This particular subject is not a feel good subject and is a difficult matter for any military family to think or talk about. Many of us likely avoid the subject altogether, but the re-posting of this article brought up a subject that I think about, even if I don't want to. I have to be honest in saying that I do think about it, and often. Our military lifestyle often catapults us into thinking about it, although I am fully aware that some people go to great lengths to never think about it.
I think daily about all of the military widows and families that have had a service-member give their all and I remember what their families have sacrificed. I specifically think about the families that I know personally, but I also think about all military families.
When reading this article, I had to take a moment to sit back in my chair and evaluate myself and my actions. Evaluate how I have been as a milspouse, in relation to military widows.
Have I continued to be a good friend to those women that were my friends before they became widows? Did I do all that I could and what I felt was right for the widows in my husband's former units? OR did I make people feel like this:
When those first six months had passed, I clung to what little life I had left in my body. That is also when I needed people the most. The sad fact is, I found that people did not want to be around anymore to help. It's too sad, you represent the worst nightmares; you are a reality no one likes to be reminded of each day. Most of all, you are not "fixable."
After reflecting upon my own journey, my tiny place within each of the situations where a soldier was killed in action or otherwise passed, I do feel like I did the best that I could at the time. I did not always react the way I probably should have, I did not always do everything I probably could have. I simply did the best that I could at the time. The majority of those times were during deployments and as bad as I hate to admit it, I too was struggling with my own fears. I was (at least) a little bit self absorbed and in a terrible moment for someone else, I got caught up in my own fears for my husband, myself and my children. The death of a friend or comrade does tend to bring your own fears for your husband to the forefront and although I knew being fearful was 'normal' - I also knew that I needed to set that aside and reach out to others.
After more reflecting, I also note to myself that I should look at the fact that I still consider myself a good friend to several widows. I have continued to stay in touch with them, helped them go through personal belongings, prepare to move, kept them updated on any changes for beneficiaries, listened to them when they needed an ear, not judged them while in the midst of their grieving journey and celebrated various levels of moving on with their lives as best they could.
Still though, I know that I could have been and still could be a better friend, neighbor or unit spouse.
As much as I hope that I don't ever know another milspouse who becomes a widow, the likelihood that I will know someone is there. The likelihood that I could someday become be a military widow is also there and I know it. I don't fret over it, but I know it.
For milspouses, facing the possibility of our service-member passing is more of an 'in your face issue' than in the civilian world. That is not to say that there aren't civilian jobs which put people in harms way, but our life is just different. We battle different demons and what ifs than your average civilian and we generally battle them on a daily basis, especially during deployments and training.
In my own little world, I face the fact that my husband deploys and puts his life on the line for our country and that he might not come back home. I also face the fact that something bad could happen during a training exercise or even on days spent as a quasi-civilian. But facing those realities does not negate the fact that it would be my worst nightmare to have 'that knock at the door' - I also admit that when I became married to the military, I knew the possibilities, but knowing them does not make the possibility of them any less alarming.
I hope that none of us ever become milspouse widows, but I also hope that if we ever do or if we ever know someone that is, that we can reach out a little more than we might have before and could hope for the same in return. That we can try to move beyond the fear of the moment that we have for our own spouses (and ourselves) in order to keep our milspouse widows close and could hope for the same in return.
I know that each person deals with death and grief in their own way, in their own time and some milspouse widows only want to remove themselves from everything military, including friends. That is their choice and whatever choice is made, it should be respected. I think that goes without saying really.
I have and will continue to honor whatever journey each widow that I know is on, but I vow to think more of them from now on, to do everything that I can to overcome my own selfish fears and let the person know that I will be here for them, now and always. I will not be one who lets the thoughts of my own possible worst nightmare get in the way of reaching out to someone who needs my arms wrapped around them for more than a moment in time. When military spouses become widows, they deserve nothing less than unwavering support from those of us that have been family to them over the years. It is the very least that we can offer them and in doing so, we will have to learn to set some of our own fears aside.
**Please note that I am speaking to my own story and experiences. I have spoken specifically to female widows because my husband is Combat Arms and the milspouse widows that I know are female.**