Widowhood is INCREDIBLY turbulent-
Losing a spouse often creates an environment difficult to maintain the friendships we had in our marriages that were snuffed out earlier than we anticipated or would have wanted. We have nothing to give others in the aftermath of the equivalent of a nuclear bomb wiping out everything we hold near and dear. In the beginning, people understand that. They are there for you, just as Job’s friends were there for him. But patience wears thin after a short amount of time. Of course, to others, it feels more than long enough and in my experience and those around me in the same boat, those people became frustrated and began to feel the relationship was too “one sided”. This is the FIRST round of losing people and it hurts like… well, you can fill in the blank. The widow/er is already in the worst agony they’ve ever experienced from losing their life partner/lover/best friend/future/family they once knew. Now they are losing friends and family on top of that.
Where does the widow/er go next? I often didn’t feel comfortable with all my married friends because I was so incredibly lonely, that it hurt to watch them be together; laughing at their private jokes; shooting each other those quick glances of love when they thought no one was looking. So, I sought out single or widowed friends. Strong bonds were created as we learned from each other and shared mutual experiences and pain. They became like family. We truly “got” each other in a way no one else could or did. This was the SECOND round of losing people, even if I was the one that was seeking out the changes. It ultimately wasn’t what I had ever wanted. I wanted my old life back. But when I turned around…it was GONE! So, I moved forward but carried yet another loss.
When the widow/er remarries, they go through yet another monumental loss. For me, I no longer fully fit in the widowed community but I couldn’t fully go back to the previous married friends, because they didn’t always click with this new relationship I was in. Sometimes the awkwardness was on them. Other times it was on me. I often felt like my newfound happiness was causing others pain. It was hard to be around people that I knew loved my late husband and especially loved us together. So, I felt “forced” to find and cultivate some new married friends – some old, some new- but ALL in a state of learning this new relationship. This was the THIRD major loss in relationships as I learned to navigate this new life.
Meanwhile, some of my widowed friends seemed happy for me and others of us that were getting remarried. But in time, my new happy life began to feel, at least to me, like it had become difficult for them to watch. And, I don’t blame them! I just expressed earlier feeling the same way around my married friends. How much harder to see one of your own have what they don’t?? Maybe it was me. Maybe it was them. Either way, I felt it deeply. Some still reach out and thank me for sharing my story because they say it gives them hope. Others say things like, “I don’t have a husband to give me advice or protect me like you have”. This leaves me feeling guilty that I moved forward to love again and actually found my person, especially so quick, when my other widow friends are still lonely and scared and desperately wanting to find their person, just like I felt when I was alone. I have struggled for years and continue to struggle, feeling guilty that I didn’t stay single longer. That I left them all behind. As a result, some of my widowed relationships aren’t what they used to be. This is the FOURTH major loss in my widowhood journey and where I’m at currently. And…it hurts. I often feel like the only people that truly get me now are my remarried widow friends. That isn’t to bash any of my other friends- single, widowed, or married- it just means that I often don’t feel completely understood by anyone else but them. It doesn’t mean my current relationships aren’t good enough or wonderful or that I don’t thank God for them literally almost every single day. I do!!! There are just some things others can’t get, no matter how hard they try, unless they’ve lived through it. And this is one of those things.
Nearly every relationship I’ve had has changed since Clint went to heaven. Even the ones with my children. And, that’s ok. Sometimes the change is even better than before. And some relationships were toxic and I’m better off without them. I dare say that if something as catastrophic as losing a spouse happens and you don’t change, you may not be quite learning what God intends for you to learn. But, there is a massive loss to that change. It requires leaving much behind. And, this remains part of my continued grief. It’s why they say that grief never ends. There will always be new things I realize hurt deeply because Clint is no longer here.
Like tonight, when Lauren told me they made snow ice cream as a family. It brought tears to my eyes and I could literally feel the hole in the center of my chest. I could feel the missing of my old family. My old life. Clint. Snow ice cream was our family tradition. But it originated with Clint. And he’s gone. And that family is gone. And some of those old friendships are gone or distant. And…it hurts.