Last June, I was at a bereavement group meeting sponsored by Hospice. This is a general group, meaning not loss specific. When we did our introductions, all the others who had lost a spouse that said how long they had been married had all been married longer than I have been alive. I realized I was not getting the support I needed from this group. I post on an excellent online message board specifically for young widows and widowers that is very accepting of those of us who lost a fiance(e) or long-term partner. So, I knew there were others like me out there but I felt I needed to see them with my own eyes instead of only being able to communicate with them online.
On July 4th, I started a group through meetup.com for widow/ers under 50 in this area. One of the things I have struggled with is where I fit in since we weren't yet married. We were together for 7 years before he proposed and 8 years total but this is not a common law state. So, while I felt and lived like a wife, technically I am not a widow. I do have to say though after the 1 year mark passed, I became more accepting of using the term widow to describe myself. I usually describe myself as "essentially widowed." Anyway, I felt that if I started the group, no one could object to the legitimacy of my widow status. Plus, I wanted the group to include others who were in long-term monogamous relationships and those in domestic partnerships whose relationships are not recognized by the State.
Our group meets monthly for dinner. Our May dinner was tonight at a family-owned Italian restaurant. I really needed this. There were 6 of us ranging in loss time from 7 months to 7 years. The two at 7 years are married to each other and have been for 4 years now. They are such an inspiration to me. Their first spouses are still very much a part of their lives yet they were able to rebuild and find happiness again. I am so glad that even though they are no longer actively grieving they are regulars at our dinners. They fill me with hope.
But more than that, the thing I really appreciate about these dinners is that when I am with my group of widowed friends, I feel human again. They don't bat an eye if I am laughing one second and crying the next. They understand my new normal and around them I feel I can really be myself-whoever that Heather may be at the moment. They give me strength. We laugh, we cry, we ask and receive advice from each other. We talk about emotional things (like donating belongings and whether or not to sell our houses) and we talk about silly things (like how they should all chip in to buy me a GPS so we can expand the area where we eat without me getting lost). I hate there are people out there that are eligible to join my group, but I love them for doing so.