants anymore. And some bodhisattvas will stay and stay until everyone is healed, as much as is possible. Those people have touched more lives and done more good than they even suspect. I'm certain of it.
I did read all of one thread, on the BAG forum, where someone asked if people still thought of their beloveds every day, and how that manifested for them. The answered varied, as did the number of months and years out each respondent was. For me, the answer is "yes," and that is by choice. I suppose if I put away all the pictures, the answer might well become different, but I don't want that. I don't force myself to think about him, and I don't force myself not to. It comes as it does, with whatever emotional cargo, and I deal with it.
I recently have been made aware of a word that describes perfectly (in Portuguese, if not English) the feeling that so often accompanies me in regards to A now. It's a word that I had seen for years in music…Brazilian music, actually, that A himself gave me: Saudade
"Saudade" is a longing for something or someone that is gone, that may return some day in the distant future, but it is a future so very distant, and so uncertain, as to make virtually no difference to the present.
I miss him. I long for him. I really do believe that we will be reunited on the same plane at some point, once I die, though what that existence will be like, I haven't even the beginning of a clue. And while that belief has given me hope and strength to survive and heal, I have to say at this point that it isn't much sustenance for the long haul. It will be true (or not) regardless of how I get through the rest of my days—whether I do so healed and whole, or broken and bitter. I don't think I am the latter, and I don't think I'm in danger of becoming it, at least not at this point. But still, the longing remains because he remains absent and out of reach. I do not grieve for him every day, but I miss him every day. When you've had the pleasure of the best company in the world in someone, there's really no way around that.
Saudade. The wiki article linked above said that one researcher deemed the word the 7th hardest expression to translate into English. I find that so apropos, as the experience, especially the emotional experience of significant bereavement like widowhood, is equally hard to translate to people who have not yet had the opportunity to learn the language.