Well, after almost a year of interviews, training, counselling, and meetings it's finally time... I am now officially a volunteer with Alberta Health Services! The program that gave me so much in my early days of grief is now one I get to give back to. In January I start as a co-facilitator for my first official grief group!
I am so excited.
Like, ridiculously excited.
Seems so weird, right?
Only it's not. I was chatting with a fellow volunteer at our last meeting and we both said the same thing - that we can't wait to help someone else, to do something, to be to someone else what this group was for us.
I've found with any type of grief, and being widowed at such a young age in particular, you can feel like the only person in the world going through what you are going through. Everyone around you seems happy and normal and the world keeps chugging along as though nothing has happened. Meanwhile you are drowning in sorrow, feeling left behind more and more every day.
While everyone else is worrying about traffic, paying bills, and what to cook for dinner, you struggle to get out of bed, wear the same shirt four days in a row, and eat cheerios off the floor for breakfast. While they head off to work and meet up with friends for lunch, you cry in the grocery store over your husband's favourite gummi candy and replay the answering machine recording 38 times in a row. They catch their favourite tv show before heading to bed at night while you clutch your spouse's old sweater, inhaling as deeply as you can for imaginary traces of his cologne.
Add to that the fact that most of your friends haven't even lost grandparents, let alone a spouse. You become "special"... only not in a way you ever would have wanted. In fact, being ordinary becomes the long lost dream you never knew you had. Oh what you wouldn't give to be plain and boring and have a simple, happy life like everybody else.
And then you find your grief group.
And there staring back at you are twenty other people who feel exactly the way you do, struggling through the same thing, searching desperately for someone, anyone who understands. And the stories are heartbreaking and awful. You cry. They cry. You heal. They heal. There is something about coming together with strangers over something as heavy as the loss of a spouse that can turn you into instant friends for life.
I don't know what I would have done without my grief group or the fellow wids I met online. Meeting in the midst of such shared turmoil brought us together and brought much-needed comfort. Oh, you ate cheerios off the floor? Me too! SO much easier than cooking, right? Oh, drinking coffee makes you cry? Me too! Wait. That shirt looks like it belongs to a man and hasn't been washed in three months. Mine too!
I love this program and believe in it. It works wonders. For me, it was one of the single greatest tools for processing my grief. It is the first recommendation that comes out of my mouth when people ask about dealing with their own loss. Even for the shy and introverted (yes, believe it or not, that includes me) it can be deeply therapeutic. You can talk or listen, soaking it all in. There is so much to learn from others and great comfort in knowing that you are, in fact, not alone at all. And not nearly as weird as you thought. Mostly.
So I can't wait to get started. I hope I can help as much as others helped me. I hope I can be as strong as others were for me. I hope their life is changed by this program and they realize they are not alone. That they belong, they are loved, and they can survive.
Just like me.