Monday, June 28, 2010

Lost in the Widowhood

“I feel so lost.”

How many times have we felt that way? How many times have we heard that from other grievers? How many times have we just wanted to pull on a t-shirt that says it, so we just don’t have to explain anymore why we’re operating in such a daze?

We all go through these periods of feeling lost. Like we’re floating out there in the world with nothing to anchor us. We make the best effort we can to find that connection…the internet, support groups, counseling…something, anything to make us feel like we’re still part of the world.

For some of us, these periods last longer than for others. It’s discouraging and we feel like, when we see others who share a similar experience supposedly “getting on with it,” that we’re failing in some way. That we’re not living up to our grieving potential. That we’ll never get that promotion from “new widow” to “widow…once removed.”

But I have a different idea.

When we lose someone, our perspective changes. In a big way. The little things become just that…little (that is, until a little thing comes along and completely runs us off the road. That’s always fun). Our connection with the world and the people around us does a complete 180. Spiritually (not necessarily religiously) our connection deepens. We seek out those who feel the same awakening because that is who we suddenly feel a connection to. It’s baffling to many of us that who we find comfort in are not those people who have known us all of our lives, but complete strangers. When we see someone in pain, we can’t look at it in the same, detached way we could before. Because their pain was once our pain. And we feel it right to the core.

It’s frightening, this opening of the spirit. It leaves us vulnerable and insecure. And when we used to feel that way…scared and exposed…who did we turn to?

You guessed it. The person who’s not here anymore. Talk about your double-whammy.

Sometimes I think that the people who are having the hardest time, are sometimes doing the most soul-searching. We all feel loss very deeply, but I wonder if those people who can’t figure out what to do with certain areas of their lives – whether it’s professionally, romantically, or just what to wear in the morning – are actually taking the time to really figure themselves out. They’re not jumping into anything. Because jumping would imply that you have to land somewhere. And they’re just not ready to do that yet, damn it.

The problem is…everyone else around you is saying that you should be ready (mainly because the fact that you are still going through the grieving process makes them feel uncomfortable…it has nothing to do with you). They think you need to stop floating and join the real world once again. And it’s almost harder when you reach out to people who have shared a similar loss who seem to be “getting on with it” because in the back of your mind you think that you’re just not doing this right.

Sometimes I wonder if we are holding on so tightly to who we were, what we had, and what could have been…we focus all of our energy on that and let that take up so much space in our hearts that we don’t have room for the new person that’s waiting in the wings. It’s not denial…or if it is, it’s the sneakiest form. We know what’s happened. We are fully aware of what we have lost. What we don’t know is what happens next. And that’s when we start floating.

I feel like I’m making this sound more magical than it really is. This “evolution of spirit” doesn’t seem like it should come in the form of a ripped bathrobe and a bag of Oreos. When we wake up in the morning and feel like our entire body is made of lead, we don’t think, “Wow. I feel like crap this morning. I must really be doing some soul-searching.”

For me, I jumped into everything right after my husband died. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to figure out who I was, who I had evolved into, now that I was on my own. I wanted to get on with my life immediately. What I failed to recognize was that…my life was not the same anymore. That it was impossible to jump right back into my old life because my old life had taken a permanent vacation. The rules that I had followed before didn’t apply. This was a new game and in order to play it, I had to change. And change takes time.

And that’s really when I began to hurt.

I’ll never forget it. I was going about 100 miles an hour for 6 months after my husband died and then suddenly, I started to cry. And cry. And cry. I didn’t want to do anything. All of the decisions I had been so desperate to make a few months ago seemed as trivial as they were impossible. When I told my sister that I couldn’t figure out what in the hell was wrong with me she replied, “You’ve been moving too fast. And now you’re being forced to sit down and deal with what has happened.”

(Enter floating sensation and detachment.)

I guess my point is…when you’re feeling that lost feeling, try to look at it in a different way: That your damaged spirit is actually trying to take care of you while you figure out who you are. For some people this takes longer than others. For some, we’ll float back and forth between who we think we “should” be…and who we are actually evolving into. Because sometimes…that’s two different people.

And just remember…the reason we feel lost is because we’re hoping to be found.

© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. This post speaks to my heart and my condition. Your words express what is going on inside of me at this very moment at a soul level. Thank you for your clarity of thought and expression. I will be sharing this with others... THANK YOU.

  2. Amazing, again. Thanks so much. I keep oscillating between thinking I'm "moving on" (whatever the bleep that means) "too fast" or "not enough." In the end, I just try to trust my gut. And, when my gut proves to be less than trustworthy (which isn't often--one reason I'm glad, if I have to go through this, that I'm doing it at 48 not 28), I try to step back, recalibrate, and then dive back in. So, I'll be curious to see if I have the same kind of "I've been going too fast and now there's hell to pay" experience. Watch this space!


  3. I don't know you I am a friend of Erin but I wanted to comment. I was in this back and forth "Daze" for years. My father passed away when I was ten years old and it took me until my brother in law passed away to really face it. Then the daze set in and I was a mess until I found myself which I am in still in the process of but much closer than before.
    Hang in there. It took me 20 some years and then two really hard years of working on me.
    Hang in there.

  4. Wow, I'm going to print this out and give it to all of my friends who can't understand what's going on with me at the present moment. You've put into words what I'm going through and it's helped me more than you'll ever know. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for sharing your deeply personal emotions.

  5. This is me!!! Wow!! This was wrote so well!!!

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I have floated and cried and know that I'm not the same person any more. Perhaps a better one. Certainly one with more awareness of how suddenly life can change and how much you wish you'd appreciated every moment Before. So I try to make After more meaningful. Not that I always succeed.

  7. I love this post! It is its own dichotomy...but so true. Fresh after any loss, we scramble to be active and "normal" as best we can...but reality (which sucks) will catch up to us. Tactile memories and senses will occasionally bring us to our needs. As time passes, the frequency declines...but it doesn't go away!

    Grief DOES NOT have a time limit, and we all face it in our own time, own way, and to a place we can stand. For anyone to tell us it is time to move on, or that we have taken too long is a testament to their own shortcomings, and not our personal state of mind.

    I have said too many times, but still say...we never let go, we simply change our grip. To understand that is the best lesson I can offer.

    Be well,

  8. Your writing is always so helpful to me. My musings often become clarified, and verified. It's been 28 months now, and I have done things and grown in ways that I had not thought possible. I still, however, am who I have always been, and miss my husband constantly. Even when I am happy, busy, learning, down deep is the loss of "my rock" - an emptiness that does not go away. I have taken care of all the details, expanded my life, and all the things I "needed" to do. Now, I have to figure out how to live the way I need to live, to be who I am, and to do it all without the joy and contentment my life used to have (replacing that just is not the same). It is a struggle, and I doubt that will ever change. What I had is what I wanted, and I suspect this feeling is shared by most, if not all, of us. Keep writing, and posting, for us, please. You are such an "upper".

  9. Thanks. The first year was a lot of taking care of settling things and when I wasn't doing that, I put myself smack in the middle of helping a younger brother prepare to sell the family business/property that had become his -- and he has relocated to my city now that the sale has been completed. I acknowledge not taking care of myself and responding to his requests for help. It wasn't smart, and I'm still surprised that, as a young widow -- or it felt young since it was just the two of us for 38 goofy and loving years -- but a fairly wise person,I made such ridiculous commitments -- at a time when I should have said, "Not now, and I don't know when." Your post is helpful. I see an end, coincidentally, to this muddled existence, refocusing on what this all means, and I am grateful to find such support and understanding. I am waking up after two years, and I'm a little shaky.

  10. This post is so true, It really hit home for me. Thank you.