Thursday, June 3, 2010

Widowhood: Only the Lonely

Loneliness is not a surprising by-product of widowhood. I mean, even for the people who have never been through it…it’s a no-brainer. But frankly, I think that “lonely” is not a strong enough word.

There is a deep silence that comes with losing your spouse. And it doesn’t matter if you’re standing in the middle of a crowded room…you will still notice it. It’s the quiet that comes when you don’t have that familiar voice, whispering in your ear at a wedding, “Can you believe she wore that? I mean, what was she thinking?” It’s the missing sound of two glasses clinking together on your anniversary. It’s the absence of someone breathing soundly next to you as you go to sleep at night.

Our friends are so good about trying to make sure that we know that we’re not alone. And we know we’re not friendless. We could call up any number of people if we just wanted to hang out. But we are alone. Our marriages were amputated in the prime of our lives and, for some of us, there is no prosthesis.

A lot of us, since our loss, have found comfort in chat rooms and support websites and that has helped relieve the discomfort of the amputation a little. It’s like taking two Motrin after extensive surgery. It eases the throbbing a bit, but when we look down, the limb is still missing.

We’ve found anonymous support from strangers who don’t know us but are as close as we can come to confiding in people who know exactly what we’ve been through. We tell these strangers some of the most intimate details of our lives, knowing that out of thousands of people one person might understand us and out of thousands of people, no one will be heartless to enough say, “You did what??? You’re crazy!”

Because, if nothing else, we all have crazy in common.

It’s an anonymous way to just let our widowed freakiness spread its' wings and fly. We get support from people who understand what REAL retail therapy is. People who get that a sleepless night with a newborn is one thing…a sleepless night with a dead spouse is a whole other deal. People who understand how guilt, anger, frustration, and sadness all come in a beautifully wrapped package with our names on it, signed “With Love, Widowhood.”

Finding these groups has buffered the fact that, with our spouses gone, most of us have lost the person we would have leaned on when the worst thing we could have possibly imagine happening...happened. It’s almost like we need to roll over in bed and say in utter disbelief to our spouses, “Did you hear that you died? And you were so young!” This would be followed, by a hug from them, a pat on the back, and the murmuring of some comforting words while we cried on their shoulder.

But when we roll over…well…our spouses already know that they died. It kind of spoils it a little.

I don’t think that most people who haven’t experienced loss truly understand that element of solitude. And that’s the very foundation of what makes us so lonely. The person who cared when something really great or really bad happened is missing. The person who was just as excited and saddened by the milestones of our kids is someplace else (I hope…I’ll leave that one up to you). The person who was just as invested in our lives and the decisions we made is now (again, hopefully) enjoying everlasting comfort while we slug it out down here on our own.

Do you remember the moment that you truly felt the change? (And for my handful of very brave male readers…don’t worry…I’m not about to talk about “The Change.”) I mean, the time when you realized that this was it? When you catapulted from married to involuntarily single?

For you, it may not have been a moment. But it was for me. I was leaving Wal-Mart (where so many of my breakdown moments occur) when I noticed that “Wild Hogs” was about to come out on DVD. Now, my husband and I had had many failed attempts to go see that movie in the theater, so when I saw that big billboard up at the store, I automatically got really excited. I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to get home and tell him it’s finally out!”

I think there was an audible “thud” as reality came crashing down on me standing next to the stale cookies that were on sale.

As most of us feel, I would give anything for just one more day, one more conversation with my husband. I’ve had dreams about it. Where we’re just lying in bed and I’m telling him all about what the kids are up to. We both know that he’s gone, but I’m filling him in anyway, like we’ve never missed a beat.

Those are the mornings I wake up and feel the most alone…the most like I’m missing that appendage. And even though there are so many people I could call who would commiserate with me, they’re just not in my head and in my heart living my life.

And does it make sense when I say…when I’m feeling this way…sometimes I just want to be left alone?

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© Catherine Tidd 2010


  1. I felt like that all the time.

    And what you said about "Wild Hogs"...I saw the first "Iron Man" movie with my late beloved Nelson. He was such a fan. And of course "Iron Man 2" just came out. And it's being advertised everywhere. He would have loved to see it. We'll never get to see it together.

    Thanks for your post...I think you speak for us all.

  2. I'm so thankful for your posts. It really gives me insight into what my brother must have been (and probably still is) going through after the passing of his wife 5 years ago.

    So many people in your situation have such a hard time communicating their experience, leaving us loved ones unsure, timid, and questioning how to "be there". So, Thank You for communicating what so many may not be able to, and doing it so darned beautifully!!!

    Much Love.

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  4. Mike and I went to see the Star Trek movie in the theaters (which was a rare occasion...we just usually waited for movies to come out on DVD) Mike kept telling me to make sure that I didn't pick up a copy of the DVD because he was going to get it for us. Well it came out on DVD not long after he died. So I bought it on his behalf...but still have not been able to sit down and watch it. It just doesn't feel...right. He was so anxious waiting for it to come out on DVD. I've let the kids watch it...I've let the neighbors watch it. But I'm just not to a point yet where I can watch it yet...and I'm over 7 months out. I'm sure one day I'll be able to. But then again...maybe not. I don't know.

    I think the loneliness is what really gets me the most out of all these experiences I am going through. Through my entire life (well since when I started dating as a teenager) I've never really been "alone". I always had someone. Break-up and there would always be someone else in the wings waiting. Finding a guy to even just hang out with was never a problem. This is the first time I've EVER been alone for so long. And I can honestly say it really freaks me out sometimes. I know I COULD get out there and meet someone...that's not the issue. The problem is not a single one of them is going to be able to fill the void that is inside of me at this time. And that void...that is where all the loneliness is emanating from.

  5. You said it all so perfectly! Do you know how many times I've tried to explain to someone how lonely I am? Even my mom, who tries so hard to understand, can't because I have kids. Having kids means that I should never be lonely, right? Yeah, whatever. The fortunate ones who've never had to walk this walk will never understand that even in a crowded room the loneliness can overwhelm you and almost suffocate you. It is a physical pain, one that hurts so very, very deeply...

  6. Great post. I have said numerous times to my son who has been my rock, how can I be in a room full of people and yet be so completely alone? I think you just explained it perfectly. Thanks

  7. I want to print this out and give it to everyone I know to explain what the nights are like for me. Thank you for putting into words, what I feel...

  8. When I was 21 years old, I lost my first true love. No kids, no one at all. Like all of you, I felt alone, all the time. I lost who I was, and because of that I made alot of mistakes. Without those mistakes I would not have realized who I wanted to be. I never wanted to be the person I became. Since then, I have met someone that understands what I have been through, and I love him. It just shows that there is still a future waiting and I know that Cory would be happy for me. It's like they say "I just want you to be happy". I never knew how to explain how I felt to my family and friends, other than just "alone". Thank you for explaining it for me.

  9. I don't always comment on my comments. But y'all are amazing. We're all a work in progress, but every time I see someone have the courage to make a comment and talk about something so difficult, it just about brings me to my knees. And I know I'm just sitting in an office chair, but I'm really tall, so that's still a long way.

    You guys inspire me. I hope I do the same for you.

  10. So right on the money....Have felt this almost every day since I lost my husband. With 4 kids I am never suppose to be alone, but it very lonely. I am going to print it too!
    Thank you for writing

  11. I think that you live in my head...thank you for speaking so well what I feel.

  12. Thanks for post. What you have written in the post is feel by me. Thanks again for writing such a nice blog.

  13. My moment: I went to his family reunion 5 months after his death and was happily taking pictures of our kids with his relatives. Ridiculous, but I kind of felt like I was going to show all these pictures to him when we got home--I was taking them for HIM to see. And then that "thud" occurred. After that I stopped taking pictures for a long time. Who on earth was I supposed to show them to?

    Thanks for your blog!

  14. thanks for saying what i feel.

  15. EXACTLY how it feels!!! EXACTLY!!!!

  16. First, my deepest sympathy and respect. 3months in my loss now. but I'm 59 y/o, was 45 when we met. I don't look anything like I did at 45, much less like the beautiful woman I was at 30something. I don't even recognize my own reflection anymore..I can't begin to imagine anyone being interested in me even if I could get interested in anyone else....problem is...I'm still in here..just alone and not even sure life is worth living for me anymore...what do I really have to look forward to? another 60 something that I may or may not outlive and possibly have to go through this misery all over again?...I don't know if I could do it

  17. I know this is aug 2012, and last post was in May 2011, but I just had to say thank you. my husband passed 7 weeks ago, and tonight i am going through another deep wave of lonliness. You hav so beautfully put into words what i feel, that i know i can't be crazy. Howcan i be loney with two teens at home? I long for a night ofchatting, about the kids, about us, not about whatever i can comeup with to keep an artificial conversation going with a friebd i so desparately wanted to see until they cameover and i knew they couldnt fill the void. I hate that my bedroom isso quiet, my bed so empty, the bathroom always neat, and the coffee maker isn't running already when icome down. I cant stop the tears rolling down my face when i realize i am now so utterly and totally alone. Everyone tries to chfeer me up but i feel like the wallfloweron a mercy date, bland and lifeless. At least now i know i am not allone

  18. Thank you for this post. It resonated so deeply. I've started dating recently (my husband has been gone for about 16 months) and I think as this new relationship progresses, the lonelier I'm starting to feel. I am consciously aware that I should make no comparisons. This is a different man, but I so miss being with someone who understands me. Perhaps I'm not ready to be emotionally vulnerable with him yet, but I so desire emotional intimacy.

  19. Can totally relate. I was sitting at a traffic light. Chad had been gone for about 8 weeks and was thinking about the days events. I reached for my cell phone because I just knew Chad would want to hear about my day....then it hit me. He's gone.