Learning to love life again

2012-03-19 00:00

WHEN a person loses his or her life partner due to a tragic accident or illness there is often the feeling that life has dealt a terrible blow. Tash Reddy (34) was one of those who experienced the death of her first husband in a tragic car accident in 2008. For this young woman the experience was life-changing.

From being a happy bubbly person, she totally withdrew from a social life and became isolated, bitter and angry at God. She believed that she was being punished. Coping with the grief of losing a spouse is not easy and worse is trying to put back the pieces of your life.

Reddy, a former radio personality, has formed a support group for men and women who have become widows and widowers so that they can connect and share their experiences. Out of their discussions the idea for a book was born. She told The Witness why book and the website have become an important tool for those coping with bereavement.


What prompted you to write the book?

When I became a widow I was completely lost and had no way of getting any help. All the books I read were about life after death, and I wanted to read a personal account from somebody who had gone through exactly what I went through and how they were able to live again. My aim was to give hope especially to the new members out there who are asking all the questions and going through all the fears that take over their lives.


How has the book been received?

I want to be optimistic and say that the book has been received well. It hasn’t reached the top of the New York Times best sellers’ list yet, but it has been a blessing to so many people and that’s what it was intended for.


How does the book differ from the website?

I wanted new widow/ers to experience other people’s losses through the stories and to understand the different reactions and different emotions experienced. All our stories are different and this book covers various losses from sudden death to long-term illnesses. I started the website nine months after my husband died in 2008. I saw it almost as a rebirth of myself. It helped me to heal and I was able to share a common bond with others in the same situation.


How many followers have visited the website?

We have new members visiting the site everyday. I send each of them an e-mail of support. We have members from all over the world and now technology has even allowed us to have a BBM Group and a Whats App group as well


In your book you mention that it’s common to find that people behave inappropriately, how should people act with someone who has lost a spouse?

Love them, support them, be there for them, don’t be afraid to speak of the person who died, don’t speak of them in hushed tones, and don’t treat them like victims and never pity them.

It’s the worst thing you can do and can seriously hamper their healing. Take your cue from them and they will show you how to act and how to deal with the loss alongside them.


Would you say the loss of a spouse is worse than any other kind of loss or just different?

It depends on one’s connection. For many, spouses are our soul mates. We plan a life with them, we have children with them, we share bonds with them but they can be replaced. I’ve had the tragedy of losing my father and my 20-year-old brother in the past year and I would say their losses have been far greater. For many the loss of a spouse is accompanied by plague of loneliness.


Does being a widow have a stigma like being divorced?

Oh yes, widows are stigmatised. They are seen by some as bad luck. The thing with divorce is that a couple makes the decision to split, but with death you have no control over it. People assume you have inherited lots of money, they assume we have to dress a certain way, act a certain way and God forbid you introduce a man into your life.


You have since remarried. Have you changed the way you relate to your new husband?

I still carry the paranoia of losing my first husband, Denver, so Daniel has hell to pay even if he is five minutes late, but I’ve learnt to appreciate him, throw caution to the wind and stop stressing about finances, and we do the things we want to do as a family. We have more fun, make more memories together and appreciate the littlest things in our life.


How does your son cope?

He loves his new stepdad so much, and he doesn’t want to be reminded of his real dad all the time because his dad is dead. I have created an Internet website of sorts www.denverreddy.memory-of.com with a collection and tributes to his dad. Maybe when he gets older and more curious he can look at it and show it to his children someday.


Before you started your organisation, was there any other kind of support group?

No, none whatsoever. I searched everywhere and found nothing, and I was so desperate. My world had just collapsed and all I could find were support groups for divorcees and single mothers, so I started my own.


What are the typical fears a new widow/er faces?

You do become afraid. You worry that you will never find love again — at least not a soul mate that was your husband. You have to cope, especially if you have children. You go through the different stages of grief, especially anger, and there is no set amount of time for healing. It depends on each person and their willingness to move on.


What other issues come up after a death — guilt, remorse, loneliness?

All of the above. You know what your spouse would want from you but then there is society, in-laws, family members you have to please as well. You find you change your whole life to accommodate eveyone’s needs but your own.


Do you have any advice to people who are in your shoes?

Don’t forget you are an individual. You have many roles to fill apart from wife, mother, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, best friend. Always be very real about your life and your marriage. When someone dies we tend to idealise them instead of looking at their faults as well, remember the complete package,

Make peace with their death. Nothing can change what happened and think of this as God giving you a second chance at life. Imagine the possibilities. Never ask why me? rather why not me? You are not alone. Thousands of women and men are experiencing your pain everyday. Let’s hold hands and help each other through it.


• Widow Without by Tash Reddy can be ordered from www.widowed.co.za


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