As we approach the new year and reflect on the past, our Widowed Young Support Coordinator, Danielle Patton considers what she would say if she could have a conversation with herself in those early days of grief.

If I could go back in time and talk to my newly widowed self, what would I say? If there are any fundamental pieces of wisdom that I’ve gleaned over these last nine years, what would I share with myself?

As we head into this festive season and into a new year, it’s quite common to reflect on where we’ve been and where we hope to go. We often think about the things we would have done differently and the things we want to change. As they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if I had known in those early days of my grief what I know now, what advice would I give myself?

Losing Russell has been the hardest struggle that I have had to survive, and those early days, weeks and months were excruciating. How do I survive this? How do I go on living without him beside me? How do I get through this day … or even the next few seconds?

If I could go back I would tell myself to stop trying to grieve according to the expectations of others, and to be kind to myself. I’d tell myself it’s OK not to be able to do everything I did before my life shattered into pieces. Prioritise and let go of tasks that are unnecessary. It’s okay to hurt, cry and be vulnerable. Be honest with yourself and others. Accepting help from others is not a sign of weakness but rather an acknowledgement that in order to navigate this unwanted reality, it may be necessary to rely on others.

There will be times that due to ‘widow’s brain’, you will arrive at the dentist a week early even though it is written correctly in your diary. Everything feels so confusing and unfamiliar, and that is OK and normal considering what you are going through. It’s OK if you begin to cry in the middle of a shop because the song playing over the speakers takes you back to a special moment. People may rush by quickly to avoid the awkwardly crying woman, but there will be that one person who will genuinely care and try to help.

Most of all, I would tell myself to keep moving forward. In a speech given in 1960 at Spelman College, Martin Luther King Jr. made this compelling statement:

Keep moving, for it may well be that the greatest song has not yet been sung, the greatest book has not been written, the highest mountain has not been climbed. This is your challenge! Reach out and grab it … but there is something we can learn from the broken grammar of that mother, that we must keep moving. If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.

As difficult as it seems at the time, the value of moving forward through the pain will become more apparent. Keep going. Keep moving forward, but in the process, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself the space to grieve in your own way and at your own pace. Sometimes all we are able to do is drag ourselves through the pain and heartache.

Losing the person you thought you would grow old with is a painful and traumatic experience, and while moving forward and processing the pain is agonizing, remaining stuck is even worse. So take each step, each day and each moment as it comes, and regardless of how long it takes, keep moving forward; one day you will look back and be astonished at how far you have come and see the glimpses of hope that lie ahead.

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