Monday, March 30, 2009

On Talking to Myself (or Someone Like Me)

I think there is a common feeling among widow/ers, especially young ones such as myself, that each of us is in this alone. Losing the one you thought you’d spend the rest of your (long) life with is devastating regardless of the specific circumstances surrounding his or her death, and the circumstances in which the surviving spouse finds him or herself following their death. Each story is unique. Each story has its own tragic elements beyond the one that made us a widow/er in the first place. Mine are posted primarily within the confines of this blog, but some additional details are scattered throughout the comments sections of some of the blogs you see listed to the right of the screen.

It’s ironic to me that this pervasive feeling of loneliness would be a commonality among us. That we would collectively feel alone. I have read it many times over the past few months, and even received an e-mail from a young widow this evening who stated it once again. In a lot of ways, we are alone. It is not uncommon for people who are advanced in years to lose a spouse. It is, however, often completely unexpected for someone in the prime of his or her life to lose theirs. Which is what makes us young widow/ers such an anomaly.

Chances are, if you are a young widow/er, you do not know anyone else who you see face-to-face on a regular or semi-regular basis, who understands you. If you do, it is quite possibly someone who experienced this a number of years ago and is in some ways out-of-touch with the raw emotion you are experiencing as the years have replaced some of their pain with fond memories. If they’ve also been recently widowed and you are able to share your grief in person, consider yourself among a “lucky” few.

That’s the beauty of the internet age. Many of us may not know another widow/er in “real life”, but we can connect through the blogs and online support groups that are being made available literally at the click of the mouse. There is one blogger in particular who is receiving both praise and criticism for his notoriety as a blogging widowed single father. I am personally thankful for all of the work he and the other bloggers who came online before me have done and continue to do. It took me two years to be able to open up at all, and even then it has been under a pseudonym. But until recently these blogs were not easily located, regardless of the basic nature of the keywords one typed when searching for them. Trust me, I tried. A lot. It’s the reason I am compiling a comprehensive, categorized list of widow/er blogs (again, see right) on this website, which I hope will continue to grow over time. (Please e-mail me if you know of one that’s not listed here). So if nothing else, his “fame” has opened the world’s eyes to the plight of the young widow/er and many good things are coming about as a result.

Recently I have found myself to be among the “lucky” few, though I did not know it initially. My daughter and a little girl in her preschool class have become best friends over the past several months, so it seemed only natural that we would invite her to my daughter’s birthday party last month. I had met her mother in passing and she was quick to rsvp that they would be in attendance. Following the party, a friend asked if she could look at the scrapbook I had made for my daughter (more on that in another post) and this mother also looked at it, which made me more than a little uncomfortable since I barely knew the family and wasn’t entirely certain they knew the specifics of our “situation”. After a few minutes, the mother came into the other room where I was talking to friends and shared with me that she had lost her first husband when her son was about the same age as my daughter had been when my wife passed away.

In that instant, everything changed.

Suddenly, here was someone in the flesh, before my eyes, who knew to a large extent the pain I was enduring. We did not talk much about it then, but it was a huge sense of comfort to know that we had this in common. That I wasn’t completely alone in this. (To be fair, my own mom was widowed at a young age and has been there for me through all of this from Day One. So in a way, I was already one of the “lucky” few when this conversation occurred).

Fast-forward to yesterday. Two days of rain had been replaced with sunshine and kite-flying March wind, which was to become the backdrop for our first play-date at said best friend’s house. Now, I have never had an official play-date before. My daughter has spent time at the homes of her friends without me, but it is typically a spur-of-the-moment situation. If it is planned, it’s usually so I can get the yard mowed in one stretch of time. This was our first scheduled time strictly for play, and as luck would have it, I got to “play” too. I was grateful for the opportunity to get to know her parents better (mom has remarried and the little girl is hers with her husband now), as we had all seemed to get along well at my daughter’s birthday party.

The kids went to play in the (fenced-in) backyard and our conversation immediately turned to death and widowhood. But this time it was different. In the past, I have been asked (and asked and asked…) questions ranging from the blanket “How are you?” to very specific, personal questions regarding circumstances and events. Typically the questioner disappears once his or her questions have been addressed and I am left feeling vulnerable and exposed. But yesterday, for the first time other than my regular conversations with my mom, it was an even-flow of experiences and we understood one another. And even though the husband had not himself been widowed, it was evident that he had walked closely with his wife through her journey, and his input was extremely insightful as well.

One aspect that made this conversation so surprisingly comfortable is that the spoken word is not my preferred mode of communication. I find that I am much more at ease if I can work out my thoughts on paper. I am also more likely to share deeply personal information if I don’t have to actually say it aloud. In fact, there are many items on this blog that I have yet to voice to another person. But yesterday, that sense of inhibition took a day off and I was able to answer their questions and share and respond to information in a way that I am normally unable to verbally, and definitely cannot outside of my close circle of friends and family members.

The beauty in this is that I didn’t get the impression that they are going to stop calling for play-dates now that their questions have been answered. And as was evidenced by the other two hours of our conversation yesterday, grief and widowhood are not the only things we have in common.

But the most beautiful part of it all for me was that I was able to verbally communicate my feelings and walked away from our conversation feeling about as vulnerable as I would have had we been discussing sports or work or any number of other normal, mundane topics.

And that made the whole conversation completely worth it.


  1. That is amazing that you have that connection to someone you can see face to face. I have often found it ironic that I feel so alone in this "group" of young people suffering such loss.

    I think it's great that you are compiling a directory of sorts and making it easier for those searching to find hope, or just to know they aren't truely alone.

  2. Ditto Widower Dad... Thank you for reaching out to me through my blog and including me in your 'directory.' Even though we feel so alone in this journey, it's good to be reminded that we aren't - not only for ourselves, but also for the people who need us.

  3. I envy you!! I don't think I have met a young widow/er my age.... I would have certainly jumped for joy had I done so. When my husband died, blogs didn't exist (believe it or not, this was only 8 years ago!). I pulled through by means of a message list on yahoogroups for young widows/ers. I think I'd have really been alone without it. It got me through many of insane hours when I had no one else to explain my pain to who would understand (instead of giving me "move on" advice that my friends and family did).

    I wish we'd had blogging back then. I could have said a lot more myself on the blog while the pain was still fresh. I did journal a lot, though... It's just that I'm the only one who can read those, so they arent helping anyone else...

  4. I have a friend who was actually in my wedding that became a widow about 3 months after me. She is about 8 years older and has kids but it is so nice to have someone to call and vent to. She doesn't live close (I am in Florida & she is in Mass) but it helps.

  5. The Widower Dad - It is amazing, and I hope it truly doesn't end with playdate # 1! But getting to "know" you and others through these blogs has been a great source of comfort for me these last few months as well (and I trust it will continue to be).

    AndreaRenee - Exactly. This is the sole reason I started blogging. I felt that if I could help others on this journey, then maybe some good could come from all of this after all.

    Mars Girl - Even two years ago there were very few widowed bloggers and the ones who were blogging were impossible to find. As for your journals, if you ever feel compelled to, you might consider posting excerpts as you deem fit. Not every thought I post is completely new. I just finally have an outlet for them now.

    Star - I'm glad you have someone to talk to. My mom has been wonderful for me in that regard. And this blog network has quickly become a very close second to a verbal exchange for me.

  6. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  7. I might consider posting excerpts of my journal... I will be re-reading them soon in an attempt to write a book... But for a happier memory, I have this entry about email messages Mike wrote me while he was in Amsterdam on a business trip... It gives you a taste of his voice...

  8. So good to find people out there who have faced the same challenges you have. I hope you keep them dear.

  9. Nancy/Ruth - Thanks for reading and commenting. I've been a bit lax about posting this week, but am composing one in my head that will likely be up this weekend.

    Mars Girl - I enjoyed reading the letters from Mike. I have kept e-mails from my wife, but have reread very few of them to date. I will look forward to reading your journal excerpts, should you decided to post them.

    Anonymous - I do. And thank you for commenting.

  10. Thank you for expanding the network of the "club that no one wants to join". I have found the most comfort in blogging and finding other young widows through blogs. It has been a strange sort of comfort to read that other young widows regardless of age, female or male, with children or without, sometimes write the same exact words I have written; feel the same ache...

  11. Chillin' with Lemonade - Thanks for stopping by and for being so willing to blog your way through this as well. The categorization is used as a starting point for people visiting, but I fully agree with what you said. Initially, I wanted to read blogs from widow/ers who were my gender and roughly the same age. I have come to realize, as you have, that we share a similar grief experiences in having lost our spouses and now regulary read most of the blogs listed here, including yours.