I spend a lot of time here complaining about things that I find upsetting and frustrating, but there are many things that I find comforting and joyful, and some of those things have really helped me to make it through these past months with at least a shred of sanity remaining. Funny, the most comforting of those things is the thing that so many people complain so loudly about: The In-Laws!
Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.
Complaints about in-laws seem to be one of those never-ending topics. I’ve heard so many people complain about their partner’s families before their weddings, and have heard so many complaints worsen after the wedding. I always thought I was lucky because I liked Paul’s family from the moment I met them and the more I got to know them the more I liked them. So much so that one of the things I looked forward to when we spoke about a future return to the UK was the fact that we’d get to spend more time with his family!
When Paul’s family arrived in the states for his funeral, one of the first things they did was to assure me that I was a part of their family and that Paul’s death didn’t change that. And I believed them. Over the days that we spent crying and mourning Paul together, I felt like I grew to love them even more. Once they returned to England, I realised just how supportive and loving they’d been during the week they were with me. And I missed them so much when they were gone. In the days and weeks following the family’s departure, I got regular phone calls and emails and we chatted on Facebook often. With each communication, I was reminded that I am family and that I am loved very much.
I’ve read horror stories from other widow(er)s telling of fights over estates and insurance money, arguments over who’s loss is greater, conflicts over headstones and cremated remains, and angry words said in moments of grief. I’ve read of grieving widows who lose their husband’s family and any bonds that had existed, and worse of children grieving a parent who loses their grandparents over those arguments. (I can hear Paul telling me now: “People exaggerate and twist the story online – it’s not reality.” But even still, there is at least a small amount of truth in these stories, surely.)
I’m lucky. There hasn’t been a single moment where any of Paul’s family have tried to take advantage of me or when they’ve tried to make decisions on my behalf – without my specific request that they do so. Instead, they’ve all gone out of their way to let me know they are here for me. They’ve gone out of their way to make sure I know that they are here for me forever. No matter what my future holds. After all, I am their little sister and they have to look after their little sister.
Over the last eight-plus months I’ve received little care packages, emails, phone calls, text messages – you name it – from my amazing in-laws. They have offered me so much support and given me so much love that I’m overwhelmed at times. It is such a wonderful feeling to know that I have this amazing family who is thinking of me and looking out for me – even though we are nearly 6,000 miles from each other.
As I think about returning to live in the UK without Paul, part of me fears starting over and leaving all of my security behind. Part of me is afraid of being all alone in a foreign country where I’m sure to struggle with the costs of school and living. But a bigger part of me knows that all of those struggles would be worth it to be so near to the people who have become my biggest supporters and my biggest cheering section. There is comfort knowing that no matter what struggles may face me should I return I will be showered with love from the moment I arrive.
In my grief, I can easily find the things that upset me and that cause me to struggle and at times my grief makes me forget all of the blessings that I have around me. And Paul’s family – my family – is one of the biggest blessings I have.