Monday, January 5, 2015

Books Come Through For Me

When Warren died, there were a lot of things I couldn't do for a long time. One of them was read. I had no idea why I couldn't do it because it's such a solitary thing that I've done all my life, and not necessarily connected to Warren (although everything felt connected to him at the time). I wanted badly to read because I knew it could soothe my mind. I also knew it wouldn't be a permanent handicap, so I was patient with myself.  

Those months that I couldn't read were terrible because many people gave me books but I'd just stare at the covers, not able to crack them open. My daughter got some beautiful picture books about loss that I was able to read to her with no problem, but the ones about widowhood were another matter. Maybe I was in denial, or maybe I wasn't ready to apply that word and its meaning to myself. As something to do, I posted the books to my Goodreads account. The next day I got a message from a widow in Australia who had read one of the books about loss that I had posted. She reached out to me and offered her condolences. She shared her story about being a widow, too. We sent a few messages back and forth. She assured me that I would get through. 

I didn't know this woman. We lived on opposite ends of the earth. But she understood what I was going through first-hand, as she was raising children alone, having lost her husband unexpectedly about two years before. In our messages she was so open and honest about her journey. I hadn't met any widows under 60 yet and it was comforting to connect with her, even if only via messages. She offered great advice and it was amazing to me that a complete stranger would reach out and offer such comfort at a time when comfort was so rare for me. 

It was all because of books. It was one book in particular to be exact, but still. It broke through my reading barrier. I starting reading books about grief and they were helpful. I read autobiographies of widowers who raised children in spite of their pain. I absorbed the advice and related to the writers. I learned that what I thought was madness was normal to grieving. I read blogs and posts on websites dedicated to widowhood. It was sometimes painful but it was also enlightening and served as a testament that if those people could survive, then so could I. 

I never expected that posting about a book would lead to such a powerful connection, but I shouldn't have been surprised. Books have always been where I went for so many things, so why wouldn't they be a landing place at my darkest time? I found so much in those books, but it wasn't just the lessons they laid out. The act of reading was something that I needed. It grounded me, giving me something back at a time when I had lost so much. Those days that I could only look at books but not read them felt like I was losing something that had always been there for me. I remember wondering if I would ever be able to open a book and get lost in it again like I had done since as early as I could remember. It made me so angry not to be able to do that anymore. I didn't want to lose that. I didn't want death to take anything else from me. 

I don't know what it was exactly about that exchange that allowed me to read again. All I know is that it was such a relief to be able to read again. It infused me with a sense of normalcy that I clung to, a glimpse into the strength I possessed that would get me through those horrible months after his death. I welcomed books back into my life, and I can't imagine anything that can separate me from them again.

Books that got me through those dark days:

Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love  I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can: How Young Widows and Widowers Can Cope and Heal  5546004  Healing a Spouse's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Husband or Wife Dies

Blogs and websites I frequented:

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