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Laundry or Coping??

I’m part of a couple online “widow” support groups. Wow, that's such a fun sentence to type.

How many young widows are out there? More than I ever thought, that's for sure. And they are a different species. The strength and grace and support they are ALWAYS willing to share? It's beautiful and heartbreaking. They know that the next day, the next minute, there is a good chance of being on the other side of needing support from someone who truly gets it.

I've found it is super common to see young widows struggle with the timeline of moving "forward." They often ask for advice and similar situations, that feeling of camaraderie in an impossible time.

When do you make these decisions? Like, what about your wedding ring? Will you keep it… wear it on a necklace… move it to the right hand… get rid of it?

When do you pack up belongings that are no longer being used? Do you at all?

What about photos around the house? When does it become a shrine rather than a happy reminder of your time together?

When do you start saying the phrase “my late husband” rather than “my husband?”

When do you make the switch from “ours” to “mine?” My space, my home, my life, etc.

When do you put yourself back out there if you decide to at all?

All of these questions are “if you decide to do this, then when?” because not everyone will. And that’s okay, too.

Grief is an incredibly personal experience. There is no right or wrong, as much as it can sometimes feel that way (or society can make you feel that way). My ring lives on my right hand now, but I have tried keeping it on my left hand. I tried putting it away, putting it away in a better place, wearing it again...

What feels right? That's really all you can ask yourself. My ring feels "right" on my right hand. It's as simple as that.

It has been over two and a half years since David passed away. I moved the week after his funeral into my own place. I set it up as closely to our home as I could, which makes perfect sense looking back. How the hell was I supposed to move to a completely different place he had never even seen? How was I supposed to do that the same week we were supposed to be moving into our first house together? Of course I needed some sort of consistency and comfort. SEE?! Grace! I'm learning!!!

During that move, I wouldn’t have made it without the Nelsons. In what world would I have been able to pack up our home to leave forever the same week he died. It's too much. For anyone.

This means that moving turned into a frantic, expensive, horrific endeavor.

David’s family helped me frantically throw things into boxes and attempt to open them as the movers complained about my lack of planning and foresight. There are still boxes that haven’t been touched since October 2020. Books, school supplies, more books, clothes, even more books.

Last week I finally had the motivation and energy to start ripping everything open and making my apartment a home. My home. It’s not easy when you have all of your things, someone else’s things, and your “together” things. And we’re not 20. It’s not like we had one pot and pan between us. We had both lived entire lives before meeting the other. There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff. Did I mention books?

I got a lot done. I found a million things I was very excited to see again. I started six loads of laundry as I reorganized, sorted, and put “like things” together.

At 10ish that night, I sat down to fold the unending laundry. I got to the bottom of the last basket for the night, and I came across one of David’s shirts. I carefully folded it and set it to the side to start a “David” stack for his family.

Ten seconds later I was holding it to my face sobbing.

I’m talking “body-wracking, can’t breathe, my ribs hurt, snot everywhere, I hope my neighbors don’t hear” type of sobbing. Zero to a hundred. I’m not a person that does anything halfway, even crying. Life is too short to half-ass a sob session.

Two and half years later and a soft shirt can send me completely over the edge for a solid five minutes with no warning.

And... as soon as it started, it passed.

It took a minute for me to recognize that what I was doing all day… it was actually really REALLY hard. Nothing is ever as simple as folding laundry. I was taking a step that widows everywhere are torn apart over daily. A step I've been putting off for so long.

I’ve talked to widows that did this immediately after their spouse’s passing. Some that lost their person a decade ago and still want everything to remain as it was. As it is. All of them content with their decision.

My point is, if you do the hard things immediately? It’s going to suck. And if you wait? It’s still going to suck. If you choose to never do it? It’s STILL going to suck. We struggle to find the “right time” for everything. The “right time” is whenever you feel like it. When you feel like you can.

And if you don’t want to? That’s the right decision, too.

All of our lives and relationships are so infinitely different. Why would our grief be the same?

I put the soggy shirt back into its pile and reached for the last two items in the basket.

Yellow hospital socks from our wedding/hospital stay…

And then I’m laughing hysterically telling David that his sense of humor is super fucked up. And rude.

Life is ABSURD.

I’m happy I’m still the person that is quick to laugh and quick to cry. For a long time I tried to block off that side of me. Everything was too raw. But it’s still raw. And it feels good to still be the type of person that feels deeply, even after trying not to.

I folded the hospital socks and threw them away, already forgiving myself. Knowing full-well I would feel terrible writing that sentence. But also knowing I don’t need a pair of hospital socks to remember how much I love David. And that David would say, “Ew. Get rid of them.”


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