Someone else’s life

Being a widow feels
a little like wearing an itchy wool sweater –
one that doesn’t fit, not in the sleeves,
not in the length and not in the neck
and I feel scratchy all over

These days nothing feels quite right
I don’t live where I used to
I don’t have my loving husband –
feels like I’m fumbling along
living someone else’s life

Being a widow feels
a little like being in a foreign country –
the language is unfamiliar and
I am constantly feeling on edge,
not sure of my bearings

These days I look out the window
and don’t recognize anything familiar
I look into my heart
and feel homesick for the past –
feels like I’m stumbling along
living someone else’s life

Being a widow feels
a little like being at a costume party
where the host forgot to tell me the dressup part –
everyone else is part of the gaiety
while I watch, feeling apart and
not even sure I want to participate

These days being a widow
feels like I’m living someone else’s life –
fumbling, stumbling and just trying so very hard
to put one foot ahead of the other –
these days . . .

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An email to my sons

Since my husband, Allen, died suddenly three years ago I have done all kinds of writing — some of it in a really disciplined practice — other writing just kind of random. I am going to carry on with this blog by posting some of this writing as I look back on it and reflect now.

Below is the text from an email I sent to my sons 6 months after the event of their father’s passing — at the time Allen died, my younger son, Lance, was 25 and Andrew was 32. Yes, they were adult men at the time, but still, in my opinion, too young to lose their father.

——————————————————————————-

Dear Andrew and Lance —

A half year, six months, has passed since Dad passed away — I want to send some loving thoughts your way as I know we will all be feeling sad and lonesome for Dad today.

It was such a terrible shock for all of us to lose Dad so suddenly and really very unexpectedly — he had always been so strong and hardworking and caring for us — I know how shocked he was himself to learn of the first heart attack, and I know now how very saddened he would be to know that a cardiac arrest followed and he was never able to either say goodbye to any of us.

I want to thank you both for the extraordinary support received during and since the incredibly difficult month of May. Andrew, you are an incredible listener and just hearing some of the pain I have shared with you has meant a great deal to me. Lance, your true compassion shown all through the difficult weeks and consistently through these last six months has been such a comfort to me. Thank you both for being the truly upstanding men Dad raised you to be.

Decades of loyalty and shared values had lead Allen and I to a place of such easy and compatible companionship. We really enjoyed each other’s company, and our many trips were such a pleasant time for us — our pride in both of you also kept us bonded and very close to each other. Losing my very best friend has been a heart-wrenchingly difficult challenge for me.

——————————————————————————-

a kind of out of body experience

Thinking back to those first couple of years after losing Allen, I have a kind of out of body experience.
I look at myself with sorrow and pity, watching me vulnerably stumble and struggle through all of the various efforts I was making.

Now that almost three years have passed, it’s become easier to see all of the mistakes I was making in my effort to gain some healing. And they weren’t really mistakes, anyway; rather, they were efforts to navigate my way through terribly painful circumstances I had never before experienced.

One of the first mistakes (after this I am going to call them muddles, at least until I think of something more descriptive and widow-like sounding) was in thinking that if I met grief head-on I would make my through with less struggle. Wrong.

In those first months I accepted every invitation, no matter how difficult I thought it might be. Some of these awkward invites turned out to be dinner parties where everyone seemed to have a partner, passing me a pleasantry and then hoping I wouldn’t talk much, especially to tell my sad story.

There was an invite to join a couple of ladies for a 10k walk – then suddenly this weekly activity disappeared when one of them bravely told me the other didn’t really like walking in threesomes.

Then there was the time I attended a summer bbq party of all of my husband’s work friends – it became almost immediately obvious no one there really wanted to talk to me (so of course I drove home in tears, wondering why I had put myself in that situation to begin with).

I didn’t want to numb the pain; rather, I thought that if I took every challenging task on that I would feel closer to Allen, that I would somehow be able to work through the despair more quickly and perhaps be able to return to a somewhat regular life.

Wrong, so wrong.

The pain of losing Allen, whose relationship with me was described by one of my sisters as being “a country of two”, rendered me so incapable of getting on with my life that I sometimes couldn’t even recognize what I was going through. The despair, now that was the lowest of my emotional lows; it could hit me anytime and anyplace, just leaving me emotionally spent, my heart literally a hole that felt like it had fallen into the pit of my stomach.

cracking a cold beer

Sometimes the pain of suddenly losing my husband rears its ugly head and makes me feel like cracking a cold beer. Or maybe six.

Years ago, I always thought that if any kind of tragedy befell me I would just give myself permission to become an alcoholic for a while (not even really being a boozer, you understand). I assumed loss and grief would cause me to want to numb the pain – and what better tonic for that than alcohol, or so I thought.

In fact, what happened when Allen died, after suffering a heart attack and subsequent cardiac arrest, was the opposite. Sure, I tried to turn to alcohol; I sat out on our back deck during that first summer without him, consuming cold beverages, and trying to recreate the enjoyment we’d shared on sunny summer afternoons. But to no avail.

Nothing felt the same without my wonderful husband, truly nothing.

A muddle of effort, non-clarity and stupidity

This blog will be my effort to perhaps make a little sense of what I have been going through since the sudden death of my husband close to three years ago. I hope it will bring some sense and solace to me — and also to any other widows (or widowers) facing the lonely struggle of carrying on in the face of a sudden loss.

Up to this point I have done lots of writing — in various journal formats — all of this practice has helped me in various ways, but I have really wanted to share some of what has occurred to me, what has transpired for me, what has been so painful and also what has helped, even just a little bit.

I am going to be honest and straightforward in my writing — loss, especially of a wonderful life partner, and sudden loss at that, is crippling, truly. My time since Allen died has been a muddle of effort, non-clarity and stupidity; nothing has been easy.

Perhaps what I have learned most of all is that I am just not as strong nor as capable or independent as I had thought I was. I know this because Allen’s passing has been easily the most difficult chapter of my life. I’ve suffered — yes, to everyone else, or at least most everyone, it probably looks like I’ve been capable and strong. 

The pain, the loneliness, the despair, the shock — they have all been deep.