5 Lessons I’ve Learned as a 40-Year-Old Widow and Single Mother

Even as time keeps moving, the path remains tough, but it’s in this journey, grappling with the raw reality of being a 40-Year-Old Widow and Single Mother, that I’ve learned deep lessons about parenting through sorrow as a Black woman.

I became a widow on December 23, 2019, at the age of 40, with a 4-year-old son. I would lose my husband and best friend two days prior to one of the happiest days of the year. Our closest friends and their children recently finished decorating gingerbread houses and preparing cookies. I pondered, “This cannot be true.” Despite the passage of time, the voyage still presents obstacles. Since my husband’s death, I’ve learned a great deal about parenting through sorrow as a Black woman.

I was aware that parenting would not be simple, but no one instructed me on how to parent while grieving. And I was unprepared for parenthood as a bereaved black father.

Be proactive.

Whenever I tell someone I am a widow, their answer, after expressing their condolences, is always, “You are so young.” Indeed, I never expected to be a “young” widow with a child. Yet, here I am, and it’s more frequent than you might imagine. My husband was not terminally ill; at age 43, he suffered a heart attack. No preparation time was available. Our narrative is more prevalent than you might believe. I recommend having these conversations about death as soon as possible because natural and non-nation causes leave Black families grieving.

According to research, Black Americans are less likely to have advance directives, and we are frequently forced to make difficult decisions while grieving. Ensure that your ultimate intentions are known, that you have adequate insurance, and that you have a will.

You can do difficult things.

My husband’s passing just before Christmas was devastating. As a mother, I did not want to rob my 4-year-old kid of his last happiness, so I made a difficult decision. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do was not tell my son that his father had died. We enjoyed Christmas with family and friends, despite my broken heart.

I recognized at that moment that my faith was strong. The next day, I read “Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death” to my son. Then, my heart was broken. My employer only granted three mourning days, so I had to prepare for a funeral and return to work. Frequently, bereavement compensation and support are inadequate or nonexistent for Black employees.

I don’t always have to be a strong Black lady.

As a Black woman, I have been told countless times that I will be fine because I am “strong.” Who said that? The generational curse of the powerful Black woman must be broken. Time has taught me that I do not need to “do it all” to establish my worth. In a time when mental illness is more prevalent than ever, particularly in Black communities, it is acceptable to be mentally sick.

Without feeling guilty, I’ve learned to seek my support network for assistance and let others know when I need a break from everything going on in my life. Let’s fight the myth that I must always be a strong Black woman by displaying the “white flag” and letting others know when I’m fatigued or stressed. Asking for assistance also allows me to see that I do not need to struggle and demonstrates that sometimes the best way to demonstrate strength is by taking a break.

My youngster needed to see me cry in order to understand that it is acceptable to grieve.

I recall the first time my son witnessed me crying. I was not desperately attempting to conceal my emotions from him when I told him his father had died or at the burial. Instead, I cried while we were packing our belongings. My 4-year-old approached me, gave me a hug, and said, “Mommy, everything will be well.” A portion of me felt relieved because I could no longer hold it in. Yet, when I looked up and saw my son’s tears, I wondered if he had pushed them back because he didn’t want me to be unhappy.

Children must understand that grief is a natural part of existence. It is acceptable to miss loved ones, and it is occasionally acceptable to cry when remembering them. I want other bereaved parents to know they have not failed as parents due to their grief. I want my son to grow up understanding that it is acceptable to express his emotions and have strong feelings, particularly as a Black boy. Counseling plays a significant role in our mourning process. Grief counseling is essential for assisting children in processing their emotions and developing appropriate coping mechanisms.

The lives of my loved ones and I will continue.

As the months and then years went, I realized one thing for certain: life will continue regardless of your readiness. No further calls, texts, or visits will be made. Your pals will resume their normal routines, and you will need to adapt to your new existence. A new existence that you did not select.

It took some time, but I eventually came to accept our new lifestyle. I’ve decided to view life as a blank canvas onto which I can paint whatever masterpiece I wish. Some will assert, “This is what your husband would desire.” I assert that it’s about my desires. I took the opportunity to rediscover myself and determine my interests. The time has come to create fresh memories.

But the greatest thing I’ve learned is that grief permanently changes you.

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