Monday, January 22, 2018

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

by Monica Bobbitt

It was recently brought up in a group I belong to that said group should be exclusively for spouses of currently serving members of the Canadian Forces. No spouses of veterans or military widows like me.

The conversation morphed as online conversations tend to do, and took on a nasty and somewhat ridiculous tone, and I had to walk away.

I've been thinking about it ever since though.

Because the whole thing just made me so sad.

Sad that instead of holding each other up, they were pushing each other down.

Sad that it became your one of us and then your not.

And sad that they don't know what they don't know.

And what they don't know is that we were them once.

The fact is, as a military widow, I have become used to being marginalized. Of not really fitting in. I'm neither the spouse of a current member of the CF or of a veteran.

I don't fit into any neat category. I am an Other.

Your spouse dies in service to his country and you become an Other. We're referred to by Veterans Affairs Canada as a Survivor, although sometimes their own staff doesn't even know what that means.

Personally, I like to call myself a thriver, because I've done a heck of a lot more than merely survive these last three years, but I digress.

One foot in the civilian world, the other in the military community, we are trapped in a nether land in between. A place we never wanted to be, with the last posting message anyone ever wants to receive.

And yes, I have been told I don't belong in the military community anymore (never mind I'm the parent of an RMC cadet).

But for the most part, overwhelmingly, I have been treated by all as one of their own, as still part of the military community.

And I am.

It's taken me a lot of soul searching (and walking) since I've become a widow to figure out just where I fit into this world. And to realize that I belong exactly where I want to belong.

And I also know that I have so much to offer, not just to my friends and family, or to other widows (military and civilian) or to anyone else who may be facing a difficult time.

I have so much to offer to those very women who don't want me in their club, now that I belong to that new club, The Others.

Just as the spouses of veterans also have so much to offer them.

But they don't see that. Because you don't know what you don't know.

Their attitude is a common one. There are so many that think like them. We see it all the time all across society, not just in our CF one. It's a throwaway world.

Someone retires and they suddenly become obsolete. They no longer matter. And the wealth of experience and knowledge they have to offer, well suddenly we don't seem to need it anymore.

When in fact we actually need it more than ever.

But we don't know what we don't know.

Take the time to sit and talk with any veteran, veteran's spouse or widow, and you will learn so much.

If you listen to really hear what they have to say.

They can teach you so much about life and grief, service and sacrifice, and even regrets.

When you exclude them from your community, when you close your ears to what they have to say, you miss out on so much.

Knowledge, support, guidance.

And then one day, when you suddenly find yourself the one in need of that support and guidance-- from the spouse whose husband has PTSD; or the one whose husband had the critical brain injury; or the military widow who buried her husband, well it's not there. Because she isn't a part of your club anymore.

And so I read what those women had to say yesterday. And I was sad.

Because that spouse of yesterday?

She is the veteran's spouse of tomorrow.

And she could very easily be the military widow of today.

The doorbell rings.

And the wife who belonged yesterday is the other of today.

This I know to be true.

Because it happened to me.

I was them once. I never thought it would happen to me, but then we never think it will happen to us.

But it can. And it does.

It happens when we are twenty-three and when we are forty-three.

It happens when our husband is a young gunner. And it happens when he is the CO.

It happens when they are deployed and it happens when they are on exercise.

I hope they never have to learn the hard way what they don't know, but if they do, I'll be there for them.

Because though I might not be a part of their spouse's club, we are all part of the same military family. No matter how long our spouses served. No matter when our spouses served. No matter how they died.

I will help them stand up.

And I will help them carry that flag.

Because I know just how heavy it is.

And I know it's far too heavy for one person to carry on their own.

You don't know what you don't know. Until it happens to you.

Chat soon,


Click here to learn 25 Things I Didn't Know About Being A (Military) Widow 

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  1. On behalf of all of the spouses who are too ill-mannered or obnoxious to care, I am sorry how they spoke to you in that post. I saw it and couldn't believe some of the things I read. I don't know you, but thank you for being such an amazing person.

    1. I wonder if you are a reminder of what can happen. If something is not staring you in the face, you can convince yourself it cannot happen to you. Your presence, is makes them have to think about the possibilities. Regardless, you could be a great resource for someone newly wearing your shoes.


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