Friday, April 27, 2012

Life's Transitions and the Widow Infection

I feel like I’m in a period of transition which is not unusual for me.  It’s really not unusual for anyone like me, and by that I mean a woman in her 30s.

This year, I will be turning 36 which means that if I were in elementary school, it would be perfectly okay to round up to 40.  But I’m not in elementary school, so it’s not okay.

I don’t mind being in my 30s because I’m starting to recognize it for what it is and I think  lot of my friends are as well.  This is the time of life when we start caring a little less about the trivial and more about the concrete.  We start questioning what we really want, professionally and personally, because if we really want it, we better start working on it now.  

I think for many of us, our social circles start getting a little smaller because we’re starting to identify the people we really want to spend time with.  This is because we’re always so damn busy, working that job or raising those kids.  So we better have a good time with you or that one hour of free time we get every week may be spent elsewhere.

I know that sounds cold, but it’s really not.  As we get older, the amount of effort we put in to be with other people who don’t live with us seems to be greater.  And that’s okay.  Because as we get older we should be around people who make the effort worth it.

The down side to this for me is…well…I’ve completely lost my social life.  Where I used to be the girl who wanted to be around people all of the time…I’ve now turned into the woman who appreciates my couch, a glass of wine, and a good movie on a Saturday night.  And since I don’t think you can be called a “hermit” or a “recluse” until you hit at least 70…I’m wondering if that just makes me “lazy” or “bitchy.” 

And then I wonder…during this time of transition…if that’s something I want to change or something I’m okay with.

As you can tell, I have a lot on my mind.

Transitions with friendships have been going on all of my life.  They started when I was about 5 years old and have continued up until now.  Of course, I didn’t realize it when I was 5.  When Jane stole my Elmer’s glue in the middle of my tissue-paper-butterfly-creation, I didn’t think to myself, “Huh.  I wonder if I should rethink this friendship and possibly revisit it again when Jane has a little more appreciation for what I have to offer as a person.”

I’m pretty self-aware, but I think at that stage in my life I probably just hauled off and smacked her.
The difference now is that I’m older and more experienced.  I can recognize these transitions for what they are and move forward with what life hands me.  Part of that has to do with being in my 30s and part of it has to do with what I’ve been through, which is true for everyone.

I honestly thought, right after my husband died, that I would go through a period where I’d want to look up every friend I’ve ever had who either faded from my life throughout the years or had a falling-out with and reconnect with the mindset that life is too short and I should fix any and all broken friendships.

That didn’t happen.

I went in the complete opposite direction, thinking life is too short so I better spend my time with who I really want to spend time with.  Since my time is more limited now than it has ever been before I had to choose my friendships carefully.  And since I know that everyone on the entire planet is constantly transitioning and evaluating, I had to realize that I might be someone who might fall off their list.  And I had to be respectful of that.

I’ve heard so many widows say, “I have lost so many friends.  It’s like they think widowhood is contagious or something.”  And to be honest, I never thought that.  Never once did I think that by not hearing from people, they actually thought that what had happened to me would happen to them if we went out and had a glass of wine together.  

Of course, I had friendships that didn’t last after my husband died.  Not a lot, but I had a few.  But I looked at it for what it was:  A transition that may or may not have happened whether he died or not.  That could have been the catalyst, but if one little death was all it took to derail it, then it must not have been much of a relationship in the first place.

Widowhood is no more contagious than any other experience in life and I promise you that not one person around you thinks it is.  They’re staying away from you, not because they’re worried it might happen to them, but because they just don’t know what in the hell to do with you.  And because you are the only person who has any idea of what to do with you…it’s up to you to make the effort to communicate it to them.

If, after that, the friendship still isn’t the same, then look at it for what it is:  A transition, pretty much like any other change in friendships you’ve had before.  It’s more painful when you’re going through so many changes in your life all at once.  But it’s also an opportunity.  It frees up time so that you can devote yourself to the friendships that really matter.  It teaches you about becoming the friend you want to be to someone else.  And it opens up a whole new world of possibilities where you might find a person you never even knew existed before.

And who might just become the unexpected champion you’ve always needed.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.


  1. "...they just don’t know what in the hell to do with you. And because you are the only person who has any idea of what to do with you…it’s up to you to make the effort to communicate it to them." - thank you!

    I am usually better on my own or with my kiddos...I enjoy them the most. But I find the people I actually have the most in common with and the most fun with are people who have suffered some loss...we get it with a glance, allow for crazy moments where someone is trying to cope or find their space in the world again...the struggle of it and the recreation of it...we relate. Transition is the word for the month around here. - Living Anyway.

    1. I am also aware, that eventually everyone will have loss and everyone will relate more to one-another.