Monday, October 8, 2012

Booster Shot


There is a question that always makes me freeze up. It's not "Are you married?", although that's a rotten one, too. It's "What do you do?".

I think it rattles me so much because it gets right to the heart of my biggest source of fear - that I no longer know what I'm going to do with my life. My identity is still forming in this new life of mine. In this life I'm only 16 months old and I haven't had enough time to figure much out. So, when someone says "what do you do?" I feel like saying "try to put my life back together".

People want to put other people in categories. I know I do it all the time. I want to know when I meet you if you're a teacher or a lawyer or a librarian or a chef. If you tell me "I don't know", I'm not going to be able to categorize you right away and that makes most of us a little uncomfortable.

When I asked a woman I met yesterday what she does and she replied with "Oh, that question is so hard," my fellow-widow alarm went off and sure enough she told me what she used to do and then said "but my husband died a year and a half ago, and now I don't know what I'm going to do," It was like hearing myself talking.

"MY husband died a year and a half ago!" I replied, suddenly fired up with the recognition of someone else who might truly get me.

And whoo boy, did she get me. She told me about her lovely husband and how he died and I told her about Dave and how he died. As we discussed our observations of this new journey we're  on, I felt understood and recognized and truly heard. The veil of loneliness dropped away and I felt the ease of not having to pretend to be okay or find words for feelings nearly unexplainable.

We talked about how year two is harder than year one, and what to do with ashes and how to find ways to sleep well again. We talked about how, in our society, people often don't seem to be versed in dealing with the bereaved because it's a taboo subject in daily life. We compared notes on how sharing our widowed status often sends people nearly running from us in discomfort.

Meeting someone else on this journey always feels a lot like being thrown a life ring, or at the very least, having someone join me in the waves so I don't feel so terrifyingly alone as I tread water. 

I gave her one of my SSLF cards with my phone number and email address and told her about Camp Widow and I felt the urge to scoop up all the other widowed people out there and move in together.

That would be an idea that my therapist would say is "over-identifying with my widowhood" but it's normal to want to feel as though I belong and I haven't felt that way much since Dave died.

I know that I won't always feel as though I don't belong outside of the time I spend with my widowed friends. I get that.

I also know that right now, the feeling of belonging is so comforting that I need a little injection of it on a daily basis to keep my strength up.

A little fellow-widow booster shot.


  1. I wish I was there. I find myself eyeing women at the park, the mall, on my rides and runs....wondering "Are you a widow?". Longing to have that comfortable and knowing conversation. I begin a bereavement support group in 2 weeks, hoping to find some people who also speak the language of grief.
    Thank you for this posting, I feel a little less alone for now.

  2. I understand completely. I am sorry for your loss and all the pain you have felt and will continue to feel. I think it changes but never goes away. I too am a survivor, not that I feel that way right now. I am 3 months out and so sad and confused over the loss of my best friend and husband of 20 years. I want to find someone I can identify with, but we are all on our own journey so ... His was a total shock. He was not depressed, we were planning a vacation he couldn't wait to go on and lots of future stuff we'd planned for years. I feel his was accidental and was there when it happened. I know exactly how the events unfolded and know he would never hurt me intentionally. I believe he thought the gun was empty and trying to make a point ended up taking his own life.
    Our children are grown and grandchildren almost grown as well, so am alone a lot and live hours from my family and his although his family is not very involved. Of course all the friends I thought would be there are NOT. Especially male friends we shared, some of who I thought were my good friends as well. Some do keep in touch but from a distance. I have people stepping up to help that I never thought would befriend me so that's a bit odd and I am a very private person so ...
    I too, feel the call of death often, I'm in counseling but seems more to have someone to talk to than anything. I would love to find a site just for people like me. I am under 55 and it seems so hard to connect with anyone now. Please take care of yourself and be strong. It is worth it to stay, even if it's to spare others what we are going through.

  3. I had the opportunity to meet a woman who is close in age and our husband's deaths were similar in circumstance. A friend of mine connected me with her and she and I met for lunch. I felt like I was talking to a mirror because the feelings were so parallel. She and I even agreed that the one thing we missed most about our husbands was being able to talk to them. I cried when she told me this because I have said this to myself for so long now. It was a therapeutic meeting for me and I hope for her as well. I hope that she and I will stay connected.

  4. Cassie,
    I so understand that feeling of not belonging. I really don't feel like I belong anywhere right now, either...trying to figure out a move, and there is no sense of direction. I really don't want to be anywhere.

    I have avoided social situations where I know there will be new faces specifically so I don't have to answer the "what do you do" question. When asked, I often answer with something general, and turn the question back on them. Most people will readily answer the question, and not probe me with more.

    I never thought I would join a loss of spouse group, but the one I am in has very caring men and women, of all ages. We learn from and lean on each other, it amazes me how what I was experiencing months ago will surface for someone else, and then again at a later date. We often sit and shake our heads in acknowledging the similar feelings being expressed. Check with your local hospice organization for a group.

  5. How could you have known what I have been feeling. Yesterday, I felt very lonely and alone, I was just thinking how having someone understand my pain would help and also understand that it comes and goes like the wind. As for the therapist do not listen to her, you will always be a widow and unless you go through it, you do not get it. I have lost my grantparents, my mother, my brother. None of them compare to losing my husband!

    1. No, I've lost all my grandparents and both parents and none came close to the life-shattering experience of losing my Dave.
      I know what my therapist was trying to say, but I also know in the depths of my being that I'm not over-identifying, I'm just finding comfort. And not only that but sharing strength. It takes a village and never before have I truly understood the importance of community until I became a widow. My fellow widowed community is my strength and that's a good thing. Period.

  6. I think most of us have had these thoughts in one form or another, but wow, that was great you two connected!
    I feel the same way about wanting to meet some kindred souls--I think need some sort of tee shirt that says what I'm thinking--and most of the time time it's not that Widows Rock, but something much more tentative. (I do love and wear my WR tshirt, but fear it could be misinterpreted; would like something a bit more quirky--any ideas?). and yes, therapists parrot what they are taught in school. They like to label things so they can have an insurance code for prescribing drugs.