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, 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 who’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

Catherine Tidd

More Articles Written by Catherine

Catherine Tidd is a widow and the Founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free social support network dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other. She is also a writer, public speaker, and mother to three young entertaining children. She received a degree in English from Rollins College in 1998 and has since worked as a writer, editor, Marketing Manager, and Event Planner. Originally from Louisiana, Ms. Tidd currently lives in Denver, CO. To read more of Catherine's work, visit http://widowchick.blogspot.com


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  • Jane says:

    I found your piece while I was trying to find sense of my own sad and confused feelings. I relate to you completely. Your description of ‘floating in outer space’ is exactly what I felt. I too am a widow of 6 months. I thought I completed my grieving and was so anxious to move onto/into my new normal. I woke the other morning to realize I’m still lost and so lonely and alone. I have my grown children who have their own lives, and besides they cannot understand how I feel and how ‘lost’ I am because they are children, not the wife of 43 years. In those 43 years there was there was so much expected of me and I gave up ‘myself’ to give to everyone. I was expected to be the perfect wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, everything to everyone. I was a child when I married, my husband 10 years older. So much was expected and I gave everything. I cared for my husband for 17 years during his illness. I’m so lost now. I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I wanted so much to ‘live my life’ once he passed, but now I realize, I don’t know how. I’m 64 and have no direction. It cost much of our savings for medications during his life. There’s little left. I work part-time, but this is definately not a career and job prospects for a 64 non-college grad is far and few between. Yes, I’m lost. I thank God for His blessings, but lost.
    Thank you for your piece. Thank you for listening. I needed this today. God bless.

    • Dear Jane,

      We widows are always up for listening! I’m so glad that you feel maybe a little less alone knowing that we are all wondering what the heck to do next. I wouldn’t be surprised if, along with everything else, you’re experiencing a little care-taker burnout.

      I hope that you are finding the support that you need and that you are taking care of yourself. Having those “lost” moments really never go away, but I think they get a little less intense over time. It’s still hurts when it happens.

      When you are ready, it sounds like you are kind of starting with a clean slate. I felt the same way when my husband died…like it was up to me to figure out what to do. And that is a REALLY overwhelming feeling. Don’t push yourself. Take the time you need. It sounds like you are starting to go through a lot of growing pains. It’s never easy, but I have no doubt that you will do something great. It sounds like you have all the tools…within YOU.

      Thinking of you…