When I think about “firsts” I feel a warm, happy feeling. What comes to mind immediately are, first steps, first birthday, first day of school, first kiss, first love…..the list goes on and on. All of these “firsts” are big reasons to celebrate. Firsts are always exciting, right? Of course! They are firsts!
What I never thought about was the other kind of “first.” This first is the exact opposite of everything I ever thought about firsts. This first doesn’t bring joy or happiness. It’s nothing to celebrate but something that brings immense sadness. It’s not something we anticipate with excitement but dread like the plague.
What “The Firsts” are Painful After You Lose a Spouse
I’m speaking about the “firsts” that follow losing a spouse.
I wasn’t prepared for some of these firsts. When you have your first child you can purchase a book “What to Expect the First Year,” or “First Time Parent.” Parents who have more than one child share with you important knowledge that they have learned along the way. No one does this with “firsts” involving losing a spouse. I haven’t come across a book, “What to expect the first year after losing a spouse.” No one warned me about some of the things that would come up that I just never thought about or prepared for.
The things that come to mind are of course the obvious ~ birthday, wedding anniversary, holidays, etc. I feel like we brace ourselves for those. Where it became real difficult were not the expected events, it was the ones I never saw coming. These came out of no where and took my breath away.
I remember the initial “first” like it was yesterday. I was filling out paperwork at the gynecologist and came to the line, check the box…. married, divorced, widow, single. I had to check the widow box. I hated checking the widow box!! It’s was an awful moment. I was by myself and I felt so sad and so broken.
I would have much rather wrote a small essay than check the cold, lonely widow box. It would have read something like this…..
My beautiful husband of twenty three years has been called upon by God. He is deeply rooted in my soul and although not physically with me, he will forever be a part of every breath I take, he will live in my heart always.
Ahhh…that would have felt so much better than the emptiness of checking the widow box.
The next “first” that took me by surprise was when I signed a birthday card for my dad from our family. I always signed cards, So Much Love, Kevin, Laurice, Kelly, Ty, Quinn and Aidan xo. I quickly felt a pit in my stomach as the pen hit the paper and I suddenly realized that I would not be adding Kevin’s name to this card or any other card I write again. I think my heart skipped a beat in that moment. It was something I just never thought about. It hit hard.
The last “first” that stands out and I was less than prepared for is attending an event alone and having the DJ announce, “let’s slow it down. Grab your partner and join us on the dance floor.” I remember sitting at my table like a deer in headlights. I didn’t have a partner. He died. I forgot about slow dances. Am I going to be left at this table by myself?
Of course it turned out fine as I think everyone at my table remained seated in an attempt to cradle me without moving a muscle or saying a word. People can be so amazing!
Being a Widowed Parent
Of course there were also the “firsts” of becoming a widowed parent. Trying with determination to fill the shoes of both mom and dad for my sons, in an effort to lessen the pain of losing a parent.
I remember one morning in particular when my youngest son came into my room before school. He had a basketball game that afternoon and the expected attire for school was a shirt and tie. Kevin always took care of this for the boys. I had no idea how to tie a tie and I panicked. I didn’t want him to feel the effects of not having a dad anymore than he already had. Amazingly, he let it hang around his neck and said with a smile, “Don’t worry mom, I’ll ask a teacher to help me.”
Wow! Don’t ever underestimate your kids and how resilient they can be.
The next “first” I remember was after one of my older son’s basketball game. I told him “good game” after a game they had lost. He made a strange face and walked away. I remember feeling unsure of his reaction but choosing to let it go.
Later he told me that my comment bothered him. He explained to me that it wasn’t a good game and if his father were here he would have told him it wasn’t a good game and showed him what he had done wrong. He shared with me that he had lost the person that always made him a better player.
I knew that I wasn’t able to fill that void. There was no lesson or great ending to this “first”. It was just a visit with sadness and loss. To be expected under the circumstances of course but always such a tug on your heart when your kids hurt and there is nothing you can do to take the pain away.
So although I believe “firsts” should still be thought of as beautiful moments, it’s important to remember the “other first.” It’s necessary to be a little prepared for these moments as they are a reality of losing someone that you thought you would grow old with and who you thought would father your children through adulthood.
Take a deep breath and know that during these times it is important to tap into your internal reserve of hope and strength. You will find your way through. You will find your way to gracefully overcome the “other first.”
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Laurice Duffy is a recent widow, mother of 4 boys and a loving golden retriever puppy, Fenway. She is a life coach, blogger and owner of A Mindful Journey, living in Kinnelon, NJ where she also grew up. Her interests include decorating, long walks up to the park and spending time with family and friends.
In honor of her husband, a man whose heart was always filled with love and compassion, her mission is to spread kindness. She truly believes that the benefits of kindness are contagious and has a ripple effect that spreads outward. For a daily dose of inspiration, follow her on Instagram (amindfuljourney.ld) and/or on Facebook (amindfuljourney).