Only those who’ve experienced the loss of a spouse can know the intense emotional feelings of that bereavement. In Dear Me: The Widow Letters, Dianne Young compiles the feelings of twenty widows, including herself, in a series of letters written several years after the death of their spouse. Each widow writes a letter addressed to herself as she was in the immediate aftermath of her loss. It’s as if each is going back in time to give the advice and consolation she wishes she’d had.
These widows of varying ages live across Canada and one in the United States; thirteen are from Saskatchewan. Some marriages were long-term – sixty-four years for one couple – others short, barely beyond the honeymoon stage for another couple. Each widow explores her feelings as she goes through the various phases of the grieving process.
Everyone experiences grief differently, yet all share some of the same traits. Feelings of guilt and anger are normal. So is crying, even at the most unexpected times, like at a checkout line or going through the car wash. Others may not understand your feelings, but you have a right to them. They’re your feelings.
At times the sadness can be overwhelming. “Sometimes you will need to actually scream in a primal way to let it all out,” Lynn Murrell writes to her earlier self. “In fact, you will soon learn that the louder you scream, the better you will feel. Go ahead and punch some pillows too!”
The best way to deal with grief is to embrace the changes it brings, suggests Lea Faubert. “You must invite grief in when it comes knocking at your door – ask it to sit with you, have tea, and get acquainted. You will find that the only way to tame this beast is to know it intimately.”
These widows offer suggestions for coping – Connie Peters tells herself to “take long bubble baths (with wine and chocolate if needed)” – and signs of hope. “The pain will not go away,” writes Janice Howden, “but its intensity will dim.”
There is so much wisdom packed tightly into this small package of eighty pages. In offering advice to their former selves, these widows offer hope to others who may be experiencing the same or similar feelings. “Your heart may never heal completely,” writes Donna G, “but it will mend, like a patched sweater that is held together with new fibers.”
These heartfelt, heartbreaking yet inspiring letters share life lessons learned the hardest way possible. All twenty widows develop their own strategies to survive, and all eventually emerge stronger. Although directed towards widows, Dear Me: The Widow Letters will prove helpful to anyone who has suffered a serious loss.
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