Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I know that one person's grief is not worse than another's ... when a spouse dies.

I know that the shock of losing a husband or wife has the ability to affect us physically. From weight gain to heart problems. From weight loss to becoming diabetic.

I know that we have all experienced the freefall into that deep dark place ... and then crawled back out of it. Time and time again.

I know that grief is more tiring than anything else I have ever experienced.

I don't express the saying, "there's a thin line between sanity and insanity" as a platitude any more. I now express it as a truth, as a given.

I know that this pain, this loss, has put everything in my life firmly into perspective. But it wasn't a lesson that I learned with the luxury of a mentor. It was more like being thrown into a freezing ocean ... without a lifebelt ... and finding myself marooned and broken, somewhere in a land that was alien to me. And being terrified. Bullied into realization.

But imagine this.

Imagine having to endure all that you have so far, the relentless battle that you win ... and sometimes lose on a daily basis, knowing that the war against this monster that we call grief is far from over.

Imagine this ... as well as ...

... being blamed for your husband dying. Being called a witch. Being considered as "bad luck".

Imagine washing your dead husband's body and then being forced to drink the water.

Imagine your brother-in-law taking all your possessions, even your home.

Imagine being raped by your brother-in-law because it is thought that you need to be "cleansed" of the sin of causing the death of your husband. No matter how he died, even if he was killed in an accident.

Imagine your children no longer being able to go to school. And not being able to feed them.

Imagine your daughter being forced into the sex trade at an unimaginable age.

Imagine losing your children.

I tried to. But I really couldn't quite imagine it. A bit like I couldn't imagine what it would feel like should the unthinkable happen. Before.

And for some widows ... what we cannot quite imagine ... is their nightmare reality.

Yesterday, I spent time with Patsy Robertson and Kate Young from Widow's Rights International to think about ways in which I can help them raise awareness and funds. Simply put, to help them fight for widows' basic human rights.

And I'll be brutally honest, I'm not doing this out of the goodness of my heart. I'm doing it because it's grounding and humbling and it's the right thing to do. Empathy? If I've swapped my husband for empathy, albeit unwillingly, I may as well put it to good use.

I need to be grounded ... every now and again. This pain threatens to overtake my life. Smother it.

If I can let a tiny shard of light into their darkness, it will allow the reflection of that white into my own black.

I need to be grounded.

The pain would not be worse if I were in their position, but my life would.

Imagine that ... I find it hard to.


  1. thank you for sharing this. i think we all get lost in our own grief and forget that others have it far, far worse. i wish you, and all who grieve, peace and light, and above all, safety.

  2. If I've swapped my husband for empathy, albeit unwillingly, I may as well put it to good use.

    If I can let a tiny shard of light into their darkness, it will allow the reflection of that white into my own black.

    Awesome, Boo.

  3. Boo, this is such a powerful post. Thank you for the powerful reminder that our lives could be so much harder and while we grieve, we also should remember to count the blessings we still have. What can we do to help these other widows who are living the unimaginable?

  4. Wow. How horrible. How can they do that to people?

  5. thanks everyone.

    Yes, wNs I find my involvement in this crucial now because we do get lost in our grief ... so lost that I sometimes feel as though it is all that I feel and all that I am.

    Megan, thanks for showing me what touched you and spoke to you. Sometimes words help us when we realize we feel the same way or that they mean something to us.

    Deb - why am I not surprised that your reaction was ... ok, what do I do to help ... and I love you for it. I shall be appealing for help via blog, widow networks on Facebook, bereavement forum, etc ... for practical help on coming up with ideas for raising awareness, funds, fund-raising, and skillsets such as creative design, IT knowledge ... watch this space :-)

    Hira - it is one of the things that I find hardest to bear today. How nasty people can be. How cruel. To each other and to animals too. I found it easier when he stood beside me. It's like he took the ugliness out of the world.

  6. Exactly - "If I've swapped my husband for empathy, albeit unwillingly, I may as well put it to good use."
    I've become so much more self-absorbed than I was, even while being so much more conscious of others' pain.
    It's good practice to step outside of that every once in a while.

  7. Hi, it's nice to connect via our blogs :-) Yes, I agree ... it's a balance between needing to focus on our pain alone at the beginning ... and gradually seeing that we are not alone and that others feel as we do ... then in turn helping others (newly widowed etc) ... but I was advised that you mustn't invest all your energy into helping others because it can become a "crutch" ie. you escape your own pain by focussing on others instead. But by that, they meant obsessively almost.

    Sigh ... everything EVERYTHING is a balancing act ... without our safety nets to catch us now.

  8. Thank you so much for posting this Boo. It is so easy to become - and remain - totally self-absorbed with our own sadness.

    I don't know about this becoming a 'crutch' for you. Another way of looking at it would be as an outlet for pent-up energy that can easily be turned in on ourselves and do harm that way.

    Sure, it is all about balance, but sometimes a bit of hyperfocussing or manic activity can help - or at least it does for me - and I can't think of a better place to direct that activity.

  9. I agree J. Balance most of the time but giving ourselves permission to be manic or obsessed every now and again. Like today ... I have done nothing but connect with widows on here, Facebook, working on my project with Widows Rights etc. But I needed to. No balance whatsoever today, but it's ok ...

  10. Great post Boo and how true. I cannot imagine having even more grief than now. I cannot imagine having to lose my home or something further happening to my family - how ever do these poor souls survive - or do they?
    Sending all postive thoughts to you today and pray it will be a peaceful one for you.

  11. Thanks Susie, it is unimaginable for us isn't it? Most survive but barely. I'm going to focus on raising awareness and also raising funds so that we can buy them ewes and goats. It makes an enormous difference to their lives.

    I'm having a weekend of solitude, which I need and giving myself time to just be, to reflect ... and yes, I'm peaceful. I wish you nothing less xxx