In 2010, Andrea’s husband, Sergeant Edward Bolen, died in combat in Afghanistan when she was just twenty-five years old. From the moment the two soldiers arrived at her doorstep with the devastating news, to the struggles of the following months and years, she shares frankly about the raw pain of losing not only her husband but herself. She learned the hard way that if given the chance, grief takes and takes until you become little more than the labels cast upon you. She wasn’t Andrea anymore. She was the Widow.
Her story is more than a tale of the emotional imprisonment of grief and the devastating price of lost innocence. It is a testament to rebuilding a broken life, and a message of hope for those who are as lost as she once was. She found healing, acceptance, and love, and discovered her own enduring well of strength.
I used to associate pain as being primarily physical. Now that I’ve endured the reality of internal pain, however, I know physical pain pales in comparison. Emotional suffering runs deep and darkens the soul. It’s pain that cannot be seen but is nevertheless real and experienced every day.
My pain starts in my heart, flows through my brain, and spreads throughout my body. Some days it’s hot as fire, boiling my blood and triggering instant rage. A moment later, I’m cold as ice and just as numb. But the sadness is the hardest. When depression takes over, it’s difficult to escape. When I’m angry or numb, at least I know the feelings will pass. Depression doesn’t. Caught in its grip, I have nowhere to go, nowhere to turn.
When I find myself in that dark, limitless place, overwhelmed by hopelessness, Eddie saves me. His memory comes to my rescue and helps guide me out. Until the next time I fall. But no matter how smothering my sadness, how deep my depression, my heart knows he will always come. He won’t let me be lost in that bottomless hole.
I became a military widow at the age of twenty-five. Several years later, I began journaling as a form of therapy. While I uncovered truths about myself, I simultaneously discovered a story with the power to help others. Rather than reframe the work into a typical, self-help format, I focused on creating an intensely personal narrative.
It took me 6 years to write my story. “Who Are You Calling a Widow?” targets not only the military community, but anyone drawn to the widow’s perspective, whether or not they have suffered a loss. I hope to light a candle of hope for those who need it, and offer necessary advice to those uncertain of how to engage someone in the midst of grief.
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