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.
I so love your writing and look forward to your posts. I won’t even pretend to know everything you are feeling. You were robbed. I must confess I particularly like your refusal to “look for the silver lining” as you feel it would be unfair to your husband. I get it!
If anyone said to me that my beautiful, vibrant mother is ” in a better place”, I think might inform them otherwise with some colorful four-letter words I know.
Your heart feels familiar to me because you are wading through loss, and the way you express yourself makes me believe we could be friends. Three years after losing my mother, I am scarred and often scared. My grief feels almost sacred now. I keep it to myself as those around me have tired of hearing or thinking about the aftermath of death.
I am sorry that I have no words of wisdom for your journey. But the fact that you are willing to share it with your wit and honesty touches me and helps remind me that I am not alone. That is a gift you have given me today…thank you.
Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate it. I was laughing to myself the other day, as I thought, I have “bloggers block”! I had actually been wondering if it was time to stop blogging altogether. Just as you talked about holding your loss “sacred” now, and feeling like people no longer want to hear about it, there are times when I wonder why people would want to keep reading as I continue to re-hash my loss and grief. But I think part of how we honor our loved ones is in how we grieve.
And we do find connection by sharing in grief with others, even if our losses aren’t the same. I am so sorry about your mom, it’s clear how much your cherished her, and how much you miss her. I was reading some of your posts, and I loved reading about your experience with the mourning doves. Beautiful. Take care, and thank you for connecting.
please don’t stop blogging. i’m always waiting for you to post again, always checking back. i don’t have the same type of loss and i’m in a different place, but as someone whose story i found as i began the mourning process, i feel incredibly connected to you as well. it rushes back on all of us at some point or another, and that’s why a community of those who have been through it is so important. people in our regular lives might be tired of it, but here we can have a community of people who will always be sensitive to it and not question why we can’t get over it. thank you for writing! please keep it up. and ps – your hair looks beautiful, i love that picture with your rings.
Aw, thanks!! You know, I was thinking about how certain voices in the blog world just “speak to me”, like yours, and others. These are the people I have connected with, and there is so much value in this connection…no matter where we are at in our process. Thanks for the reminder, and your support. I still smile when I think about that robot video you sent me the link to! It inspired me to write about grief being a “frenemy”! Hope you are well. I haven’t read any blogs in a while, will need to get caught up, though I think I saw something about JT 🙂
haha! i was shopping yesterday and heard that pop song you were blogging about (last summer i think?) and thought of you. a little musical interlude helps sometimes 🙂
It’s so hard for others who haven’t lost a spouse to understand that you not only lose your life partner but you also lost your plans and dreams for a future. You mourn on many levels. We seek out other widows because we don’t have to explain that to any of them…no matter their age or how long ago their loss. I am far enough out now that I own and use the widow label almost defiantly…I don’t want others to forget that I am different than before, that there is a part of me missing. It’s my little way of keeping my husband with me.
You are a gifted writer, by the way.
Thank you Jean. I really like what you’ve said here. It also reminds me of the post you wrote about tattoos, I think that is why some widows get a tattoo, for that same reason, a permanent reminder to themselves and others. And no, I haven’t decided if I will be getting one yet. Maybe the label is enough. Hope you are well!
I loved this post so much and related.
When I was going into a widow’s group (where I went it was divided by young/mid-life and older widows, which is brilliant, i think) I told them I would NOT go into the mid-life group which is where I belonged chronologically. I had a 13 year old son and not quite 16 ears of marriage; I knew that I would not be able to sit with men and women who were talking about grown children, 25th anniversaries. etc. I was put into the younger group (just coincidentally that group was mostly 40’s with a couple very early 50’s) and it was perfect.
Anyway, being with other widows is important because, while all grief is understandable and relatable, being with people who share your specific loss can be especially comforting. I am still friends with the people I was in group with, and grateful for that.
And omg yes, some days it just fucking sucks. I’d love to tell you it gets way better, but it just changes, constantly. It is on us to roll with those changes, and your blog is a great way to do that. I too hope you don’t stop writing. I look forward to all of your posts, because I know I will read a little of my truth here.
We were robbed.
Thanks, I hear what you are saying. It does help to see a little of our truth reflected in others’ experiences and reflections, it really does. I needed to step away for a a little while, but there was something very comforting about coming back, and reading what people have been writing about…that change continues on for all of us in different ways. Hope you are well!
“Was it a dream?” At first, it felt like this was all a dream, and we were taken from our real life. Now, as we approach the second year, this is our life, and the past feels like the dream. This could be signs of the second year difficulties that the the other widows have been talking about.
Good for you for taking time away from widows communities, to take the gifts of commiseration and comfort and weave them into your own understanding of all this. That’s difficult, heartbreaking work, both to do the work itself and to get through it with the illuminating realization–this sucks.
I so enjoy your posts and hope as well you keep writing. Jean is so right. It is not just the physical loss and the yearning for him to JUST BE HERE. It is the loss of our future, our dreams and the emptiness and terror of not knowing what that will be. May 6 will be the one year anniversary for me and I know that friends have moved on and wish I would. But I still constantly refer to him in conversation because he is in my mind every minute of every day. I am reminded of a lovely poem by ee Cummings which ends, “I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart.” I still wear my rings as well as I am still married. Only it sucks because he is not here. Selfishly, what I miss is being called “sweets” or having him snuggle into my neck and breathe deeply and tell me how he loves the way I smell. I miss going to Costco with him. I miss every fucking thing. Even the arguments, although I wish like hell I could take every single one back. I was only married five years but knew him for nine. I keep going back to my old calendars and saying, nine years ago today we did this or seven years ago today we did that. Somehow it helps.
I have learned so much. Never been to a widows group, never heard widow humor, thought I was unique in tattooing his name…I’m 3 & 1/2 yrs a widow and have been hiding very well. Please continue to blog…we need your voice. Hugs, Patti
Just discovered your blog as I launched one on mid-life widowhood early this year. Yeah, I hear you — widow for nearly two years. I have a few widowed friends, but no widows group. I joined one online, but have not attended a single activity as it looks to be female dominated and maybe kind of dull. I like to talk with widowers as well, but they seem to be in short supply. You can find my blog at lifeafterwidowhood.wordpress.com
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