Instantly Widowed!

I was widowed at age 44 in January 2003. My husband was 51 years old at time of his sudden death. My two sons were in their teenager years then. They were old enough to know what death is but yet young enough that they still needed me.

Looking back, did I fully recover?

How did I cope with managing it all alone, mired by grief, anger and regrets? Paroxysms of rage clutched at my chest as I tried to make sense of being widowed at a difficult stage of my life. Those whom I know did not seem to empathize with my condition. Who do I turn to? Where could I seek help? During my grief-soaked hours, I was desperately looking for answers that baffled my mind.

“Why did my husband die suddenly?”

Gradually, my searching for “Whys” became futile. The saying, “Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone” was true. I was grieving alone and wallowing in self-pity. I had to put up a brave front to look strong for others; especially for my sons. That was all I could do to remain sane.


Silently, I was shouting for help! Many concerned friends suggested I approached a counselor for grief therapy. Others said, “Don’t feel sad, you can get over it” and “He is in a better place”. These un-helpful comments were meant to be comforting but they were more intellectual statements that could not fix a broken heart! These words added further damage to my intense feelings instead. Grievers need to be heard and not fixed!


Suddenly widowed! How devastating and ill prepared for me to deal with the conflicting mass of emotions we call grief. It was as if thousands of blades were piercing through my heart! Such excruciating emotional pain could not be heard but felt. Not many people are equipped to help grievers.

Desperately in search for answers to soothe my broken heart, I began to patronize the local libraries where I could find books about death and grieving. The least I could do was to connect cognitively with the authors on this subject of loss and grief. Gradually, I began to pick up the shattered pieces of my broken heart. To me, these were small steps to move on beyond my grief. At times, I had wished for people to come alongside with me. Yet, sometimes, I intentionally isolated myself for fear that others may be affected if I showed my sad, painful or negative feelings.

As time moved on, “would I be able to recover?” often kept recurring in my innermost thoughts. What does recovery mean? “Recovery means feeling better”; “Recovery is being able to enjoy fond memories without having them precipitate painful feelings of regret or remorse”. Indeed, recovery is when I am able to talk about my loss as a normal and healthy journey of life.

As bitter as it was, this was a rather meaningful part of my life.

– Tang Chow Kheng

About Joan Swee & Tang Chow Kheng

We are Certified Grief Recovery Specialists who have walked the painful journey of loss. We help individuals and groups learn to process their grief and pain, to move beyond life losses: bereavement, divorce, job or health loss.


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