Friday, October 18, 2013

I Am Alone. I Am With You.

Here is a riddle:
What is more sad? Going to the movies alone, or going to the movies with a group of friends, who barely speak to each other or acknowledge each other’s existence?
This past weekend, I really wanted to see Gravity. So I went alone. Going to the movies, or anywhere really, by myself, is not a big deal to me. When I was married, and we were sharing our life together, I did lots of things alone. And he did too. We were two very independent people, who loved and valued our time alone, and who also loved and cherished spending time with one another. We loved each other’s company, but neither of us had any issue with doing things by ourselves sometimes. So, I have been to the movies, several times, alone.
But here is something that the “non-widowed” world doesn’t quite understand. Going to the movies – or anywhere – by yourself, because you feel like it and because it’s a choice while married or partnered up – is completely different than going places alone because your husband is dead, and everyone else is coupled up, or has plans, or doesn’t want to – and so you have to. The first one is a decision you make within the luxury of a relationship. The second one often results in severe loneliness, intense sadness, guilt, anger, annoyance, and the kind of soul-crushing isolation that not many people comprehend.
That is how it was for me. In the beginning. The first year and a half or so of this new “after” life. Every time I left my apartment to venture out and do something, was like being dropped off inside of a haunted house. My heart would race, not knowing what emotions or unexpected terrors would be lurking in the corners, waiting for me. I would panic that the movie or the dinner or the Broadway show or the night out with friends or the whatever - would bring up flashes and scenes and fragments – that would further put the focus on my own solitude, or my marriage that was gone, or my future that would not be, or the day that I woke up and he had already gone to work, and then already gone from earth.

So I would go out into the world during these early days of grief, and after awhile, the panic and the earthquake brewing inside of me, just became part of my new normal, the new me. And sometimes I would get so tired of sitting in the apartment alone and feel so suffocated, that I would force myself to take a walk or see a movie down the street. And then sometimes that walk or that movie would just make things worse, watching the couples laugh hand in hand or having a story line in a film take me to a place emotionally that I was not yet ready to go to.
And in those early days of grief, people everywhere, all the time, constantly, would say to me, in response to me saying that I feel so alone: “You are not alone. He is always with you.” Most of the time, this remark would be coming from someone who was probably typing or saying those words while their life-partner stood right beside them or sat in the next room or nearby – breathing air and living life. And so, most times, when this was said to me, my immediate reaction (privately) was that I might enjoy throwing this person into the nearest lake or hitting them repeatedly in the eyeball with a 2×4, because it is such a lame and cliche’ and thoughtless thing to say to someone, and the fact that YOU think he is always with me, means absolutely nothing if I can’t feel it.
 And I couldnt. I couldnt feel it. I could not feel him with me, no matter how many times people said it, because the pain and the grief and the thick fog of the air I now breathed in this new life – was too overwhelming to let anything else in. Nothing could get in. Only pain.
But then, with that pain, something happened during grief. Time. Time happened. And time does not heal all wounds. That is more bullshit cliche’ said by those who don’t know what to say. No. But time happened, and while it was happening, my heart and my brain and my skin and my toes began to finally process what had happened. Really, actually process it and sit with it and watch as the fog lifted, up up and away from my soul. And once that happened, the pain was still there – but I was no longer terrified by it. The grief monster still lurked – but I stared him down and waited. The sobbing still took place regularly, but I stopped fighting with it and let it flow through me like rain tap-dancing on an umbrella.
And once all of that happened and that shift occured, something else did too - I could feel him. I could feel him with me. Not all of the time. But some of the time. A lot of the time.
And so, that brings me back to Saturday. At the movies. Alone. I sat there, on the end seat of an aisle in a very crowded theatre – feeling peaceful and anxious to see the film. A group of 4 girls all sat down in my row, one of them next to me. They were loud and obnoxious and rude and clueless about life’s struggles. They all took out their phones and put them on silent, and began texting and playing games and using Apps and shoving their teenage faces into their devices, never once looking at or addressing one another, the very people that they chose to spend time with and see a movie with. One of them looked in my direction, and then texted the other one, and they both giggled. I can only imagine that she was texting about me, saying something like: “Who goes to the movies alone? What a loser.” 
And yet, as that movie went on and it became clear that the plot device of floating around in space was being used as a brilliant metaphor for living, dying, and then living again, I actually started to feel sorry for these idiotic girls next to me. Because here they were, in this beautiful theater, in the greatest city in the world, lucky enough to have a group of friends to spend time with, and to be seeing this film that had so much to say and teach about finding the strength through pain to live again – and they didn’t get any of it. They were right there, inside of it, and they were missing it. They were missing all of it. They couldn’t see any of the beauty or the pain or the truths or the glorious, ordinary moments that were surrounding them right that very minute. Their eyes were glued to their phones, and their souls were lying dormant.
In my chair, something else was happening. Something that felt like home. I was watching a beautiful and thrilling movie alone, and I was watching it with my husband. His entire spirit and personality and being felt like it was inside of me, like it had entered my veins and sat in my bloodstream. I could almost feel his touch next to me. Almost feel his arm brushing up against mine, see him smiling at me, hear him sipping his root beer and leaning over to whisper like he would sometimes: “This is awesome!” 
And for the first time in a long time, instead of me thinking to myself or telling others: “He would have loved this movie so much! I wish he was here!”, I had no need to tell anyone anything, because he did love the movie, and he was there. Not because someone told me so, but because I could feel it.
And no, feeling my husband with me in spirit or soul is not even close to the same as him actually being here with me, for real, in our life together. It’s a pretty shitty substitute, honestly. But it’s a hell of a lot better to feel him with me, than to not feel him with me. And it took 2 years and 3 months for me to feel him around me on a more regular basis. For me to talk to him out loud and not feel like a complete jackass, or like a lunatic talking to myself. It took all of this time just to come to a place where my insides aren’t spinning, and where the dizziness paused. The pain and the grief that was once pounding on my temple and stabbing at my heart – now lies a bit further away, like background music  that I hear faintly as I live my life. Finally, the noise has been turned down enough to let other things in besides pain. Things like laughter that feels real again, taste-buds that crave foods again, and eyes that see the fall colors again. Now that the pain isn’t pushing its way into every available crevice, there is room for me to feel my husband. To feel and know that he is with me, even though he can’t be with me.
So back to that riddle. What is more sad? Going to the movies alone, or going to the movies with a group of friends who barely speak to each other or acknowledge each other’s existence?
Well, the answer is a matter of opinion, so I will leave that one up to you. But the question itself is not really valid, because it’s a trick question. I went to that movie alone, but I was never really alone. None of us are. Not really. Not entirely. Not truly.
For when I close my eyes really tightly, and I push away the hurt and the fear and the death, I find that there is just enough space leftover, to let one more thing inside.
Come sit next to me now. For I am alone. I am with you.
(Apologies for the weird background on this post. It was copy / pasted over from my personal blog, and this bizarre background always appears when I copy paste something. To see the full version of this post, you can see my blog at .Pictured is my late husband Don , in silhouette, walking his favorite Florida Beach in Clearwater.)


  1. How much you describe my experience, though my timetable is different than yours. My soul wasn't alive, at least in the way you describe, until survival wasn't my top priority. And a soul in pain feels so helpless and abandoned. But you remind me we're not, and though my husband isn't here, he IS here. Now I realize my soul has deepened, and can hold more appreciation, like you describe. I am still waiting for my soul to hold more joy! Oh, well. I pray that all our souls aren't worn out by widowhood. Thank you so much for sharing your life in progress.

  2. I too done a lot of things alone. But alone now is almost opposite of then. The feeling doing it alone now is having that emptiness of not belonging. I have felt my wife's presence since the day she passed, and has helped me getting through the days. In public seeing married couples doesn't bother me, for all of us were there at one time..
    For me being and doing things alone is the most difficult thing to endure and get through the days. Getting out is great, coming back home is hard..
    Peace be with you..

  3. Today is four months since I lost my husband of 35 years. You words have helped me because, I have been wondering WHY I can't feel him with me. We were so close, and did everything together. His daughter tells me she sometimes can feel him and smells his after shave. HOw I wish that would happen to me. Everyone keeps telling me it will get better with time. It is hard to imagine that at this point. I have to get out of the house because there is no love or laughter in the house anymore, just SILENCE! I do go out by myself for lunch, or go shopping, just to do something, but the fix is only temporary.

    This blog site has helped me. I am not a good writer, my husband had a way with words. Its good to know there are other people who are feeling the same as me, and with time I will get stronger. I also realize that my life is different now, and I will need to rediscover myself, which is not an easy task at 60.

    I hope someday to feel my husband beside me, his touch, or smell. Hopefully, it will happen like you said, after the fog has lifted.

    My name is Marge. I used the anonymous, because I can figure out how to post my name, not very good with computers. Wishing you a good weekend.

    1. Marge, I too lost my husband of 35 years. It's been 445 days for me. Your mind isn't the same anymore. I don't think that our minds will every be the same. I'm sure it's whirling and confused just to name a couple. Give it time, you will feel him. Right now your body is trying to take care of you. This is a great place to come to vent. It also makes you see that you aren't losing your mind. These folks care.

  4. Kelley Lynn, I love this post! I so get the "alone" before and the "alone" after. When my husband was alive and we ventured to the beach together, he would golf and I would sit on the beach alone, comfortable and at peace despite the crowds. After his death, that haven on the beach became a place of great pain, discomfort and overwhelming grief. Sounds strange, I know but so very true.

    So glad that you have discovered "him" with you. 3.5 years and I am still waiting......

    Thank you for such a brilliant post!!!

  5. As always when I come here in the pits of despair I find words that give me hope
    Thank you

  6. People always tell me I'm not alone. They are ignorant of what it's like to be a widow. I am alone. But, like you, I feel him here and around me all the time. I talk to him out loud and I feel like he still hears me and I can even sense his response. It's been 10 months. I can't even go to a movie alone. I finally was able to make it through a lonely restaurant meal (took me three tries). I don't want to go on vacation anywhere. Don't get me wrong, the thought of travel excites me until I remember it's a vacation for one. I even look at online travel and I would have to pay an extra few hundred dollars because I'm a "single traveler" Great, I have to pay more to escape and find rest from my hurting heart because my man is not physically here to travel with me. Ugh!

  7. I feel alone in a crowd. I will always be empty and alone without my husband, the love of my life. We went on eight cruises together and now the thought of going on a cruise makes me ill. Will this hell ever end? I don't think so after 27 months. People who haven't lost the love of their lives have no clue and do say the most outrageous things to me. I do get out and I am fortunate to know other widows, but the emptiness is inside me and nothing heals that; nothing! My husband died in the middle of the night of a heart attack. He golfed all day; played poker with friends; then came to bed and died. That trauma clings to me. No one who hasn't been in this hell understands it.

  8. I lost my husband 4 months ago. He was 28, I was 26. We spent 6 short years together, just shy of 3 of them married. Our son is now 22 months old. I don't know what to stay other than I'm completely destroyed. We were just getting started. Now i have to live my whole life without him, the one who i promised forever with.

  9. My husband and I went to Gravity the night he died - a month ago. I'm still waiting for him to return to Earth, although sometimes it seems I am floating around up there in space with him.

  10. I too can relate to the movie Gravity- my husband 0f 36 years passed in 2012 after fighting a forest fire, he was healthy and strong, and then he was gone. I feel as if I have been ejected out of a spaceship, alone, without gravity, hurtling through the stars with the familiar blue earth below me, so out of reach. My husband is gone, and my life will never be the same. All the fun is gone. I exist. I do take comfort in prayer- so I am not completely alone. But we essentially grew up together, we had so much fun and I just don't know how to do fun without him. I am so sorry Ashley- your time with your husband was way too short. I can't imagine having to raise your son alone, it seems so unfair.

  11. I am so sorry to read your stories, it could not be nice losing someone so soon after your marriage, but I am sure in time you will find someone else.
    I lost my husband in June, after being together for 45 years, but knowing him when he attended college and myself at my last year of school.

    A month after he died my dear son took me in, although I would have then preferred to have been on my own as I wasn't far from where my son lived, but that was not possible due to where we lived being too far from shops etc.
    After fouir months of searching I have found a bungalow, but it seems I am now the opposite to what I was before living with my son. I feel the bungalow is too far from my son, although it only took us half an hour on a motorway and I do not know anyone in the small town, although my brother lives a short drive away. But I must let my son have his indenpendance with his family. So it is very difficult at present,


  12. Wonderful article. Its been almost 5 yrs for me and I still feel alone most the time, but when he was here I felt alone too. Go figure.

    1. Our Widow's Voice blogs have moved over to our Soaring Spirits web site. Kelley Lynn still writes for us on Fridays. You can find our blogs here: