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Woman Takes Off Wedding Ring Day Her Husband Dies, Says 'Til Death Do Us Part Vows Are 'Complete' (Exclusive)

Whitney Lyn Allen talks about her own grief and explains why everyone should be true to their experience

<p>Whitney Allen/TikTok @whitneylynallen</p> Whitney Lyn Allen

Whitney Allen/TikTok @whitneylynallen

Whitney Lyn Allen

A young widow unexpectedly dealing with the unthinkable has created a community around the most difficult time in the lives of many.

Whitney Lyn Allen was married to Ryan, a K9 Officer in Pennsylvania, for eight years. The couple were parents to one little boy, with another on the way when tragedy struck.

"On October 14, 2021, with no history of ever being allergic to bees, he got stung on his way back from the gym. He had a very severe reaction, went into anaphylaxis, which caused him to go into cardiac arrest," Allen tells PEOPLE exclusively.

"His heart stopped for 20 minutes and that caused an anoxic brain injury, which is when you're deprived of oxygen to your brain. Because of how long he was deprived of oxygen, he had a very severe brain injury."

After six months, which saw Ryan in the ICU, followed by a number of rehab stays, the family was told doctors "didn't see any possibility of him living a meaningful life."

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Together with Ryan's family, Allen made the difficult decision to place Ryan on hospice. He died 22 days later, on April 7, 2022.

Before Ryan's death, Allen was a medical malpractice defense attorney, but "it didn't feel authentic to the person I had become in the aftermath of losing him," she says.

"I realized through this traumatic experience that we don't talk enough about grief. I wasn't prepared for what I went through, which is why I show up and talk about this stuff every day. I don't want anyone to feel alone or lost over what they're going through like I did because I don't feel like there are enough resources out there and enough people talking about this."

Allen first started sharing her story on social media as a way to keep Ryan's friends and family in the loop of his condition. As she continued, however, she started sharing more of her own experience navigating everything as well.

"I was 26 weeks pregnant when Ryan's accident happened. I gave birth by myself and my community showed up for me and our new addition," she says, noting Ryan's story also was going viral online throughout this time.

"After Ryan's passing, it proved to me how much people really need to hear about this kind of experience because people were writing me and telling me how much they appreciated my sharing our story because of what they had been through. I realized we don't have the resources to support these people at all. All they wanted was to be seen and for someone to witness what they were going through and by me sharing my story and being open, they felt that."

Sharing her story was "a very cathartic experience" that began as journaling and evolved into "helping thousand of people online feel really seen and witnessed in their own grief and loss."

One of Allen's most viewed videos discusses the reasoning behind her decision to take off her wedding rings the day Ryan died.

"It was such a weird experience because when Ryan had his accident, I felt like I really lost him then, in October of 2021. When his physical body died in April of the next year, I felt like I had been grieving him for six months at that point, because of all the trauma I had been through," she explains.

"It just felt so distinct between my world before my loss and the world after my loss. And taking off my rings to me was symbolic of me taking that step forward into my new life. Some people are comforted by wearing their rings, and I think you should do that for however long that comfort lasts."

She continues, "For me, looking at my rings, knowing that my husband was no longer here and that we couldn't be married anymore because this terrible accident happened. As much as I wanted that not to be my reality, it was and I felt like wearing my rings was not congruent with my reality. It was actually way more painful for me to wear them and look at them than not because that wasn't what was happening in my life."

Allen wrote more about that in the video's caption, saying in part, "My rings symbolized our life and love together while Ryan was alive-when we were both able to carry out the commitments we had made to each other on October 12, 2013. As soon as he died, our vows 'till death to us part' had been fulfilled."

"With Ryan's last breath, I had transitioned from a wife to a widow. That abrupt dethroning of sorts was jarring. The rings on my finger a beautiful but tragic reminder to myself and the world of what had been lost and what could never be again. The rings didn't bring me comfort or a connection to Ryan, but rather they made me feel sick because what the rings symbolized what was no longer my reality."

The decision raised some eyebrows on social media but Allen says that the people in her everyday life completely understood.

"We've all experienced this traumatic thing and felt we needed to grieve to move forward. They understood it was a personal thing. No one said anything negative or positive. It was just accepted that we're all grieving the way we needed to."

Though Allen takes pride in navigating these difficult subjects, she's sure to be clear it's "my personal experience."

"I never tell anybody how to grieve because I know that's not how it works. Everybody grieves in their own way, and it's personal to them. So what's right for me certainly might not be right for everybody. If people are just sharing their experience, I think that's beautiful and if it's different than mine, I think that's beautiful too because they're honoring what they're going through and what they need."

Allen has encountered critics online but says she takes solace in knowing "those people have not been through a life-altering loss, so they don't understand."

"It takes a backbone because you do, I feel, receive a lot of criticism sharing online, and sometimes it does hurt because I'm human," she notes. "But the overwhelming response is positive and supportive of my journey."

"Honestly, for those people, I'm grateful that they don't understand because I don't wish that on anybody. I don't wish that pain on anyone. Most of the harsh criticisms are from people that just don't get it and I'm glad that they don't."

Allen is "really proud of the community" she's built in sharing her story of grief.

"I'm really proud to be able to reach people in a way that I feel is profound and help people in a way that makes them want to build and create a beautiful life for themselves," she says. "I want them to see you can build a beautiful life after everything and to give them hope it's possible. They might not be able to see it for themselves, but they do see the possibility because someone else has done it."

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