Monday, February 10, 2014



Finding ways to fill my time after Dave died was a huge challenge. I needed to stay busy and connected to others, but I wasn't any good for social situations, especially early on.

 I was zombie-like and had difficulty relating to anyone else who hadn't experienced widowhood. I couldn't talk about what I used to talk about. Gossip, work-related issues, griping (especially about spouses!) were nearly physically impossible for me to sit through. I'd have to escape for fear I'd scream at people.

Also, I'd always hung out with other married couples and suddenly felt completely wretched hanging out as a single with all those paired up people. 

So, my life suddenly narrowed down to this small, lonely existence. I had to fill it with something. I had to break away from the old and start building the new. I decided I had to find new friends. 

That's when I turned to the internet. After a few fevered "young widow" searches, I found, with huge relief, Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation and registered for Camp Widow. I figured that I'd find my people there and that's all I cared about. I had tunnel vision. Nothing mattered but finding a place where I felt like I belonged. I wanted to ask other widowed people how they did it, how they survived. 

I wanted proof that I'd survive too. I wanted hope. 

I got all of that and more. And when I returned home and had to go back to spending my nights alone on that couch I used to share with my husband, I had new widowed friends to call and text. They were my lifelines. 

It was the most important part of my healing. I also used the internet to find a local young widow support group where I made other important connections. 

The hope, support and love these people gave me helped propel me into a new life. 

When I did still have lonely nights at home, I began to find ways to make the most of it. I found that comedy helped heal me. I watched the entirety of 30 Rock two times through. I watched How I Met Your Mother, every funny movie I could find, and stand up comedy. I hunkered down and allowed myself to be completely lazy and anesthetize myself with funny TV. It was not a time for broadening my mind or learning new things. 

I also wrote. A lot. I wrote every single day for months. I'd wake up and write before I did anything else. It helped to process my thoughts and feelings and made the alone time feel a little less empty. After I'd write for a while, it would feel almost as good as having had a conversation with someone else. 

The other way I filled my time was by joining a gym. I began taking crossfit classes several mornings a week. The exercises were so challenging and exhausting that for the hour of class, the only thing I could think of was staying upright and not throwing up, so my mind got a rest from all the grieving. 
It also allowed me to be around other people, people who didn't know me before. Plus, it seemed to help me sleep at night. 

I was also lucky enough to move to an area overflowing with things to do and people to meet. I went on hikes, went to meetup groups, wandered around my new neighborhood, joined another gym, tried new restaurants and museums and traveled whenever possible. 

However, the lonely nights and weekends were still a regular part of my life. I could spend time with new friends, explore my new town, stay busy all day and STILL come home to an agonizingly lonely, dark house. The silence of it was the loudest thing I'd ever heard.

They felt impossible to survive, those nights, piling up on each other in the days ahead of me. But I did survive them. Sometimes I just suffered through them, crying for hours on end. Sometimes, I numbed myself. Sometimes I'd obsessively check my phone for invites that never appeared. Eventually, though, something happened to me that changed everything

Somewhere along the way I began to find a quiet peace and contentment in my nights alone. I didn't love them or long for them, but I made friends with them. They didn't feel so intolerable anymore. I began to imagine how things could be worse. 

I began to see the beauty in my quiet little life. I began to feel loved and a part of everything even when I was alone. It's not always that way, but now it's more often that way than not. 

It can happen. 

Just hold on until then. Fill your nights with whatever comforts you. Make connections with others. Reach out. You are not alone even when you think you are. There are millions of us out here, living this, too. It won't always feel so excruciating. There is life after this. 


  1. Oh Cassie...this is my life...small, lonely existence. I am really having a hard time seeing past this part of my journey. So very glad to hear there might actually be another ending to my day. I have become really good at going to movies, theatre, restaurants by myself. I have also found relief at the gym. I am probably one of the oldest, heaviest in my yoga and cardio classes, but they are very welcoming and are currently a big part of my social life. I have found that the needier I am, the more some of my before friends tend to push me away. I even warned one friend that this was a really bad time and I might get wacko and when I did she shut me out totally. I have turned to the bottle to numb out at night and then beat myself up for it in the morning. It just seems the easiest way to get through it. Thanks for giving me hope. I am especially looking forward to Tampa. I certainly hope it will help me move...forward or backward...I just seem stuck.

  2. My husband died just 2 months ago in December. Since then I have felt very "zombie like" also. I have lost my passion and my interest in much of anything. Reading this blog is making me realize that we all go through some of the same things and there is hope that one day, I will find myself again. Beth

    1. You will. You really, really will. Hold on.

  3. This is a great post. My father passed away a few years ago and I hadn't realized how much of my time day to day that his sickness was taking up. After he passed away I had so much free time that was difficult to fill.

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I can fill the days, but the nights and weekends are still long after two years. I am going to try several of your suggestions. You give me renewed hope. Thanks so much.

  5. Cassie..your words described what I have gone thru too....the zombie stage...the looking for comedy times...feeling the feeling of the moment feelings...then trying to fill the time especially on job keeps me very busy i am exhausted after work and love getting home..
    My next step is the gym...i need to get healthier and hope to find new friends...
    oh...finding a new church has been a good move too.
    I really needed to read your post today..thanks...Linda

    1. Yes! I forgot to mention church (or in my case choir). Finding a community like that was serious medicine for my broken heart.

    2. I happened into my new church's choir too..did the christmas program....been asked to be part of the easter program (I was only going to try it out for christmas)...I don't have great talent..but have met some great people who have embraced me...they don't know me as john's widow.....and I am ok with that....surprisingly.....

  6. Cassie, your journey still sounds very similar to mine. (And to many others I'm sure.)
    I still l break down & cry sometimes (always alone), but I do feel that I'm going to be OK.

    I'm determined to make the effort to find beauty in life, and my surroundings.
    Every day.
    Right now we're in the thick of an insanely snowy & cold Canadian winter - one that I haven't seen the likes of since my childhood. The snowbanks at the end of my driveway are as tall as me. I'm tired of complaining about it and hearing others complain, and have decided to embrace it. It's cold, but it's beautiful. It really is. Instead of having a winter that's usually grey & slushy, it's been pristine & white. Owning a dog (the dog Dave wanted) forces me to get outside to walk every day. It's hard to come home from work and bundle up to take him out before it gets dark, but I'm ALWAYS glad that I did.

    One thing I remember from a Mindfulness group I attended for a year shortly after my Dave died, was to lean into the pain. And it's true for all pain. As wrong as it sounds, embracing pain weakens it. My mind still struggles to make sense of Dave's absence, but I try not to fight it.

    I've come a long way and I try to remind myself of that when I feel like I'm not moving forward.

    Thanks Cassie.

    1. There really is something to that "lean in" stuff, isn't there? It's almost like looking directly at it makes it shrink just a tiny bit. It grows when it's hidden and pushed away, into the dark.

    2. I am just learning this "lean in stuff"...I. think you have to figure it out on your own....hard to describe

    3. Oh how the silence is deafening. Four months after Jim died I went on craigslist and looked at the temp housing wanted. Crazy I know. But, it turned out to be the best thing for me. I am in my early 50's and the only young lady that came to meet with me ended up being my roommate! We get along great and 2 or 3 months turned into a year and a half! She is 25 and we just get along great. She is pretty private and likes to stay in her room with the door closed, but I got used to it. Part of her rent $300 per month is she has to take care of my cats when I go to my river place on the weekends. My cats love her and she is very good to them and me. She has been there for several of my melt downs and helped me pick myself up and dust off the tears and move on again. It might not be for everyone, but it worked for me and I am thankful. Just remember ONE DAY AT A TIME, DON'T WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW IT WILL COME AND THEN YOU TOO WILL MAKE IT THROUGH THAT DAY. This will be my 3rd camp and most likely my last, but the workshops, having my 1st yr roommate (2nd yr she was crazy) and just talking with others that know what we go through everyday helps. Also reading the blogs and inspriring thoughts help lift you up.