It has been a little over two years since my husband passed from Pulmonary Fibrosis. There are moments that I still feel like he's coming right home and that I will see him again. I haven't been in denial that he is gone, I don't think so anyway. It just seems to me that acceptance comes in gradual stages. As a matter of fact, one thing I did not realize is that while he was sick with this insidious disease, I was already in a grieving stage. It was called anticipatory grief. It was a feeling of great loss, even though he was still with me.
When he passed, my mind did struggle to come to grips with never seeing him again. My mind and heart still struggles with this. Deep down I felt, and still do, that our love supersedes his death and that somehow our relationship continues. I really do believe that we still have a connection and it isn't just me carrying on his memory, but it is active on both our parts because I feel him in big moments and in small. He has been a part of my daily life, even if that meant I had to grow and become more independent. In his death I still felt his support of me. So, in my heart I consider myself still married to him.
I remember the first year after he passed I had to fill out some documents and there was a box that needed to be checked. Single/ Married/ Widowed, and I went to immediately check the married box. But, in the eyes of this document, I was no longer considered married and my hand was forced to check Widowed. This caused me a moment of resentment, not toward my husband, but toward society. Just because my husband is dead, why do I have to check any other box other than 'married'? After all, I was still married in my heart.
Being a part of grief support groups, I had read several discussions about what the widowed do with their wedding rings. There were many creative ideas such as melting them down into another piece of jewelry, moving the ring from the left hand to the right (which I hadn't realized, symbolizes a widowed status), or putting them away to one day hand down to the children. Each choice is a very personal choice and there is not one correct way to handle this. I read this, the whole time, rubbing the rings on my wedding finger and thought with great conviction that mine would never leave my finger.
In public areas, such as the gym or the shopping center, there are moments inside I think of the fact I am a widow. I long for just a bit of acknowledgement of this. For someone to notice, hey~ I am damaged. My heart hurts. Or that I am spending my birthday alone. Or that I do not feel the warmth of a hug very often. I think these things, while absentmindedly rubbing my wedding ring. Then, strangly, I wonder why no body notices this about me.
As a country, if there has been a great loss, we fly our flags at half mast. In days of old, it was common place to wear black and withdraw from social events for over a year. According to Wikipedia many other cultures observe mourning as well. The Japanese term for mourning dress is mofuku (喪服) and it is primarily black, while in India members of the mourning family and the people who come to participate in mourning all wear white clothes. In Victorian times, mourners even wore a special ring in memory of someone who has died. It often bears the name and date of death of the person, and possibly an image of them, or a motto.
As I thought deeper about these traditions, I realized that it is not just society's responsibility to notice I am in mourning, when at a glance they could never know this about me. Maybe I was not ready for anyone to notice. In this stage of my grief, I have realized that I want others to know this about me, even if it is unspoken. Losing my spouse is also a part of my personal experience as a person. For this reason, I have chosen to switch my wedding ring to my right hand. Not because I have moved on from the love I have with my husband, but because I have moved on from the idea that somehow people will know I am a widow just by looking at my face. I have also accepted that I do want others to know this about me and to wonder if I am getting enough hugs. ~Because, hugs are great and I could use all the support I can get. xoxoxo