Monday, April 4, 2011


365 307 - alone. again.

I received an email from a friend today. She decided that she needed to be direct with me about the status of our friendship. She said that she doesn't know how to be in a friendship with me anymore, and that she has felt this way ever since Michael died. She feels like any pain, loss, disappointment or loneliness that she has experienced in her lifetime, just doesn't rate in my mind. It has made her feel like she has nothing to offer me, or that there is no room for her to share what's going on in her life, especially if it is something positive.

When I first read this I felt quite hurt. Then as I sat with my thoughts and feelings awhile longer I came to the conclusion that she is right. I haven't made room for her experiences to be of comfort to me. I have closed myself off to people that used to be in my life. I have felt anger and disappointment with how friends responded to me in the aftermath. That said, there is nothing I could have done differently.

I have not been a very good friend to anyone these past 18 months. Well, that's not true. I have been a good friend to my fellow widowed bloggers who have taken center stage in my support system. I can do that because they are going through what I am going through at the same time. There is no need for explanations, no need for expectations, and no need to apologize for my ability to engage or not engage.

The other side of this is that I have not, and still do not feel, like I have much to offer to anyone right now who isn't widowed. I am so broken, that I am somewhat immobilized. I often don't return calls, and rarely reach out to connect with anyone. This is because I am so lost. When I look at myself from the eyes on the non-widowed, I feel like a disappointment. I feel like I am failing to move on. I feel like I am not willing to separate from my widowed role long enough to see the positives in life. I am a failure.

I know that I should be reaching out, but don't. I know that I should start giving back to those who gave to me early on. I know that I should stop waiting for old friends and family to come find me. I know that I should be willing to put my grief aside long enough to make room for their happiness in spite of my loss. All this said, I still don't know how.

Earlier today I was visiting my parents. My father has been in the care taking role with my mother for a very long time. I see how it is affecting him, and I see how sick and miserable my mother is. I do reach out to them, and try to help as much as possible. But, in the end, I know that in spite of their ongoing predicament, they still have each other. While at their home one of my cousins dropped by with her husband and two daughters. My cousin has the same illness that my mother has, and so has taken to bringing my parents a meal now and then, and to compare information about their individuals treatments. I sat there, with my parents on one couch, my cousin and her husband on the other, with me across the room on a single chair. I felt sorry for all the challenges both couples are going through, but my empathy kept waning in the process. I couldn't move away from the fact that even though they are not well, and have many worries, they at least have each other.

I feel like a bad person when I recognize this. It's the dark side of grieving the death of a spouse. How do you continue to interact with couples, who in spite of difficult times, still have so much? I feel like everywhere I go, I see people who have it better. I see people that truly have happiness. I see people who have, or got to have, their spouses for many years. I see couples who have children with not so many challenges. I see people who are having a better life than the one I have been given. Am I angry and disappointed like my friend said? Yes.

I look into the eyes of my children, and I also see disappointment. I feel like I have let them down. I feel like I have put myself ahead of the line too many times. I feel like I should be able to will myself better, if not for myself, then for them. I sometimes wish that I could just disappear so that I wouldn't have to see that look from anyone again.

I also don't know what to do about my writing anymore. Clearly my friend has been reading my personal blog, and taking some of what I say personally. All to many times, friends have said that they are needing to catch up with me by reading my blog. This is often said in a quick email, or on a Facebook post. I think that many have become used to reading about my life rather than actually asking me about my life. My blog is my wailing wall. It is quite personal. It is quite honest. It is not filtered. It was not meant for their eyes. It was meant to give me a place to purge my grief as I experience it. It was also meant for you, my fellow widow(er)s.

I'm not sure where to go with this at present. Do I stop writing? Do I start editing myself? I don't want to carry the burden of those around me not knowing how to connect with me. I don't want to worry about how I make them feel. I don't want to hurt anyone, and I don't want to turn anyone away. I feel like I either need to kick myself in the ass and move on, or completely let go of old relationships. I know that it doesn't have to be one way or the other, but I end up feeling so guilty for the way I have responded to my loss.

Bitter. Angry. Resentful. Envious. Hurt.

Have I closed the door to possible joy? Have I allowed myself to be defined by my loss to the point that I have turned people away? Someone recently said to me, "oh, so you identify as a widower?" The question felt so judgemental, even though I know that is not what the person meant. But, it really has stuck with me. Is it not okay to identify as a widower? Are people asking widows the same thing? Or, is it because I am a man that it comes into question. Am I supposed to just man up, not take on the descriptive identity, and carry on as a single person who just happened to have had a husband who died?

I am so lost and confused. What am I doing wrong? Everything?


  1. It's 3am and I came looking for a post about guilt as I just wrote 3 pages in my journal about my guilt. Guilt, lonliness, overwhelming sadness has such a strong hold on those of us who have lost so much that I think we have a hard time letting in the garce and the peace that is waiting for us. I so understand you and I wish I knew the answers to your questions. I feel the same way and am so thankful for your post here at 3am. Please keep writing. I'll keep reading. And please don't edit, truth will one day set you free. I just know it and believe it. But I think that maybe it's time for us both to start letting in the grace and peace just to see how it feels.

  2. Dan, do no feel guilty about the way that you feel. Our non-widowed friends do not get it or do they want to think about getting it. They should be patient with us, but often it turns out to be the opposite. I have had to make a to do list that includes calling, more often emailing friends with non widowed things about once a month or more, often I feel like I am faking it till I make it! I do sometimes mention widowed things to them, but usually I save my widow talk for widowwed friends or my diary.The other thing I have done is join a singles group- not dating, but single people. I often participate in their activities about one a month. If I signed up for it it forces me to get out and associate with people who do not expect anything of me and I am not the odd man out so I do not feel lonely there.You also may want to go to a threapist to help you sort out what is normal and if you might need more. Also some of the best advice I got was from my daughter's pediatrician- he told them to making "time for grieving" a special time to mourn in the day and then try not to let it invade the rest of the day. It does not always work, but it reminds me that I need to make myself "develop a new life". All this said, Dan give yourself a break-you can only do what you can at this point so do not worry so much about being the person you once were, because you are not!

  3. Dan, as far as I can see, you are lost because of your lose. Yes, everything else pales in comparison to the tremendous loss that you have suffered. Please don't stop writing for us in widow world who need to get reinforcement for all of our feelings. This blog expressed my feelings perfectly. It is has been just over a year for me and I have trouble reaching out, returning phone calls, etc. I also feel angry for those, especially family members, who have stopped along their busy way to reach out to me. I wish for you that your friend could somehow try to understand the pain and despair that you feel and, at least, for now make it about "you". I have to believe that as my healing progresses ever so slowly I can return to being the good friend that I was before my husband died. The widow friends I've made along this journey will understand.

  4. my heart goes out to you. I, too am in your shoes. It has been nearly 5 years--I hate to tell you that. But the good news is that in the last 6 months I have "rejoined" life somewhat and am dealing with issues better. I have a good friend whos husband has cancer and I want to scream "but he is there" so what is she complaining about? Another friend has financial problems but her husband is there--so what is the big deal? Nothing can equate to the loss of a spouse. I lived day in and day out for 14,000 plus days with my husband and now he is gone. How can people understand that who have never gone through it? My suggestion is to request that personal friends no longer follow your blog so youmay write freely. Keep up the great work. I am sending an e=hug to you.

  5. i often feel like people have no right to complain to me about their problems, as though they don't compare to what i've been through. and then i have to stop myself and remember that not only am i grateful that other people don't have to experience this kind of pain but also that it's not up to me to judge their pain. it's still difficult to try to be empathetic to them, however, when i feel that they are just whining and they don't realize how much worse it could be but that doesn't matter. we all have problems and we all need to vent to our friends. you are human. you are hurting. be kinder to yourself and know that there will come a day when you'll be able to offer more on your end but for right now if you can't, then you just can't.

  6. You took the words right out of my mouth and the thoughts right out of my head. I relate to it all...

  7. I haven't shared my blog with anyone who "actually" knows me for exactly those reasons. I don't want what I write to be open for casual acquaintance interpretation or discussion, like because I wrote it, I am interested in talking about it. Mostly, I don't want people I know to be hurt or offended by what I write.

    I've noticed lately I am shut down around people, even good people. I think I just don't have the emotional currency to spend. Finding places to keep my heart open while not forcing an intimacy or connection that I don't feel... I don't know. I guess that is what I'm trying to adopt.

  8. There is a lot going on in this post. But to the blogging thing - if you find yourself needing to censor, it's probably time to find another outlet for your unfiltered feelings. If you want it to remain as is - you should warn family and real time friends away from it.

    But the friend who wrote you? I had friends I simply let go b/c for some reason, I couldn't let go of my hurt over their not being there for me or my annoyance with the fact that everything had to center on them to the exclusion of how I was really doing. Some friendships will wan and then rebound and some will end. But that happens whenever we've had a change in life: marriage, becoming a parent or loss. It's not a "widow thing".

    If you need to write, write. There are consequences to every action. If her friendship is important to you, then suck it up and be there for her a bit. Even if it's hard and you don't feel like it. Friends do that for each other when it matters.

    But you are not a failure b/c you feel bitter, angry, resentful, envious or hurt. However, it that is all you feel, it might be a good idea to spend some time investigating why after 18 months, these things are the dominants especially if it is hurting your relationships with family, children and friends.

    And I suppose the id thing is just that a lot of people can't understand why someone would chose a label that leaves no doubt about the loss. It's the difference between noun and verb. I am a widow vs I was widowed. One says "this is who I am" and the other says "I went through this event". Permanent vs transitory.

    18 months for some people is not a long time. Be easier with yourself.

  9. Dan, at one point or another, I have felt or currently feel exactly the same as you - with all the above. I came to a decision about my writing that my blog is for me primarily. It serves many purposes - as an outlet, a way to record the things going on in my life (even just the every day things), a way to keep my friends and family updated, and a way to hopefully offer some comfort to those in our situation as well. I can't sensor, or I'm lying to myself and to everyone else. If I start a separate blog, it's honestly just too much work for me (I barely have time to write in one!). The conclusion I have come to is, for some, it's too difficult to read. They can choose not to. Just like in the spoken word, nothing I say has the intention to hurt anyone, but if it does, then the offended person needs to come to me and be direct. We can't please everyone, and we can't help everyone. In trying to do that, I've been neglecting myself and my kids are getting the shaft. But one of the things we need to try to remember is that we are the only ones in charge of our lives, and the only ones that can make us a priority. No one else is doing this for us. It's true when someone says that you need to take care of you first before you can take care of anyone else. I've got a BIG post brewing relating to this very thing.... Long story short, write for YOU - not anyone else. As far as the other stuff, it just all takes time, and it will fall into place eventually. I'm the kind of person that wants everything fixed right NOW and have a hard time with this concept, but I'm starting to get it, too. In the meantime, I'm there with you and am holding your hand. xoxo

  10. Geez - I can't even SPELL censor! ;)

  11. 18 mo isn't long at all. Be gentle with yourself.

  12. Dan, your post was so spot on! So much so that I swear you stole my thoughts. You and I are on the same timeline so I totally get where you are at along the journey. The peaks, the valleys, the mania, the depression, the roller coaster; sadly, it is the ride we are on. The self-doubt, for me at least, is the most disconcerting to the point of affecting me physically. Those times are the absolute worst, but they are balanced somewhat by the occasional hopefulness, eagerness, and optimism that is peaking through at times. Good days/bad days are ever so slowly becoming good hours/bad hours. And that my friend is progress.

    As others have said here, friends come and friends go. Life changes us all for any number of reasons. Someone shared with me:

    "God determines who walks into your life... It's up to you to decide who you let walk away, Who you let stay and who you refuse to let go."

    Personally, I view close friends much like I do (did) my spouse. Marriage is not always easy, but you work at it because it is important. Same with friendship. But in all fairness, unless someone has experienced the loss of a spouse, it is so very difficult for someone else to really, truly understand the process. I feel guilt now for my mother-in-law for not being more supportive when she lost her spouse; now I know how very, very difficult it has been for her.

    Above all else, be true to yourself.

    Hugs to you.

  13. Hi Dan,
    I wrote a long response to your post this morning before work, completely agreeing with and understanding your point of view. And when I went to post it, lovely blogspot told me my action could not be completed and it was all gone. Argghhh! I didn't have time to redo it this morning and now I can't remember exactly what I said (it was a long day!). Just know that you are not alone. I'd be willing to bet that many of us out here are struggling with friend relationships. I almost feel like we speak different languages these days, now that they don't understand how grief can still be so difficult and it's hard for us to understand why they think we should have moved on to a place where we're "more normal". It's like we speak different languages these days. And it's very difficult. I imagine that some friendships won't survive, but maybe the people who truly care will still be around when we're back to speaking similar languages (though it will never be exactly the same again). Sorry for rambling. Love you!

  14. Hi Dan, Once again another great post. I am also in the same time frame and having lots of issues with "friends". Your timing is perfect too, as I am really having difficulty with a life long friend that just doesn't get it and I know she cares about me, but I can't take working at it and explaining myself or should I say I feel like I'm defending myself for my emotions and why I'm still in pain and grief at just (turned) 19 months out. Thank you so much for letting us feel connected and not alone in our struggles on this journey in the loss of our greatest loves.

  15. The first thing that struck me in reading your blog is how many times you used the word "should." We have a saying in counseling, which is "you're shoulding all over yourself." I am at 17 months, you stated you are at 18. You are being incredibly hard on yourself. You are in the early stages of dealing with loss and your mother is ill. Plus you are taking care of children. You have nothing to feel guilty about. Everything you are experiencing is normal grief and bereavement. It's unfortunate about your friend, but it's not your fault. Your friend does not have clarity about what you are experiencing and how it has affected you. I have had over a year of grief counseling, and my counselor is widowed. Early on, she told me that five years from now all of my friends will be different people than the friends I have now. This was her experience as well as many of her clients, and when I asked her why that would happen, she mentioned many of the things you are talking about. Lack of empathy, they don't get it, they think you should be moving on on a timeline, etc. Take it easy on yourself! This is your turn, not your friends. You have visited hell and it's a long road back. Take care of yourself and your children and stay your course. As far as your blog is concerned, keep writing honestly, don't let other people's opinions stop you. They are living your life, you are. It isn't selfish to look out for yourself first after you have been demolished emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. You are simply drained and having nothing to offer anyone. So the people who step up to the plate and realize this will call you anyway, offer to help anyway, bring you a meal anyway, even when you can't give back. I am also still immobilized to a large degree, I'm always behind on things (contrary to my nature), like to be alone alot, and have no intention of feeling guilty because other people don't get it. You're fine. You're really beating yourself up, and please give yourself the time you need. I don't know you, but I'm on your side.

  16. O.M.G. Reading this my jaw dropped. I felt and sometime still feel EXACTLY the same way. Everything written here. Everything, EXACTLY THE SAME WAY...feeling bitter, letting old friendships go. I cannot describe all these any better than this blogger. Well, I guess that does confirm that all along, I, a widow, have been normal given what was given to me, right?

  17. Dan,
    I am at 19 months and your experiences are so very similar to mine. I'd like to point out that your friend came to you, sad and confused about where your friendship had gone. What a gutsy gal. My friends would just stop calling. I am sure this wake up call is another harsh blow to you. But the fact that she is sharing with you, shows how much she wants to keep you in her life. You say that you are broken and immobilized. Shutting people out. I am also in the same place. I think you need to meet your friend for coffee and tell her those very words. She needs to see your pain and maybe even the tears. I'm sure she'll say, "What can I do?" Give her a task, no matter how small. She doesn't know how to help and she feels useless. She may never get it like a widow(er) would, but at least she will SEE YOU IN PERSON and understand that your life is a daily struggle.

    My daughter (17) told me she often feels abandoned. I am so caught up in grief survival that I forget to tell her good job, you look awesome or how was your day? I know that I can do better. I am making it a point to leave her little notes, buy her a bouquet of flowers or turn off the TV and listen. Baby steps in the right direction.

    The grief journey the first year is full of fog, confusion and a blinding mist. The second year is about figuring out who you are now. What to do now. A battle of wills. Leaving what we once had behind and fighting what we need to do now. Stepping out of grief for even short amounts of time can be so hard, but taking steps, risks and doing new things is just as important as the tears in the grief journey.

    It is the same with friendships. Sometimes just a small text (talking to them sometimes is too hard) let's them know that I am still here...

    Creating this new life is the hardest and most painful part for me now. Be gentle with yourself and don't turn this into something bigger than it needs to be. Just reach out to your friend in a small way.

    You are dong great and should be proud of yourself. Look how far you've come.

  18. First, let me say this. I truly appreciate how many of you took the time to share your thoughts. I really like when these posts open up a dialogue. I am experienced enough to know that when I share something that I am really struggling with, chances are, so are many of you. I would like to think I am unique, but when it comes to grief, there are likely more commonalities than differences.

    For my part, yes I can be very hard on myself. I don't like how much I have changed, having gone through two years of creeping toward my husband's death, then the past 18 months of struggling with the aftermath. It has left me with little to give back, which yes, makes me feel quite guilty.

    In the past couple of days I have received two calls from different friends. They both loved that I answered the phone, and both said it was a good sign. Neither made me feel like I had done anything wrong. They are just happy to know that I could laugh with them during our conversation. They both want to come for a visit next month as well. One thing that did come up was my blog. One apologized for not keeping up with my blog. I told her that I would actually prefer that friends and family stop reading it. I shared with her that what I write is truly for other widowed people. I let her know that if she is not going through the same right now, it might give her a skewed vision of how I am doing. She said she completely understood, and would let others know as well. It was a wonderful conversation.

    I came away from both conversations not feeling like I have done anything wrong. How refreshing. Anyway, I want you all to know that each of your thoughts gave me inspiration, and I'm sure all that read them take away something as well. My post was just the introduction to the subject. Each of your comments are what truly flesh it out.