It is within the context of death that life takes on its vivid nature.
The Virgin Widow is my story, but it is yours as well. Like you, and like millions of other women, I became a “Virgin Widow” overnight. Like you, I willed myself to survive.
As a psychologist, I am sensitive to the shades of psychic change. I have always found writing to be a way of helping me to digest and understand my experiences. Even as I mourned my loss, my journal entries became a reflection on the process of adjusting to change and transition itself. This book, therefore, is both a memoir and a personal-growth book for individuals like you who have recently lost a partner. My ‘notes from the front’ are meant to guide you on your own healing path.
When the reality of losing a partner is thrust upon us, we are often unprepared. The grief that accompanies the loss can be overwhelming. Not only do we mourn the comfort and the familiarity of our partner, but we also find ourselves being forced into a new, unwelcome, and radically shifted world-picture that eerily—frustratingly—contains many of the same objects, people, and places, although we see these in a different light.
By my definition, “Virgin Widows” are innocent, first-time widows. They have no experience from which to draw the wisdom, philosophy, and behavior necessary to find a way through the intricate and immobilizing situations demanding their attention. Though they may have loved and lost before, they have never experienced the absolute finality that the death of their loved one imposes on their world.
Whether a loss is a “complicated” grief — when death is the result of unusual circumstances: accident, suicide, or mayhem—or the natural outcome of a long and happy life, pain, uncertainty, and the need for guided healing are no less diminished.
I have been trained to be both an observer and experiencer, creating for myself and others a delicate balance, between who we are and who and what we are to become. As I worked through my own grief and began to rebuild in the days and months following my husband’s death, the liberating gift of my professional training gave me permission to reclaim control of my life. I intend to help you do the same as I share my thoughts with you.
Losing a spouse carries with it the loss of life as planned. Coupled life carries with it a shared identity, so this identity is lost too. We lose our friend, our lover, and our partner. The ultimate crippling blow comes when we realize that we have lost an essential part of ourselves as well. And because it takes time for the reinvention process to begin, we can do little more than face each day, one day at a time, under a magnifying glass, in a kind of self-imposed exile.
The time to reinvent ourselves does come, however, and when it does, we know what it is to crave normalcy, to have some semblance of our original self returned to us, to seek the ordinary comforts of companionship, and to feel the first stirrings of curiosity about our desirability: “Will I ever love again?” and “Will anyone again love me for me?”
This is the start of the healing process. Though conventional wisdom says that new partnerships are not the way to soothe our loss, we are social beings who grow and change through our interactions. Balanced against those times of much-needed, sacred solitude is a loving network of friends and family, and it works as an incubator, nurturing and protecting us while we reconfigure our newly evolving selves.
For me, “staying in the present” was of primary importance, both as a safety zone between the poignancy of a lost past and the frightening uncertainty of an abstract future. Though I was sometimes tempted to numb myself, I chose not to. My mind and body — trained by childbirth and sustained by meditation — acknowledged the intensity completely without shutting down.
For many months, it seemed that time hung suspended and that the happy and productive life I had known before my marriage and during the many years we shared our lives had been overshadowed by the Yesterday when he died and the endless Today in which I now lived. Moving in slow motion, I anchored my awareness to the spectrum of sensation and sanctuary that each moment offered.
Other times, I felt an impatience to get away, to be free of this dreadful burden of sorrow. On those days, my body ached — not for him, not to turn back time, but to fast forward to the day when I would awaken from this nightmare. I craved the day when my step would quicken as it had before and I would be consumed once more with my passionate belief in endless possibility.
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Genre – NonFiction
Rating – G
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