Heart Opening Lessons I’ve Learned As a 20-some Widow - Simply Woman

By on February 19, 2018

By Ruth Krug

What I learned as a young widow is not only the process of grieving and learning to let go, but also what it means to truly love from the heart. To let go of the idea I had of love as a 20-some and let love be exactly what it is: a choice to give and receive from the heart.

At my age you are usually concerned with going to school, getting a degree and career that will move you ahead, or just pursuing your passion. Maybe you are searching for the love of your life or thinking about starting a family, but most 20-somes are not thinking about planning both a wedding and a funeral for their future spouse.

But this was my reality at 26 years old and it’s made me see life in an entirely new way.

I thought I knew the direction my life was going until I met and fell in love with Jake in my early 20’s. I hadn’t planned for this, but love always happens when you least expect it, right?

Jake was also young, healthy, strong and active, but he had also come back from his 3rd deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. I met in him at a local coffee shop and we ended up falling in love with each other and going the journey of a relationship that involves the “c” word: cancer.  What I didn’t know at the time is that within a year I would be planning both our wedding and his funeral.

When it became stage 4, diagnosed as terminal, my world stopped. Hearing those words changed both of our lives. This wasn’t the life I had planned for us. I was suppose to be embarking on my dreams, not preparing for the reality of death of my soon to be husband. But this choice to walk with Jake until the end of his life would lead me to more wisdom and inspiration than I could have ever imagined.

During our last months together we went on as many trips as we could and we talked about everything from what the funeral would consist of to what my life would look like after he was gone. We both wrote poetry and letters during this time and our love just continued to grow deeper and deeper. I loved this man more than anything, but I also was accepting that I had to let him go too.

Learning to let go and living knowing that death is always a knock away, but so is life. I discovered that love is not just a feeling it’s a choice. I chose to marry a man I knew was dying and I chose to love him and put my career and other life ambitions on hold as a young woman to become his caretaker as we entered him into hospice. It was by far the hardest, but most honorable and inspiring “job” I’ve ever had. It was the first time I had truly loved a partner unconditionally.

The healing process has been long and it’s not easy being a 20-some and learning to date all over again knowing that in your heart you have a love that will always be with you. Healing as a “widow” is a journey that has taught me what is important in life, where I spend my time and how important travel is to continue to open my eyes all fall in love with life over and over again.

As I reflect on my journey that continues to this day, there are 5 key lessons I have taken with me as I continue to walk this path of healing grief and opening to life and love again.

1. Presence is key to a meaningful life. Learn to live in the moment.

At the end of the day are you present with yourself and the people around you? My husband, Jake, truly taught me how to live in the moment. Because our life together wasn’t focused on the excitement of building our life together for we had to surrender to the moment and learn to live in the now. We laughed and smiled more together and we even spent more time just holding each other. We learned to live in the moment and found peace through this. Learn to just cherish every moment that unfolds in front of you.

2. Focus on who you want to be in your life, not just what you want to do.

We tend to focus on external factors in our life, which we need to do at times, but are you taking the time to cultivate what you want internally to? This means, who do you want to be? We tend to value our worth by how much we do, but try shifting your focus to who you want to be in your life–the qualities you want to embody. As women when we take the time to create space to listen to our heart, our gut, the sensations that move through us, we come closer to discovering what we want in our life by honoring our heart.

3. Take chances and risks. Take the road less traveled.

If we live our life by doing what feels safe we never truly grow. Marrying a man I knew was dying from cancer was an event that changed and shaped me into a more present and compassionate woman. My early 20’s have not just been about career building, but heart building. They have made me take to think about what do I want in this life, not just what I am expected of as an empowered woman. Every woman’s journey is unique, but when we take the chance to enter into the unknown there’s tremendous amounts of healing and growth.

4. Don’t hold back your love. Open your heart to love without conditions.

We’re so use to not fully giving people our love because of the fear of being vulnerable or fear they may walk away and our love was a waste. What I have discovered is the only gift we truly have to give to people freely and without attachments is our love, so love for no other reason than just to love. I married a man not with the expectation that we were going to be partners for life, but that we would give each other all the love we had and it’s the most meaningful thing I’ve done in my 20’s. Let go of the expectations of what you think love is suppose to look like.

5. Don’t be afraid to start all over again.

There’s a quote I love to share when I teach a yoga class, “I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if not I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

I find we often close ourselves off to something new or different because we’re afraid to start at square one again, but this is the only way we grow. After Jake passed away I decided to take my yoga on the road again and I’ve been teaching yoga and traveling across the country and around the world ever since. I’ve been to over half the world, met amazing people along the way and these experiences have deeply enriched my life as I walk consciously through my grieving journey that continues to this day.

To start over again gave me the space I need to keep my heart open and move my life forward and slowly learn to love again.


ruthkrug_biophotoRuth is a worldwide holistic yoga therapy and trauma informed yoga + meditation teacher through her social initiative Breathing Room. In her spare time she is a writer & author of a blog (www.feedingtheheart) on healing. See photos of her journey on Instragram (breathingroom_yoga) and connect with her on facebook (yogawithruthkrug).

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