As a widow/er, it's easy to get drawn into the trap of just smiling through the grief when you feel broken inside.
When I first became widowed, I was seriously overwhelmed by mountains of paperwork and forms to complete, repeating the same information over and over, just on a different form for the same department.
Planning a funeral, trying to wade through all of the nonsense that follows death. To say I was busy was an understatement. To the outside world, I seemed to be strong and coping. The reality is that I was going through all the necessary motions to give him a send off he deserved, I was trying to sort out paperwork that would stop his mail falling on my doormat month after month. If that's coping, you're seeing things through the wrong eyes.
Everyone kept telling me how amazing I was doing, how strong I was, how proud he'd be. I don't know if they truly felt it, whether they were telling me to make themselves feel that I was ok, or to try and convince me I was. I wasn't. I was just occupied. There's a difference.
It first hit me properly on the day his headstone went up. I realised there was nothing left to do. He was buried, had a send off, had a beautiful headstone. I'd changed joint accounts to sole accounts, I'd let everyone know who needed to know. This was it. I was faced with the reality of life. On my own. With no distractions.
Everyone continued to tell me how amazing and strong I was, but the regular visits and calls and messages became occasional. The offers for going round for tea, they just stopped.
Everyone else had moved on in the grieving process, and I was stuck. I felt alone and isolated. I felt compelled to smile when I was dying inside, because I got tired of people responding to my visibly bad days with "oh you were doing so well", followed shortly by the head tilt.... Oh how that makes my blood boil.
I still am, I always was doing well, I just couldn't get them to understand it was just a dark day. So I stopped sharing. I stopped talking. I wore my best smile and spent 3 months longing to run home and release all the pain and sadness I'd held in while trying to smile.
Every day when I got home, and I closed that door, drew the curtains, threw on my pyjamas and curled up in his dressing gown, that was when I could take the smile off, and the tears would just flood my face angrily.
To cut a long story short, I eventually snapped in magnificent fashion, and took 5 months off work with anxiety, stress and depression, all brought on by my bottling up my true feelings.
My biggest lesson in life is to talk. Truthfully, honestly, and openly. Let those around you know what you're feeling, so they have the chance to help, support and intervene whenever you need it. Through talking, you'll soon learn who your true friends are - the ones who never judge, always support you and love you. You'll lose friends, possibly, but who wants people in your life that can't support you through the darkest time of your life?
So talk. Write. Compose a song. Do a drawing. Write a tune. Do something that allows you to express yourself in a way that is helpful.
Talk. It's really good to talk.