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 while 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 shoulders.
But when we roll over, well, our spouses already know that they died. It 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). 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? 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 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. 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.
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?