In the first weeks after becoming a young widow, with three young sons, I had many mornings, days and nights that I pondered how I was to make it alone. How in the world could I support these kids? How could I, their mother, teach them what it is to be a good man, a good husband, a good father? How could our lives be better going forward? How could I get over being left behind to raise them alone? How would I answer my children’s questions about their Dad’s suicide? How could I stay positive and endure through these trying times?
While pondering our family’s future I was reminded of another young widow in my family tree, my Nana. Nana was widowed at 42 years old. She also was left to raise three young sons. My memories of Nana were that she was grumpy and bitter. She never seemed satisfied. I don’t think I ever heard her speak a kindly word. So at this new phase in my life, I wondered how much of her attitude came from being a widow. I’m sure that before her husband died of a stroke, a widow’s lifestyle was not something she had envisioned for herself, and yet there she was, alone.
I decided then that I refused to be like Nana. I would choose to be different. Though I was in similar shoes I didn’t want to go through life complaining. I didn’t want to be bitter and angry at the world. I wanted to find joy in life and seek out those things for which I should be grateful. I wanted to find the blessings in the journey, and find how this life changing event could bless not only my family but others around us.
Little did I know how important that decision was nor did I understand the effect it would have on my life. To date, people I meet often comment on how happy I am, that I am always smiling. One of the greatest compliments given me was from a longtime friend, spoken to the man who would be my future husband. At the beginning of his vetting process my future husband asked my friend, “Is she as impressive long term as she is at first blush?” The response was, “Donna has been through Hell and come up smiling.”
I am grateful that my legacy is being happy verses being bitter. I am grateful that becoming a widow didn’t stop me from finding joy in life’s events. I am grateful for the experience of becoming a widow. It has not always been easy but it has made me a better, stronger person. I am thankful for my Nana who gave me hindsight at the beginning of my journey. Through life’s experiences our family has been able to brighten and lift others who have traveled down the same road.
I strongly believe, “that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” I have lived through life’s challenges with the expectation that with God all things are possible. With that belief I have endured to this end, with a smile on my face, not bitter but grateful and happy. Thank you Nana, for the hindsight at the beginning of my journey.