Sometimes I refer to myself as a widow. I know friends are usually a little surprised when they hear me use the term. I’ve seen the look on their faces. Believe me, I’d rather not be one (a widow, that is).
There all kinds of people. All kinds of widows, too. Sadly there are really young ones, and old ones, and also the ones who fall in the middle (like me). Officially, I belong to a “young widow” support group, it meets once a month. I haven’t gone in quite a while. Winter storms canceled several meetings, other things came up. But I finally made it back, last night. It reminded me that there are all kinds of widows. Loud ones, quiet ones, cheerful ones, sad ones. And that as we move through our loss, as we continue to live with it, our relationship with being a widow changes too.The group I attend is boisterous. At least, it always seems to start out that way. A good contingency meets up for dinner before the meeting, and their lovely light mood and dark widow humor comes to the meeting with them. I appreciate the levity, I really do, but at times, it can be overwhelming. Especially for a new widow. Or a shy, quiet widow. Or the widow who falls in the middle. A widow who didn’t get decades with her husband, never got to see his hair turn to salt and pepper. A widow who doesn’t have kids that give her a reason to keep going. She’s young, in terms of how most people think of widows, but she’s also not twenty…or thirty. She’s no longer at an age where a whole new life, a whole new, fresh family, could easily be made. I’ve seen the posts from other widows who are entering the on-line dating world. Am I supposed to run out and quickly try to find a husband so I can start a family??
It fucking sucks. It sucks beyond belief, this middle-aged middle ground in which I find myself.
I try to not focus on the negative. I am not “doomed” to a life of “aloneness”. I still have a future. I know I do. I try not to allow myself to fall down a hole of self-pity. I work hard against physical and emotional gravity. But don’t tell me that “things happen for a reason”, or that “there’s a silver lining in every cloud”. I can find things to be thankful for every day. The fresh air, my sweet dog, I can brush my teeth, go for a walk, I have a place to live, a job, family, friends…I am alive. But I will not be looking for a silver lining in the dark cloud of my husband’s death. That wouldn’t be fair to him. Nor is it fair to me. Friends, support groups, grief therapists, do not a marriage make. When you become a widow, you lose a lot. More than anyone – except another widow – could possibly know.
Some days, the dark perspective prevails, the stark reality that I am now alone. That I have nothing to “show” for the marriage and family we were in the middle of building. Just a horrific hole. 10 years of my life. Was it a dream? Was he a dream? What a horrible feeling. What a horrible thought. And what next? What now? We were in the middle of getting ready to move, in the middle of getting ready to adopt a child. Now I am balancing on one leg in this middle ground. Not sure if I go forward, or try to back-track.
That’s why I continue to go and sit with other widows. Despite the fact that I am quiet, and actually very private. Despite the fact that it’s painful and hard to share such vulnerability with strangers. Despite the fact that I usually feel bowled over by the boisterous bunch. Because when it’s my turn to talk, they are quiet. They listen. They support me. They support each other. Deep down, they know what it’s like. Some of them have been widows for years. They are the ones who tell the jokes. They are lighter, because they have some distance on their loss, the dark funnel-cloud in their rear-view. But they keep returning to the group, too. And I am thankful. It helps me to believe that one day, I will be lighter again, too. Maybe one day I will actually believe the words that we say at the end of every meeting: I give you my hand, so that you know you are not alone.
Will I ever get out of the middle ground? I don’t know. It’s how I have felt most of my life. Didn’t quite fit here, or there. But with my husband, I fit. We fit.
Some days it just fucking sucks. It sucks beyond belief, this middle-aged middle ground in which I find myself. Alone.