Instantly–just like that–I was alone.
In the beginning, there are people everywhere. There is rarely a moment when people aren’t swarming. They are hugging each other and the widow. They bring food. They help greet other guests. They try to talk about something else, but they also want to know the details. They are all reeling too. To tell the truth, it really didn’t matter how many people were in the room–I was alone.
As time passed, the people around me went back to their normal lives. Sure, they checked on me and sent words of encouragement. It didn’t matter, I was still alone. Whether the kids were there or we were in church or even if we went to the show I was alone.
My buffer to the world was gone. My listening ear and advice giver was gone. My handyman, yard man, babysitter, lover, best friend, and protector were all gone. That was hard enough to deal with. What hurt the most–what bothered me almost more than I could bear–I was no longer married.
I was a woman, single, with 3 children and no income. It instantly changed the way friends and strangers treated me. It’s just another double standard in the world–one that most people do not think about. Things that had once been okay for a married woman to do, suddenly, being single made it different.
Before his death, there were many groups I felt apart of. After his death, there were very few. I was a part of our large set of high school friends. Without him, I was the single, broken girl in a sea of happy high school couples turned husband and wife. I had been part of a small church family, but after Randy’s death church felt like a cage and the people in it viewed me through a different set of eyes. Volunteering at school made me happy and I knew everyone. After Randy died, I lost touch with most of those women because of my grief and lack of time. The list goes on.
A large part of the problem was no one knew how to relate to me anymore. No one wanted to mention Randy in fear of upsetting me. No one wanted to ignore it in fear of hurting my feelings. People couldn’t be the happy couple because they felt like they were throwing their happiness in my face. The sacredness of the place mixed with emotional loss just made it more than I could handle. I tried to volunteer, but my time was obviously limited. Aside from that, when I was at school, I felt like everyone was talking about me behind my back and staring at me when I wasn’t looking. I was clearly not fitting in.
Isolation is not good for anyone. It is especially bad for someone who is terribly sad. I didn’t know how to fix the problem. I couldn’t change that I was no longer half of a couple–I couldn’t bring him back. I had enough to take care of, I couldn’t help other people be okay too. I had to realize as much as I like to fix things/situations, I could not fix this.
I tried to ignore it. I tried to act like I didn’t notice the stares or hear the whispers. I tried to sit in church and actually listen instead of cry constantly. I couldn’t do it. I hoped with time, things would take their natural course and bring me back to the groups I once enjoyed. Until then, I replaced those groups with groups that fit the new me–my new life.
I looked for widow support groups. I found some–too bad they were not geared towards young widows. As I have mentioned, younger widows share a very different set of concerns and issues than older widows experience. I found nothing that could help me connect to people in the same circumstance.
I joined a gym. It felt great to get in there, work up a sweat and get rid of some anger. I made friends with the women who ran the daycare at the facility. The front desk knew me. I hired a personal trainer to guide me and we developed a friendship. I felt like I was somewhere I belonged, and I was making progress on my body too.
I didn’t stop there. I started volunteering again. This time it was through a pregnancy center that often helped young moms through some really tough times and hard decisions. It was a Christian based center and I love that. I met other Christians who were willing to learn about me as I stood and they knew little of my old life. I felt good. I liked the people. I felt like I belonged. I also loved the work. It was near and dear to my heart since I was a teen mom long before MTV turned them into celebrities.
I found places to fit in that didn’t ask me too much about my life. If someone mentioned my husband, I just acted as if he was living and answered the question, or spoke about a past story, or smiled and deflected the comment. It was easier–plus, I just didn’t think it was anyone’s business, quite honestly.
I am sure I am not the only one who has felt alone on this journey or like they no longer fit in to the life they once had. It’s a time of adjustment and re-learning who you are. Don’t hide away from those feelings and no matter what, never believe you are the only one to feel this way. I think we all feel this to some level. If you haven’t felt this, you are lucky. If you have, heed these words: Don’t feel pressured to react the way I did or the way someone else did. Be you. Be the best you that you can be. Don’t be afraid of stepping out of your box–wonderful things happen when you do. You deserve wonderful.