Monday, March 30, 2015

Letting Go of a Lifeline

Not long after James died, I stumbled across the site site designed for young widows and widowers which had a message forum called "Chapter Two."  Chapter Two was defined in different ways:  for some, it was finding love again; for most, it was this new and foreign stage in our lives.  This forum was great in that it was divided into sections:  there was a general section, sections based on how long you'd been widowed, widowed with children, widowed without children, special circumstances, social, "widowbagos" (i.e. get togethers), etc.  The best thing about this forum was it was available 24/7 and for the most part, the members there were accepting of "non-married widows" such as myself and other fiance(e)s.

YWBB quickly became a lifeline for me.  It was the only place where there were others who understood exactly how I felt and what I was going through.  It was where I could cry and have others cry with me or laugh and not have others think I wasn't grieving "properly."  It is also how I found out about Meetup, which is what ultimately led to me starting my own group for young widows and widowers in this area.  Mostly in those first months, I stayed in the newly widowed (0-6 months) section but from time to time, I'd venture to the other sections to get a feel for what I could expect down the road.  I remember the first time I ventured into the social section and read about someone who was getting remarried-I started crying because I couldn't believe she'd do that to her late husband!  Over time, the social section became my "home" and as I read the posts of those I'd gotten to know through the board announcing remarriages, I envisioned the day that post would finally come from me (and I'm still waiting...).  I have not only "friended" several members of the board on Facebook, I even watched the wedding of one of them which was streamed live from the chapel in Vegas where the ceremony took place.  I can honestly say that will likely be the only wedding I will ever "attend" in my PJs!

As time continued to pass, I found myself feeling less and less a part of the board and eventually I started posting less and less and then I realized I felt I'd outgrown the board and found a new (non-grief related) place to post.  But I always knew the YWBB was there if I wanted or needed to go back to visit and whenever a new member joined my Meetup group, I directed them to the site.  I don't know how many tens of thousands of people worldwide found this site to be a huge blessing.

On Friday, March 6th, exactly seven years and 1 month after James died, I found out via Facebook the site was being shut down.  No reason was given but it was 12 years old and as I'm preparing to step down from organizing my Meetup group after 7 years, I can only imagine how the admins of the site feel after 12!  I'm sure they are definitely ready to move on to whatever is next for them.  I was at the beach with the dogs when I read the news and my first reaction was "No!  You can't take away my lifeline!  How do I fix this?!"  But the next day, I started to think about how long it had been since I'd even checked in and I couldn't remember.  What was being said on Facebook was that the site had become pretty dormant-of course, we all had to speculate on the reason for it's demise.  The more I thought about it as I walked along the beach just enjoying the waves crashing on the shore with the two four-legged loves of my life was that I wasn't sad for myself that this was being taken away-though it is a little scary to know my safe place is gone-but rather I was sad for those who are still to come who will not benefit from this site that has been a lifeline for so many people over the past 12 years. 

My understanding was the site was to be read only until March 20th and then it would just vanish from the Internet.  I haven't looked it up to see that it's really gone-I'm allowing the memory of how the site looked to stay in my brain as a reminder it was once there.  It would be too sad to get the error message the page I'm looking for doesn't exist even though I no longer need it to.

Good-bye, YWBB, and thank you for saving my life when I needed it the most.