Support groups and counseling have provided a safe place for me to talk. To share vivid dreams and signs from Adam. People who understand my anger, awkward widow humor, and the secondary losses of losing a spouse.
The first group I was invited to was December 2015. I was not thrilled to be sent an invitation to the Young Cancer Wives support group on Facebook.
This woman, kind enough to reach out when her husband had just entered hospice care. Their sons were a little older than ours when he was diagnosed with colon cancer two and a half years prior.
My husband was not going to die. He was going to defy the odds and survive well into his 40s at least. Her husband died a few weeks later. We were on opposite ends of the spectrum from my perspective.
She has become one of my best friends. We have only met in person twice but she understands me. She gets me because we are living a “what the hell happened” kind of life and finding ways to move forward. Finding ways to feel joy again.
She gave me her number and answered any time I called. If Cat was on a home visit for work, she’d text me as soon as possible. Cat was the one who walked me through how to talk with Edward about his Daddy dying, about the funeral, about death.
Cat provides support and offers advice as a fellow widowed, solo mother who is dating. Sometimes we just call to say a lot of f-bombs together. Because nothing makes us feel better then talking for 15 minutes and seeing how many swear words we can fit in.
I went to this online support group she invited me into when it felt like the bottom to my life was falling out. When I didn’t know what to say to the endless offers of help, they gave me practical advice.
They shared their experiences of having babies when their husbands were on chemo. Tips on how to prep myself. If there were any ways to prepare someone for cancer, chemo, and a newborn baby this group would know.
Women who helped me care for myself and support Adam through his surgeries, chemo, emotional ups and downs.
Caregivers who became widows. Supporting me in a way nobody else could when it was time for hospice.
In March, I will have the privilege of meeting the founder of this group and other fellow caregivers. Sadly, most of us are now widows. It is because of these groups that I have found ways to help fellow caregivers through Cocktails and Chemo.
When Adam died, Widows Don’t Wear Black (for cancer widows) and The Hot Young Widows Club became the only reason I’d log in to Facebook or Instagram. This group of strangers grateful to have each other. All of us wishing we would have never met.
It took a little more work to find a support group we could physically go to. Our social worker from the cancer center knew about a family grief support group through Fairview Health Services.
As I retold the events of how my sons and I arrived at this group, a woman across the circle kindly stared. She asked if she could go next. Anna’s s husband died less then a month after Adam from colon cancer. Their story was almost identical to ours.
Fast forward to today. Anna and her two children have become an extension of our family. She is an incredibly important person in my life.
Our oldest boys are a year apart in age, our youngest also a year difference in age. We have morning play dates and supper dates with all four kids. It is always loud, a mess, and we can never guess who will eat and who won’t.
We rarely get in five minutes of adult conversation without interruptions but that never stops us from trying.
It is helpful to have someone nearby to relate to. Our oldest sons especially benefit from playing with another child whose “daddy died of cancer too.” As her youngest daughter and my Reggie start to identify their grief, they will lean on one another.
As mothers, we lean on one another.
We have helped each other with dishes and laundry when the other was sick. When getting to regular counseling sessions became difficult with my new schedule, our weekly dates at the zoo became my grief therapy.
Regardless of how our grief is affecting us in the moment, we can get each other to smile. She laughs at my inappropriate jokes. We encourage and inspire one another. There is an exchange of f-bombs when the kids are not within ear shot. (Disclaimer: young widows love the f-bomb.)
Without social media, I wouldn’t have made new friendships.
Without our social worker at the hospital, I wouldn’t have found the family grief support group or my grief counselor.
A large part of why I am a survivor is because of these gifts.