Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Facing Disasters - widowed but not alone.

Source: Courier Mail

At the time of writing this (late, I know), I am listening to the news reports of Hurricane Sandy half a world away from me.

My thoughts immediately turned to those widows facing this disaster.

In early 2011, less than a year into widowhood, my city flooded. 

My house was relatively unaffected - I was flooded repeatedly, but only by ground water which had been filtered clean by the concrete it had seeped through.  It was more soul-destroying in its regularity than it was scary.  I just had to sweep 3-inch-deep water out the door several times during the day (and night). 

But when the power went out and the main flood surge passed us in the nearby river,  I was scared.

I needed someone here to tell me that it would be OK.  That I was a sensible woman who could cope with this.  That I had prepared well by packing emergency bags and securing the house. 

But mostly what I needed to know was that I was not alone.

....and that was when some neighbours I vaguely know who live a block away, but high up on the hill knocked on my door just to let me know that if the need arose, I was more than welcome to shelter at their house.

Just knowing that these ordinary people who knew my recently widowed situation cared enough to check on me was exactly what I needed.  I knew I was being looked after.  I knew I wasn't alone.

So if there is one thing I want to say tonight, to anyone facing a disaster who thinks they are alone .... I hope that you also are surrounded by kindness by friends and neighbours, and by all the hope and love that the rest of your widowed community can send.


  1. Watching from Canada - our hearts go out to all facing the storm. We had the terrible wind and rain and power outages but have not had the flooding where I live.
    Last night as I prepared the house, got out the emergency flashlights and candles I was thinking how it was the first time I was facing something like this alone. How much more frightening it seemed and trying to work through what I would do, if windows broke, the power went out for days, all the disaster scenarios.
    The phone rang - it was another friend who lives on her own. We talked about what we would do. We promised to stay connected. I realized I wasn't alone.
    At the worst of times we need each other. It always reminds me to reach out to others. People want to help they just need to know how.
    Thank you
    Take care everyone.

  2. I was tempted to feel quite sorry for myself that we were facing our first "disaster" here in the mid atlantic and my husband is gone. I remembered, however going through a hurricane near the coast at my grandmas house where I was the lone capable adult with my debilitated grandma and my two (then) toddlers. Husband was alive just nowhere near us.

    The night before last, I snaked a drain in my kids' bathroom and if my husband were alive, I would have still been snaking the drain (husband never got as handy at home projects as I did). I love him and I miss him, but I was independent and capable before and I will continue to be so.

    I have a widow friend in Va Bch who lives really near the coast, I hope that she is OK.

  3. having just weathered "Sandy" alone, except for my dog and 2 teenagers, it was probably the second most difficult thing I have been through since losing my husband 4 years ago. the hardest was 4 months ago when in a different storm 5 trees toppled through our roof, one right into our living room inches from where my daughter and I were standing. Needless to say, the PTSD the kids are now suffering from is intense. And it was next to impossible to be with them both, comforting them during the worst of the storm, when in the middle of the night the winds were howling and tree limbs were hitting our roof with incredible regularity and when I was ready to scream and cry as well. The well wishes of my widowed community help immensely, don't get me wrong. But when it comes right down to it, in the middle of the night, you ARE alone. You are the only adult and you have to handle everything, physical, emotional you name it. And there is no one to hug or hold you and tell you everything is going to be all right. I too was and am incredibly independent, and would handle the home repairs etc on my own. But that is quite different than having another breathing caring loving adult by your side. Don't mean to vent or sound bitter. But that is just the way it is.

    1. It absolutely Is the way it is. Love and being thought of is important, and it is physically/practically of no use. It doesn't matter, and it does.

    2. Beth,
      Having been through a major hurricane (Ike) less than a year after Jim died, I agree. I was alone ..... and not alone, with 2 teenagers and with my mom. But it was still alone in my book. I was the one who had to deal with the tree on, and through, the roof, not to mention all of the limbs and debris that filled both the front and back yards. I was the one in charge for the following 2 weeks without power.
      I had my teenagers and my mom, and I had wonderful, amazing friends who came over the next afternoon (after I spent that morning crying in church because I felt so overwhelmed) and helped me clean everything up. But it was not the same as having Jim beside me, holding my hand, telling me that it would be ok.
      Yes, I am and always have been pretty independent. But it sucks that I have to be ...... and that's just the way it is.
      I hate that you and your children had to go through that ...... again. And though I'm not there with you physically, know that I'm there in spirit and sending you much love, my friend.

  4. Amanda, thank you for such a special post for those of us who have/are weathering Sandy. I nervously drove through standing water yesterday only to arrive at an empty house. My face was very wet but not from the rain, mostly from the tears. Flashlight in hand, I listened to the swirling winds missing my husband more than ever.

    The most unexpected people sent text messages, called and emailed me. These most simple gestures definitely helped me deal with that "alone" feeling.

    Thank you again for taking away that feeling of lonliness!!!!

    1. I hope that your community response the same way Australians do after disasters - by mate helping mate. I was used to that feeling of a country community pulling together after a cyclone (=hurricane) had hit in north Queensland, but the "Mud Army" of volunteers that cleaned up our entire city after the floods of 2011 was truly a force to be reckoned with. ....

  5. I have weathered so many "disasters" since I lost my husband 2 years ago that I am definitely feeling " picked on" and I really feel so very much alone.

  6. Since my husband died,I have been dealing with most of the "wish he was here" stuff with varying degrees of success. I miss him terribly, and, having just passed our 13th wedding anniversary (six years after his death), I was already feeling lonely and fragile.

    Then came the call from my mother that my apartment--in her basement--was filled with water from Hurricane Sandy. All the items I carefully moved to a high shelf were destroyed as water that came up through her drains soaked through her floor and my ceiling. Everything else is probably destroyed; I have to wait until the water recedes and until it's light out to see what devastation remains.

    I have been able to compartmentalize, and tell myself it's just stuff--that as long as my son, my dog, my parents, sisters and I are safe, everything else doesn't matter.

    But then I realized that, even as I deliberately took my wedding photos upstairs to my parents' before I evacuated, I left behind a box of cards, notes and letters in my husband's handwriting; a book he gave me on our first anniverary that had a sonnet he had written for me AND our wedding song calligraphed inside by our wedding calligrapher; pictures of him that I had taken out for my son; a handmade baby blanket from a dear friend; my son's first favorite stuffed animal...and then the grief comes back afresh.

    We have already had so much taken from us. And as his memory grows fainter, I am clinging to the things I can share with my son. Now we have even less to remember him by.

    People are already sending us things to replace what we've lost. But it's the things that I can't replace that are breaking my heart.

  7. Interesting reading everyone's stories.
    I count myself lucky in many ways I guess as I have never really been alone during any of the disasters I have had to go through as the only adult in the house (I lived in north Queensland for years and have been through 3 cyclones / exploding glass / trees poking through windows by myself before Greg moved up to FNQ). .... and then of course, the "inland tsunami" that was Brisbane in 2011, 10 months after Greg died which I referred to in the post above).
    Despite being the only adult in the house each time, I have had neighbours who made all the difference ... even in the middle of the night - especially when a tree branch broke the front window and sent glass spraying all through the house and my neighbour was there within minutes with a torch and a tarp at 2am).

    Maybe I have been lucky but in the 4 natural disasters I have been through without Greg by my side, I have never felt completely alone. Scared, yes, but never without knowing that help was close by.
    My hope is that those of you weathering this storm have neighbours as good as those that I seem always to have been lucky enough to have.

  8. I have only just gotten back power from the storm My house is okay, but my town was beaten pretty badly. It's my second hurricane without him and I know what to do - he was often referred to as "Mr Safety" and we were well stocked and prepared. It was a long and scary night with only the dogs for company. I guess that's what I missed most - someone to hold my hand, to assure me we'd be fine - who could be depended upon if something awful did happen. I missed my partner and my friend. I was so fortunate to have my friends and neighbors - they checked on me and cared for me and we all kept one another company the past few days. Not him, but just so awfully nice.