How I’m Prioritizing my Mental Health as a 26 y/o Widow

by | May 17, 2021 | Miscellaneous, Reflections

“I will always be sad about losing you. But I refuse to lead a sad life.” 

I saw this quote on Instagram and realized it is exactly how I am living my life these days. 

My husband, Michael, died on February 21, 2021, due to complications from COVID-19. Within days of his death, I was struck with an impossible question: What now? I knew that I would never be able to move on, and simultaneously I knew I would have to keep moving forward. I will always be sad about losing my husband. But I refuse to lead a sad life. 

So in my pursuit of leading an anything-but-sad life, here are a few ways I am prioritizing my mental health as a 26-year-old widow. 

Widow World Tour

When Michael and I started dating, one of the many things we bonded over was our shared love of travel. We had each been out of the country for various church and school trips, and vacations. As much as we loved swapping travel stories, we decided to write some new ones together. We went to visit friends in cities we’d lived in previously, went on road trips for weddings and birthdays, and accompanied each other on work trips. For his birthday this year I intended to surprise Michael with photo albums of our various trips (actually inspired by coworker Savannah!)

When Michael died and the condolences started flooding my inbox, so many people offered up couches and guest rooms if I needed to get away. The more I sat with the idea, the more I realized I really did need to get away. So I started booking trips to these various guest rooms. 

For the next year (at least) of my life I will be traveling the world, visiting people Michael loved and who love Michael, spreading his ashes in places I visit, and making photo albums to add to our much-too-small collection. I’m calling this my Widow World Tour.

Even without Michael, life goes on. I wish it didn’t, but it does. So I’m going on with it, making as many memories and connections as I can along the way.

🎶 Who’s that widooow? It’s Kat 🎶

A dear friend delivered a care package for me recently. In it she included items for my tummy, my body, and my mind and heart. For my tummy she brought snacks at a time that eating was very difficult for me. For my body she brought soft things like slippers and sweatpants. And for my mind and heart she brought a journal and pens. 

I carry that journal with me everywhere. In it I write letters to Michael, telling him about all the things he’s missed out on since he died. I tell him about my day, what I ate, what I wore, where I went, who I met, and how I feel. 

Sometimes this journaling is extremely helpful; it makes me feel connected still to Michael. Other times it feels incredibly pointless and honestly a little insane. But I keep writing. I take time to pour my thoughts and feelings out of myself and onto paper, so they weigh me down just a little bit less. 

Some journal entries evolve into publishable musings and social media posts. I share these on Instagram via #whosthatwidowitskat (because Michael and I were rewatching New Girl together) so my friends, family, and even strangers can see a piece of my journey. 

Widows Lost & Found

When Michael died I felt so alone. I was suddenly a 26-year-old widow, a fact I could not begin to comprehend. A widow in my mind was an old lady whose husband died of illness or old age. A widow was certainly not a young woman whose husband of less than a year died unexpectedly. I was positive there was no one else in the world going through what I was going through. 

I quickly discovered how wrong I was. 

Friends from all walks of life started reaching out, telling me I should meet so-and-so because they lost their partner, too. I want to meet every single one of these people.

I’ve also realized that when you’re 26 and you can’t sleep at 2 am because you’re grieving the loss of your husband, it’s hard to know which of your friends you can call for comfort.

For these and so many other reasons, I started an online community called Widows Lost & Found for those who’ve lost their partner to find community. I have often found that when I feel helpless in my own circumstances, I find hope in helping others. I’m on a mission to connect 100 widows in 2021 because those who’ve lost their person deserve to find an empathetic community of people who’ve been there and who get it when none of our other friends do.

{{ It’s worth noting here that my definition of “widow” is inclusive of anyone who has lost their person or partner, regardless of gender, age, or marital status. }}

One night as I was struggling to fall asleep, I prayed in anticipation for the widows who will join this group over the coming days, weeks, and months. I asked the Holy Spirit to give them (and me) rest, peace, and her presence. And I thanked God again and again that even though we feel alone today, soon we’ll have each other.

What is health?

Grief is heavy. It weighs you down in ways that no other pain does. As I grieve the most tremendous loss I’ve ever experienced, I am reminded that health is not an end-goal; it’s a process. 

Every day I have to choose to move toward or away from health. I won’t ever wake up one morning and suddenly be healed of my grief, or realize I’ve reached the final level on my quest to be healthy. I have to consciously make decisions and develop habits and learn lifestyles that keep me healthy. Being healthy isn’t a switch you flip on or a level you beat in a video game. It’s a constant process of growing and evolving and healing. 

These are just a few of the ways in which I am commiting to that process. Because even though I will be sad for the rest of my life that Michael died, I refuse to live a sad life.