For nearly three years, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about my experiences as a cancer spouse and young widow. While many of my motivations to take on such an endeavor may have changed over the years, one thing remained constant; my need for a creative outlet to capture and reflect back on the experiences I’ve gone through on this journey. Additionally, there are so many experiences that putting them to screen is the only way for me to organize my thoughts and memories into a semi-coherent story…my story.
While I have a very supportive group of friends and family who have been listening to these stories for years, I think I’m finally to a point where I’m comfortable enough with my reality to start working it out in print. Besides, my writing is generally more coherent than having to listen to my ramblings, which inevitably wind themselves around various tangents, leaving my unfortunate audience trying to figure out where they got lost along the way. Regardless, they have patiently listened to all the stories; however funny, mundane, or heartbreaking they may be, knowing that lending an ear and an occasional shoulder were the only ways they could really help. This is one of those times in life when something is seriously broken and nothing can be done to fix it.
There’s no two ways about it; being a widow definitely sucks! One’s age at the time of widowhood doesn’t necessarily dictate the level of suck, just the type. When you’re older, you mourn the life you had with your spouse, while those of you who are younger mourn the life you envisioned you’d have but never got to fully realize. When you’re older, you may find it harder to encounter meaningful companionship and/or romance after the loss of your spouse than if you were younger. On the flip side, the older you are, the more peers you have who have been in your shoes. As a young widow, many of those around you have absolutely no idea how to relate, much less understand what you’re going through. Given that I was widowed at the age of 28, my perspective is that of the later in each of the above sets of statements. I can’t say that it’s any easier or harder to be a young widow but for me, the age factor added to the equation definitely makes for some isolated, rocky terrain to cross in a desperate quest to come out on the other side with some shred of sanity.
Back to the issue of motivating factors for this project; throughout my journey, I did a ton of research in order to gain a firmer grasp of what was going on in my head since none of my friends were able to offer very much in the way of insight. I pawed through tons of books both online and at various bookstores pertaining to grief, cancer-spouse survival, and widowhood, and I noticed some curious similarities that hit home with me. First off, humor was definitely not a literary element that is commonly associated with these topics. Secondly, both the deceased spouse and the caretaking/widowed spouse are generally portrayed as martyrs with little to no flaws revealed. Furthermore, sugar-coating and tip-toeing are used frequently to skirt around some of the harsh realities and unpleasantness that comes with the territory of having cancer and/or being a caretaker/widow. I mention these things because they are considered somewhat taboo and my accounts tend to break all of them. I can almost always find something to laugh about in any given situation (albeit sometimes in bad taste), neither my husband nor I were perfect and I’m not above pointing that out when appropriate, and I’m pretty damn honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to how cancer impacts all aspects of life. My hope is that maybe my experiences will give another young widow/widower a relative perspective s/he might find useful in coping with the harsh realities of widowhood.
In addition to current and future posts, I will be including other material that was collected along the way. These include posts from a blog I kept before my husband died to update our friends and family on his progress; as well as emails and messages sent to one another during his illness. They are vital to understanding the entirety of the story, as well as my state of mind as I was treading desperately to keep my head above water.