When you are a widow or widower, everyone will tell you they understand. They will all, with the best intentions in the world, tell you they know how you feel. Everyone will tell you a story of loss. They lost their dog, they lost their brother, they lost their friend. As much as their loss is unique to them the loss of a spouse is something different entirely. Whatever anyone says, your life changes inexplicably when you lose a spouse.
How does life change
How does life change? Open ended question isn’t it? Life changes in every sense of the word.
You have lost not only your partner but your lover too. You lose your friend and financial partner. You lose the person you come home to. You lose the person you cook and share meals with. You lose the person that you share laughter and tears with. You lose your sounding board when you have had a bad day. You lose the person that would fix things in the house for you. You lose your best mate when you want to curl up together with a movie and a bottle of wine.There are many more things I could list but you can see where I am heading can’t you. Life changes in every sense. Everything is tainted. Nothing is left untouched by death.
How do you feel?
Speaking for myself here, I very quickly felt two main emotions. Loneliness and guilt. Loneliness as my partner was not at home with me sharing every little thing we did. Guilt when I got off my rear end and went out to do something for me. I went out for lunch – felt guilty. I met a friend for coffee – felt guilty. I went for a ride on my bike – felt guilty. There was no let up. Six months down the line it still feels that way.
Guilt rides hand in hand with sad. I’ll give you an example. I went to the cinema recently to watch a movie that I had been looking forward to. “One adult please”. Sad right? Cinema for one. Thats a prime example. Sad being alone and guilty for being out and enjoying the movie.
There are no rules in place for grief and associated feelings. The guilt may stay for a few weeks. It may inhabit your life for a few months. It may take root in your life for some years. You cannot predict what will happen.
As for loneliness, I felt lost. There was no one to talk to each morning. There was nothing to drag myself out of bed for. Why was I getting up for a shower and getting dressed when there was no one in the house to care what I looked like? I didn’t even care what I looked like some days!
I found after the loss of my husband that life became quiet. This is the best answer I can offer you at this time. As much as I never wanted to admit to it, friends also stepped back, not all I might add. Whether that was their own inability to deal with his death, their worrying that they may upset me, their lack of understanding of how I was feeling or just simply that they were more his friend than mine, I may never know. This does happen and as a widow that has experienced it, I can definitively say that it hurts. However this is not something you can change. It is, like death, something that changes your life and you learn to live with. Its almost like grieving someone who is still alive.
I found that nighttime was the worst for loneliness so used to get up early and go to bed early to try and combat that. Make myself tired so I would fall straight to sleep with no time to think or reflect. That never worked for me. I found myself awake at two or three am with no idea of why or what was happening. I woke up dreaming that he was still here and I would find myself reaching across the bed for him. Then of course the memory returns and it is like his death has just happened.
With all I was going through, I didn’t have the energy to do all the running to all of my friends. It was not for any lack of care on my part I just lacked the energy. That may sound selfish to some but I simply didn’t. I needed someone to say “I’m on my way with coffee” or “I’m on my way and we’ll go to the pub” or simply “I’m on my way just to be with you”. Some did this, some didn’t and some I had to put off due to not being in a good place on that particular day.
Loneliness is a sad emotion and unless someone has been through it, they may not ever understand it. Some can put on a happy face and smile and be extremely lonely. Some may be sad but have mountains of friends. You just never know.
What can you do to help with loneliness
Loneliness is a long word. When you find that you are lonely after a loss, it can be a long way to finding your feet again and getting back walking straight on that path.
I lost my husband almost seven months ago. During the last year of his illness, while I was at home caring for him I started studying. I knew that I was never going back to my old career and I knew what I wanted to do. So, I grabbed my lap top and began a writing course. While It helped me deal with the quiet times in his illness, it also gave me something to focus on immediately afterwards. I completed that course and signed straight up for another one which I have almost finished. While studying helped me have something else to focus on what I have to learn for myself now is that it is ok to stop.
Support groups are a great source for meeting people to combat loneliness. While I talk about this here, I will also stress that this simply isn’t my cup of tea. I would rather spend time with those I know and love than those I don’t.
Online forums and blogs are another source of finding others in your shoes. I started writing my own after Mark died, I found that expressing myself in posts and poetry was cathartic and helped me more than I ever dreamed it could have.
The one thing I will stress about loneliness, is that it is ok to say that you are lonely. If you don’t talk to family and friends and tell them, how do they know?
Are your feelings unique?
Your feelings, whatever they are, are definitely unique. No two people ever feel the same thing. Try not to judge yourself against others. This is easier said that done as I know I have done this!! try not to compare yourself to every widow you read about. You are all different and you are all right in your own ways. Your individual lives and relationships mean that your grief will manifest differently.
Can you ever be happy again?
Yes you can. You need to know what your “happy” is. For me, my “happy” has been a career change to becoming a writer and poet. I can say that with one article behind me and a poetry book on the way. It has changed my life in a way I never imagined.
I may never be relationship happy, but as someone said to me…..never say never.
How do you move towards happy?
This is one of those questions with one million answers! How do you move towards happy? Of course the first thing you need to work out is, what is your happy? Is it wanting another relationship? Is it a new career? Is it wanting a new place to live to start your life with your changed circumstances? Is it wanting to go on holiday and simply tune out the world for days, weeks or months?
Once you know what you need, you can start the process of moving forward