When Lightning Strikes Twice, Choose Love

Advice from a Reluctant Death Doula

Sandra O'Donnell, Ph.D.

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Photo by Cooper Baumgartner on Unsplash

My niece, a Methodist minister, asked me a few months after my husband Kim passed away, leaving me a widow for the second time, if I wanted to join a grief group at her church. I considered it for a blip before deciding no. I’d been through grief before. I was a pro. Plus, who wants to be in a grief group with a twice widow? Who wants to sit across from the poster girl for sure you might meet someone and get married again, but they will just up and die on you too and you’ll be right back where you were, crying your eyes out seven years later? I mean who wants to hear that lovely message of hope? Absolutely no one.

After my first loss, I’d navigated the months after death by throwing myself into a major research project that required extensive travel. I designed my life around the novelty of new places and people so I didn’t have to confront an empty house or the familiarity of a routine built around life for two minus one.

Losing someone during a pandemic was doubly cruel. Lockdown ensured I couldn’t escape my loss. I couldn’t travel far away and escape the memories we’d created. I couldn’t take a break from the well-meaning people watching me for signs of cracks or irreparable fissures. Without an escape hatch, I fell back on a carefully constructed facade of being okay. My conversations went something like this. “I’m going to be okay. I’m incredibly sad, but also incredibly grateful for the time we had together. I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t believe Kim isn’t here, but I’m so glad for our life together.”

When I met and fell in love with Kim, before I married again, I thought about the possibility of having to go through “it” again. It being, finding myself alone again. Being the one who had to grieve and pick up the pieces again. But the odds seemed significantly in my favor. I didn’t know anyone who’d been widowed once. I certainly didn’t know anyone who was a twice widow. Did they even exist? Lighting rarely strikes twice in the same spot, or the same person so, what were the odds I would go through that again? Certainly not before we were both old and grey. Not before we’d lived a full life together.

I Googled the odds of becoming a widow. The odds of becoming a widow by 50 are 1 in…

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Sandra O'Donnell, Ph.D.

Writing about life, death and everything In between. Reader of history, memoirs, and the stars. Looking for answers to life’s deeper questions.