My observations this week have taken me into the unknown world of widowhood. In a couple’s world this planet can be very lonely for someone who has lost a spouse or partner. Instantly people are plunged from the comforts of containment and joy into a fearful abyss of tears and solitude.
In the gym this morning I was surrounded by couples who obviously were sweating together in sync whilst walking fast pace on the treadmill climbing an upward incline. However, on the decline were the frail, elderly men struggling to sustain the weight of the barbels underneath their fragile bodies. Thus, the couples working together in unison were working at a faster pace, looking out for one another, wiping down equipment for one another, sipping water together, squatting together as a team.
To highlight this issue of solidarity, people in relationships fail to recognise the importance of unity and companionship that being in partnership with someone outside of your own being offers. This other person is a representation of their world, their financial partner, their Counsellor, their best friend, their travel buddy, worst critic, sexual partner & soul mate to name only a few.
To highlight such issues let’s look at the world within a social perspective from someone who is widowed. For example: When booking any reservations the assumption is that there will be two people for dinner, or perhaps a movie for two? When holidaying you are actually penalised for booking a room for 1, it is actually more economic to book a room for 2. These are the struggles that people face everyday. We live in a biased world that caters for two.
When you are in a couples world you are able to share and vent to your partner any woes that you may have endeavoured during your day. A simple phone call to clarify an issue, to organise dinner, pick up milk or to massage your aching feet. These are all taken away when your partner dies as death also takes with it their wise council, their presence, protection, security, advice and future, yes they take with them your future plans which may include retirement, children, grandchildren, world cruises, hours in the garden, walks by the beach and tender moments of togetherness and love making. These all disappear when your partner dies leaving you with feelings of abandonment, isolation from other couples and deep sadness; a sadness that leaves you sighing under a heavy chest.
Other issues may involve domesticity activity, raising children, grandchildren, financial plans and decision making. Is the house too big for one person? Is moving away going to isolate you from the people in your neighbourhood? Opening stubborn jars of jam or pickles, removing stains from tired jeans, changing the light bulbs, eating dinner alone and the list goes on and on and on.
The world of the bereaved partner is very confusing and isolating. No one can make assumptions on your behalf. The way you choose to grieve for your partner is innate and unique to you. Family members, especially adult children, mean well but their grief experience is different to yours. The empty house is a great metaphor to the emptiness you have in your heart.
Overall, your world will change as you discover different ways of coping with the loss. You may start to mingle with a different group of friends, you may decide to down size the family home, become a volunteer, spend more time with family or invest in activities that you enjoy (i.e. Art/Sport etc). The world can be a very scary place for you at the beginning and you may fantasise about being with your loved one (this is normal) but you soon realise that the void must be filled, you begin to fill the void whilst all along having your loved one right there tucked away in your heart, they are never to far away in your mind and in your being.
All in all, there are continuous challenges for the grieving partner. Anniversaries and significant events can rock your world again and throw you back 10 steps. There is no linear process here. If isolation is an issue become familiar with what is available to you in your area, 24/7 helpline numbers, support groups, church support etc.
You will discover your rhythm again as time permits, you will have bad days and good days. You will get angry and frustrated and you will find laughter again. These are all part of the grief journey you find yourself in. You will evolve and offer others solace during their grief. You will grow whilst letting go of the training wheels.
(For those of you feeling ‘stuck’ in your grief please seek advice from your GP or healthcare practitioner. Complicated Grief is real and can disable you from living life again).
Artwork credit: http://www.jennilowe.com