Last Updated on May 11, 2021 by Sarah Gallagher
Widowhood and the Post-Pandemic World. Two words that you wouldn’t think have anything in common. On the contrary, living as a widow helped me understand how live fearlessly in a post-pandemic world. Here’s how widowhood prepared me for a fearless post-pandemic world.
Tell your kids the truth
Living in a world rocked by tragedy can be shocking, especially for young children. They are going to have a lot of hard questions about their current situation that you’re going to have to answer.
As much as it feels like you want to sugar-coat things, their need for the truth is real. Kids know when big things happen they can turn their lives upside down, and their questions are important to answer. The best thing you can do as a parent is to tell them the truth.
Is mommy or daddy coming back? No.
Is the virus real? Yes.
Will I die? Yes, eventually, but you’re safe now.
How do I know I’m safe? Are you washing your hands regularly? Wearing a mask? Eating well and staying active? If yes, then you’re good!
Now, being honest and true is important, but you don’t need to elaborate on the details. They don’t need to know the exact details of the death, or exactly how many people in your city are infected today. Just tell them what they need to know to be satisfied with the answers, but no more than they can handle.
Kids are smart. They’ll know when you’re hiding something, or when you are less than honest. You’re going to want to establish trust with them, especially during this time.
Related post: 17 things to do when someone diesKids know when big things happen they can turn their lives upside down, and their questions are important to answer. The best thing you can do as a parent is to tell them the truth.Click To Tweet
Living in two different timelines
When you’re living as a widow, you’re constantly dealing with living in two different lifetimes at once. The life you had with your partner, with all those plans and dreams, and then the one you’re living now with altered goals.
Living in a post-pandemic world, the world is also living in two different timelines: everything we do now to barricade us from the virus will also remind us of the way we used to do things.
Let’s look at how we view social interactions now. I can’t look at pictures of people sitting close together in a movie theater without screaming, “Where is your mask! You’re not sitting 6-feet apart!”
Just as when I’m grocery shopping and I see my late husband’s favourite treat on sale, it takes effort to remind myself not to pick it up because he can’t enjoy it anymore.
The world I lived before becoming a widow is in stark contrast to the world I’m now living without my spouse. Just as the world is living in our new para-dime, everything we do is counterbalanced against how our lives were before.
Everything we do post-pandemic is how widows have continued to live day-to-day. Everyday we are learning how to live in our “new normal”, with memories of our old life always there as the base.When you're living as a widow, you're constantly living in two different lifetimes: The life you had with your partner, and the present. Living in a post-pandemic world, it's the same: everything we do now also reminds us of the way we used to do things.Click To Tweet
Include your kids on milestones
The world just reached it’s first milestone: the anniversary of the global announcement of the pandemic. It was a shock wave that hit us all on March 11th 2020, and we all acknowledged how much life had changed on March 11th 2021.
Our little ones are very aware of how their life has changed, and they need to be a part of our acknowledgements on these milestones. To do otherwise would undervalue their awareness of the situation which is very much real.
When the first death-versary was looming, I tousled with the idea of whether I should just ignore it, quietly acknowledge it on my own, or make it something my son could be a part of. By this time, Knight was only 3 1/2, so it’s not like he would remember much – or so I thought at the time.
I don’t actually remember what I did, to tell you the truth. That year was such a blur of clinic appointments, packing our stuff to move, and trying to find someplace to move that I can’t keep the timeline straight – even years later. I do remember that whatever I did, I did it alone.
It wasn’t until half a year later, after we had moved into our new home and I was unpacking, when it hit me what I’d done. I had just unboxed my husband’s statue of a shaman weasel. It had been packed away for months while we were house sitting in between securing housing. As the weasel’s wooden eyes starred into mine, I felt my husband’s presence surround me.
“What’s that, mommy?”
Shocked by my son’s voice, I turned around to see him looking curiously at the odd statue that he’s never seen anything like before. The weasel with a skull as a helmet, a bottlecap strung around his neck, a staff in one hand, with the other hand outstretched. All the elements of his father in one wooden imagery.
It was that moment that told me that I’d just pushed off the inevitable all this time. That I’d tried to hide the loss of his father by hiding any presence of him, and that was the exact opposite of what I should have done.
So, I pulled my son close, and I explained everything. Well, as best I could. Why the weasel, and the bottle cap, and everything was important, and how they represented his father’s qualities. He listened, didn’t ask many questions, just nodded seriously.
Since then, I’ve hung up other pieces of art that his father left behind, even those of his own creation. I’ve made an effort to tell stories about Myke to his son as memories come up.
Now, we acknowledge these milestone dates, just as we acknowledged Covid-19’s official anniversary. Learn from my mistakes. Involve your children in these milestones as soon as you’re able.It was that moment that told me that I'd just pushed off the inevitable all this time. That I'd tried to hide the loss of his father by hiding any presence of him, and that was the exact opposite of what I should have done.Click To Tweet
It’s okay to say you don’t know
As a parent, you’re expected to lead your children through life as their teacher and mentor. You’re going to teach them so many things. It’s understandable if you are worried about how to answer a question that you don’t have an answer to. But it’s okay to say you don’t know.
If you’re stuck for an answer, don’t make something up. As I mentioned above, kids are smart and they’ll know when you’re full of it. Much better to say, “Hey buddy, that’s a good question! I don’t know. We’ll have to look that one up!”
What you’re doing is showing them that it’s okay not to know all the answers, which is an important thing to learn. Plus, you’ve just raised their confidence by stumping the infallible parent.
When my kids got older, they started wondering what happens to you when you die. After all, their dad went somewhere, didn’t he?
It was tempting to paint this fairy tale world of lollypops and rainbows that awaits us when we die, but I didn’t. Instead, I explained that every culture has their own version of where we go after we die, but we don’t really know. It’s the great mystery. And then I turned the question on them, and asked what they believed which sparked a lively discussion.
In these crazy times, there are so many questions that we don’t have answers to. No one knows when the pandemic is going to end. Even presidents and top scientists are searching for the answers. This is the state of the world now, and we’re all going to have to live with this other great mystery.What you're doing is showing them that it's okay not to know all the answers, which is an important thing to learn. Plus, you've just raised their confidence by stumping the infallible parent.Click To Tweet
The vulnerability that comes from trauma
Once tragedy has rocked your world, survivors are going to be wary. Their invulnerability has been shaken. Bad things have happened, and now there’s an awareness that it could happen again.
Grievers who have had to deal with the death of a loved one have now been touched by mortality, and that is a very scary thing. Your insular bubble of safety has been popped. Now, everywhere you look is a possible threat. You’re so aware of the moment, that even walking across the street puts on you high alert just in case a speeding car comes out of nowhere, you’re able to jump away in time.
This same psychology affects Covid survivors, who are terrified of being reinfected. There’s still so much unknown about this virus, there’s no idea of whether once infected one could get infected again. For those who had to spend weeks in intense care, the slightest tickle in the throat could spiral into anxiety.
Before I go on, please now that I am not trying to trivialize PTSD, and want to implore you that if you are spiraling to please get professional psychiatric help.
Once you’ve been touched by mortality, it leaves you vulnerable to life’s uncertainty. It can be a very scary place to be.
However, on the flip side, this brush with death also can recolour your perception of life so vividly that you become so aware and grateful for every moment you have.
Being vulnerable to the unknown also means that you can be much more aware of the life you’re living. I’m actually very grateful for the wake-up call, and try to be aware of every moment that I can.Once you've been touched by mortality, it leaves you vulnerable to life's uncertainty. However, this brush with death also can recolour your perception of life so vividly that you become so aware and grateful for every moment you have.Click To Tweet
It’s okay to be a mess in front of your kids
There are going to be days when the day is too much, and you break down. Maybe it’s because you used to go out for coffee every Saturday, but now the coffee shop has closed down because of Covid-19 and you’re in lock-down and can’t leave the house.
Maybe it’s because you have to work from home while also helping your kid with online learning, and there’s just too much to juggle.
Living as a widow taught me that when those days happen and my emotions become unbearable, it’s okay to be a hot mess in front of my kids. Why? Because when they see me in a vulerable state, even as their usually stalmart mother, it allows them to know that it is okay for them to have these overwhelming moments too.
Kids learn from example, and they need to know that their parents are human with big emotions too. That if you’re breaking down, that gives them allowance to let their emotions out too. In a safe way in a supportive community.
Little kids do know, and they will feel the effects when they get older
Kids handle tragedy in a much different way than adults do. Their lives are so in the moment, their natural reaction to big things are usually expressed in smaller ways. They are natural adapters. They need to be. Their lives are changing so much in every moment, taking on another big trauma isn’t going to faze them.
At least not that you would expect.
They won’t cry as much as you. They won’t be as worried about what the future holds, because they are so in the moment. They’ll go about finding glory in the world when you can’t.
Maybe they just go on as normal, which confuses the heck of you.
Just know that what they experienced is a real and as true as what you experienced, and even though they were young, they retained all those memories. They just picked up and lived life moment to moment.
However, they will show their grief in different ways.
Maybe your toddler will regress, and forget that they were perfectly potty trained. Maybe your four year-old will be frustrated at all these new rules that Covid-19 put on them, that they rebel against any discipline you give them. Maybe your pre-teen will suddenly have problems going to sleep, or worry about tsunamis or volcanoes that will erupt out of nowhere.
Regardless, you don’t have to worry about trying to fix it all now. You and them have a lifetime to figure it out.Just know that what your child experienced is a real and as true as what you experienced, and even though they were young, they retained all those memories. They just picked up and lived life moment to moment.Click To Tweet
Grief support is important
If anything, the main thing that became clear as the parallel between being widowhood and life post-pandemic, is that we all realize that having grief support is so important.
When the world is going through momentous catastrophes, we all lean on each other for support. When a widow is going through her catastrophe, it is mostly on her own.
I’m hopeful that this year has made it clear that grief is not something to be afraid of. Now that we’ve all lost our past lives, maybe this means we all can connect together – widows, Covid survivors, and the general wary populace – and support each other.
You’re not alone.I'm hopeful that this year has made it clear that grief is not something to be afraid of. Now that we've all lost our past lives, maybe this means we all can connect together - widows, Covid survivors, and the general wary populace - and support each other.Click To Tweet