I have a ri.dic.u.lous. amount of homework to do and I can’t focus on any of it. I just got home from attending an LDS Widows and Widowers Conference, put on by an unofficially affiliated organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Basically, a bunch of widowed Mormons get together to listen to keynote speakers, attend workshops, laugh, cry, and make morbid jokes. At the end of the two-day conference, everyone’s placed in an arranged marriage… Kidding. (Sort of).
Anyway, this is the third conference I’ve been to and they’ve all been really helpful in their own way. This time, I wasn’t that into the speakers and workshops, even though they really were great. Just not what I needed. But the people. That’s what I needed this time. I connected with other widowed people in a way that was healing for the soul. And those connections also made me realize I’m not through grief yet (nice try, self). I still have a long way to go. Maybe forever. Ugh.
But besides the connections, there were a few specific things that I learned, the most significant being that Heavenly Father prepares us for our trials. I guess I knew that already, but the reminder hit me hard this weekend. It was a common theme among the people that I talked to. Heavenly Father had given them insight and tools and tender mercies to prepare them for losing their spouse, ones that they didn’t recognize until after their spouse had passed. I got tons of those. Like really, how did I not see it coming?
Just in the 24 hours before Gregg died, there were numerous tender mercies and insights I had. The biggest one that I’ve been reminded of is that I got to let go and say goodbye. The night before Gregg died, I knew he was using but I was too wrapped up in 4th trimester hormones and lack of sleep to have a coherent conversation with him about it. Coherent conversations don’t happen in those dark times, they just don’t. Instead, in the midst of the intense pain and sorrow I felt from being confronted with what was surely going to be the beginning of another downward spiral, I blubbered through words that didn’t make a lot of sense. I could only get out a half-formed sentence that meant nothing to him.
See, when you love an addict, sometimes even when they’re there, they’re not there. When they are stuck in the fog of addiction, you only see their silhouette. Their body is filled with something else that suffocates their spirit. Their substance is gone and the person in front of you is just a fuzzy representation of the person you love. That night, I couldn’t tell Gregg that I was terrified of losing him for good, or of losing our family, or of him never coming back through the fog and back to us. All I could say was “you’re leaving… you’re leaving me…” over an over. In some type of weird crying chant. Naturally, he had no idea what I was sputtering about and looked at me like I was the one on drugs. Or maybe he just played dumb to avoid a fight. But it doesn’t matter because those words weren’t for him, they were for me. It was goodbye. It was letting go. It was knowing that I couldn’t fix it and grieving what I had lost in that moment. And it had to be then, because it was too late for all of that when I went to wake him up the next day.
Also, on an unrelated note, this weekend I learned that women. Are. Strong. I mean, men are strong too and maybe someday I’ll write about that, but this was a weekend of female empowerment for me. Like damn, women can do hard things. You stayed by your husband’s side for days, weeks, or years while he battled cancer? That is strength. You gave birth to your baby after your husband was already gone? That is courage. You were breastfeeding while your husband was being lowered into the ground? That is love. You own the crap out of single parenthood? And you have a special needs child? That is grit. Amazing.
But most importantly, this weekend helped me to remember that I’m not alone. Because the loneliness has started to set in big time. Not because I’m not surrounded by people, but because none of them can replace Gregg. But I have a tribe of people who know what’s that like. And I still have Gregg, even though most of the time I can’t feel him. And I have my Heavenly Father.