The first time I went, the air in the room felt thick and heavy. My body was like a hollow, fragile shell. So empty. So numb.
Yet here I stood; surrounded by 7 or 8 women, ranging in age between 45 and 70. One more group that graciously invited me to join them. I knew it would be good for me, but wasn’t sure I could get myself to walk through that door. I moved around the kitchen slowly saying my “hellos”, glad to listen to others’ conversations, hoping I wouldn’t have to make my own.
Let me be clear: It’s not the PEOPLE I didn’t want to face–just the PREMISE.
You see, this is a “Widows’ Group”. Is that the kind of group you would look forward to joining? By joining we–in one more way–highlight our loss, make it real. So, do I REALLY want to do that?!
We meet for dinner and conversation in my good friend Catherine’s house. Recently, in order to make the group a little more approachable, we suggested a name change. So now, instead of “The Widows’ Group”, we are “WIT” (“Women in Transition”). Last night it metamorphosed into “The Nit Wits” (“Not Intirely Together Women in Transition”)! That title suits me just fine!!
Most of the group has lost a spouse within the last 18 months–with the exception of our fearless leader, Catherine, who has several years under her belt. (This is the same woman who drove me up to Trinity pulling a trailer full of supplies, helped me cook for the team, even billy-goated it up and down a particularly challenging search zone. And as if that wasn’t enough, she and her husband just slipped me a generous check to help us make ends meet during this never-ending limbo time. To say she has been an amazing friend would be a gross understatement!
And while we all have “widowhood” in common, we have arrived at this place by different means: sudden medical events, prolonged illnesses that eventually took a loved one, accidents on roads and mountain tops.
Different stories of loss, different ages, different stages in the process, and yet we all have in common a sense of displacement, the mix of anxiety and hope that accompany major life transitions, and a faith that continues to both challenge and comfort.
As I look around the table, I am moved at the familiar shell-shocked expression one of our newest members wears, at only a few months past her loss. I just want to surround her with soft blankets and bubble wrap, then stand guard to keep all those “everyday” stresses at bay so she can feel protected enough to heal and move through this raw, vulnerable stage.
But when I soak in the confidence expressed by another woman in the group, I also feel something I haven’t felt in awhile: some hope for my life and recovery a little further down the road– I know it’s not all sunshine for her, but she seems to be clearly enjoying the stage she’s in. I want to be her. Now. Well…not quite…I want to be further through this process so I can re-find my sense of confidence and “can do” spirit. (I seem to have lost it somewhere between the words “We are suspending the search for Steve” and my recent frustration with the interminably slow testing process.)
As we sit around the table outside on this warm summer evening, sharing our excellent meal, I notice that we’re getting more comfortable speaking both the beautiful and the hard truths. So healing to be in a place where everyone “gets it”.
And then, before you know it, we’ve shifted to shared laughter at the crazy predicaments we find ourselves in. All real. All honest. All good stuff.
My friend brought me a card tonight that she wrote on my recent “death anniversary”. The photo depicts four decimated trucks sitting at the base of an avalanche. It reads: “It isn’t the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for the long uphill climb back to sanity, faith and serenity.” (By Lindbherg)
So we are on a shared mission, of sorts. We are searching for that elusive sense of stability, confidence and hope. Those more familiar with the territory take the lead, flashlights in hand, as we try to climb past this avalanche of loss and on to whatever God and life have for us next. I know we will be taking turns pulling each other up the mountain. And when we slip and fall, steady hands will reach down to help pull us back up, speak words of encouragement, and help us move forward again.
And as we journey together up that mountain and further and further from our own personal avalanches, I know we will continue to dig deep and find treasure along the way: strengths we didn’t know had existed–in ourselves, in our faith, in each other.
So grateful for this group!
P.S. I love you, Nit Wits!!!