On Becoming a Widow
By Elaine Williams ©2008

I became a widow at forty-seven years of age. I'd always thought my husband and I would be together forever, or at least a lot longer than twenty years. We have three boys, who at the time were eleven, eighteen and nineteen. When the reality of my situation sank in, I ran the gamut of emotions...shock, fear, an utter stillness of nothing, a frenzy of activity, and on and on. Emotions took me on a roller coaster ride of non-delight. One day, not too long after my husband's memorial service, I recall waking up one morning. As I lay in bed, it came to me very clearly, "what do I do with the rest of my life?" I was suddenly overwhelmed with fear.

I figured I had at least another forty years. Little did this ending in my life would lead me on to another beginning, another wonderful and empowering phase of my life. Four years later, I'm still in the midst of this incredible, uncharted process. I recently wrote a memoir of my last five years, starting with the diagnosis of my husband's cancer. I know in my heart that even though I wrote it as a catharsis for myself, other women needed to read it. I was hesitant to share anything so personal, but other women need to know in the grieving process they're not crazy or different or alone. My dreams have changed and my life has taken unexpected twists and turns, and I wouldn't change any of it. Incredibly, none of it. I am where I am supposed to be and there is no going back, only forward. http://www.ajourneywelltaken.com

Terminal Diagnosis
The Shadow of Loss
By Elaine Williams ©2008

I remember vividly the day my husband was diagnosed with cancer. We sat in the doctor's office, not saying anything after the doctor confirmed the lesions on Joseph's esophagus were malignant. Even though we had asked for the truth, it was still an incredible shock. I had never actually thought to hear the word "cancer." Perhaps we really thought he was going to say it was something that a pill could easily treat and make go away.

The entire office scenario felt incredibly unreal and out of sync, as if it was someone else getting this terrible news, or it was a television show we were watching. I had this incredible denial in my head my husband did not have end stage esophagus cancer.

Emotion took me on a great, overwhelming ride. I started crying, noisily and I had no control to stop it. The nurse who was also in the room put an arm around me. I had wondered why she was there; now I knew why. I was so overtaken by emotion that my body shook. The doctor put an arm around me next, saying it would be all right. Joseph just said to me, "It'll be okay. It'll be okay, Hon."

Vividly, I can still see that moment. Totally engulfed in grief, sadness and fear I cried so hard my entire face was wet and my body heaved with loud, wracking sobs. I stared at my husband who stood silently across from me, taking it all in. It took me a long time to calm myself, and at some point Joseph put an arm around me. That was the beginning of the never-ending numb confusion. The doctor tried to reassure us, murmuring that it would be all right. I almost felt bad for him, having to deliver the news.

Later, I recalled his words and the concern on his face. I wondered, what does it really mean when they say it will be all right? Was everyone's idea of "all right" different?

It took a long time to figure out what those words meant to me and my family. "Everything will be all right." To me, it came to mean a slow, methodical healing as we walked from beneath the shadow of loss. http://www.ajourneywelltaken.com

Why We Need to Talk About Grief
By Elaine Williams ©2008

According to the U.S Census Bureau, there are approximately 700,000 new widows every year. To me, this is staggering, and I never thought I'd be a statistic.

I've been asked many times if I wrote A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss while my husband was ill. As a caretaker, and even though I have been a writer for as long as I can recall, writing was the last thing on my mind while he was sick. It wasn't until two and a half years after his death that I decided to put my thoughts down in concrete form, since during this time I was having a hard time emotionally. Loneliness seemed to have engulfed me and was kicking me in the butt. Many days I had a difficult time getting past the grief that enveloped me.

My original intent was to record my fears, face them, and allow them the room they needed to dissipate. To achieve this, I felt I needed to confront what haunted me and deal with the anger and feelings of abandonment that had surfaced, unbeknownst to me. I had to do something to release myself from the pit into which I had fallen. In short, I viewed this writing as a catharsis or healing for myself.

In the beginning, I wrote 20 or 30 pages chronicling my husband's illness and subsequent death. Many times, I would cry as I re-read what I had written. I re-lived the pain in our lives and the affect it had on all of us, especially my boys, who at the time ranged in age from 11 to 19.

After writing the initial 30 or so pages, I thought I had satisfied whatever was driving me to dredge up the memories of those 11 months. I wanted to let it go and be done with it. Surely now, I thought, I could move on with my life. However, it was not that easy. Little by little, I added to the pages I had written. I felt driven to go to the depths and pull out all the gut wrenching emotion, exposing in naked detail the last several years of my life. Before I realized it, I had about 200 pages.

When I finished the story's rough draft, I knew I had written everything I needed to say. However, I began to get a strong feeling that other women should read it. Considering how personal this "journal" was, after all, I had freely expressed my rawest emotions, I initially resisted this idea.

My original title was Searching for Self, and that was how I viewed my life, that I was "in search of me". The idea persisted that it needed to be shared because it was not only my story, but the experience of many women. I decided to throw my experiences out there and deal with whatever might come in the process.

There's a sense of "knowing" in me that A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss will stand on its own truth and end up where it needs to go. http://www.ajourneywelltaken.com

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A Journey Well Taken:
Life After Loss by Elaine Williams