THE BLOG
04/15/2013 07:11 am ET Updated Jun 15, 2013

The One Great Fear Among Widowed... And How To Overcome It

Most people in the world are afraid of dying, which is not exactly what you would call an irrational fear. However, many people are so afraid of dying that they do not even want to discuss death, which, uncomfortable as this discussion may be, is downright irresponsible. This particular fear causes people to either postpone or outright refuse to make out wills; they do not carry life insurance -- and we have all likely had at least one person say, "I don't like funerals" (as opposed to those who do like funerals?)... all out of a fear of the inevitable day when they will no longer be here on earth.

However, in Widowed World, there exists another sort of common fear. It is the:

FEAR OF LIVING

To those outside Widowed World, that may sound completely absurd; perhaps almost comical. Who on earth would be afraid of life -- of getting up every day and going to sleep every night, of going to work or school, of picnics and paying bills; kids' activities and holidays?

The answer?

THE WIDOWED

Catapulted into a life that was unexpected, undesired and is perhaps even right now unbearable to say the least, you may find yourself absolutely terrified of life. While necessary, leaving the house for work is nonetheless fraught with fear. Socializing is completely out of the question and even answering the phone gives you cause for pause. What you may not be able to figure out is:

WHY?

Fear -- of the future, of "starting over from scratch", of being alone -- is really a fear of one thing, truly one of the greatest fears of them all:

THE UNKNOWN

Everyone has been afraid in their lives at one time or another. Think back to your first day of high school, your first day on a new job (any new job)... even your wedding day (admit it, you were nervous). And try watching your child -- the person whose diapers you once changed -- get behind the wheel of a car and drive off down the street alone for the first time while you stand on the porch waving... with a smile on your face and your heart pounding in your throat.

These and many other typical "life fears" were those that we were able to face and conquer (except for the child-driving-a-car fear... even years later, that one is still tough to get used to). This is because fears like these are a lot more "tangible" than what you are facing right now -- an unknown and uncertain future and certainly a life for which you did not willingly sign up.

So how do you combat the fear of the unknown, this "Greatest Fear of All"? How do you triumph over the fear of living that most widowed have experienced at some point during their Healing Journey? How do you move forward, past the fear and into your new life?

The archenemies to fear of the unknown are:

PROACTIVITY

EDUCATION

SUPPORT

COMMUNITY

It is difficult for proactivity and fear to coexist in the same space. When you become truly proactive in your Healing Journey by surrounding yourself with the tools that you need -- the education that is absolutely integral to your healing, the support that best speaks to you and a community who understands and encourages your processes, you will be propelled forward in a positive way and the fear begins to diminish. When you begin to take control over an area of your life where you may have had virtually no control, your confidence in you specifically and with living in general starts to resurface. When you begin to see the actual fruits of your proactivity -- going out and genuinely enjoying yourself, learning or trying something new, making new friends...even something as simple as accomplishing a household task that was once your late spouse's responsibility -- the fear continues to weaken and little by little, eventually disappears.

It is so easy to just tell someone "Don't be afraid" (and usually the person saying that has not experienced widowhood firsthand and / or has nothing to be afraid of at the moment). Everyone in the widowed community has been afraid at some point. All widowed know the fear of the unknown and at one time or another, have been absolutely paralyzed by that same fear. Understand that it is OK to be afraid, as long as you also understand that this fear does not get to take over and rule your life. While it is true that we cannot control the circumstances that have taken loved ones away, we can certainly control our reactions to loss and chart the course that we want to take in healing after loss -- and the fact remains that life is not meant to be feared. Life is meant to be treasured and savored and lived as loudly, largely and lovingly as possible.

Remember one more thing:

The definition of courage isn't "not being afraid".

The definition of true courage is being afraid -- and holding your head up high, taking a deep breath... and moving forward anyway.

Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com

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Earlier on Huff/Post50: