Being a Widowed Single in the Midst of a World of Couples

Suddenly losing your “Plus One” when your spouse dies just sucks. Plain and simple. It does. It is an ancillary issue that grief causes – there are many of course, and most suck. Becoming a single in the midst of your group of friends is hard. You have had this social partner for a long time – in my case, 15 years. You had a partner, you had someone to talk to at a party if there was a lull, you had someone to rescue you from an awkward conversation, you had someone to wink at from across the room, you always had a plus one for weddings and events. You had a vibe and a rhythm and no need to worry about who was refilling your drink or taking you home.

This strikes me again today strongly for two reasons. One is that a mom I know lost her husband to suicide last night. 9 days before Christmas. A great family with 3 children – lives changed forever in an instant. Even though my husband died, it’s always shocking and hard to fathom when someone dies. I found out late last night and have been thinking about them ever since. Another wonderful human that has lost their Plus One. I am not close to her but all of a sudden I feel a bond to this newest member of the club – “the club that no one wants to join.” It is a club like no other however, one in which its members comfort each other and come together in such a strong way for support – because no one can understand what this experience is like, really understand, unless you have lived it. We all know that, and when a new person enters that tribe, they become emotionally connected to all.

As I was thinking about this woman and her family this morning, I was also thinking about a Christmas Party that I am invited to this evening. I have been debating for days about whether or not I will go. I adore the couple that are hosting this annual party and I know many of the people that will be there. Many of the couples that will be there (it is almost all couples). I have gone to this party several times over the years, a few times with a date, but most times that I have gone, I have gone alone. Getting up the courage to go to events like this is tough. Going alone to an event that is mostly filled with loving couples always brings on a lot of anxiety for me. What if I walk in and have no one to talk to? What if it’s awkward AF? What if I am standing alone in the corner? What if the people that do talk to me are doing so because they feel sorry for me? What if they are talking about me – the single in the midst of couples, the widow in the midst of marrieds, the recently re-singled woman. What if they see me the way I see myself? The chubby odd woman out. Some of my fears are reasonable and some are not – I realize that. But my brain practically explodes with the anxiety. When thinking about these events, sometimes I push through and take a deep breath, look as good as I possibly can, and put on my mask of extreme self-confidence and go for it. Often with a drink or two before I get to the event. Sometimes I stay home and binge watch Netflix and eat ice cream. Often with a drink or two.  And typically regret not going. But these things ARE HARD! They reaffirm that your spouse is gone, reaffirm that you are on your own, reaffirm that you are lonely, reaffirm that you have massive anxiety and self-esteem issues, reaffirm what a mess you can be.

As I was thinking about whether or not I should go to the party, it occurred to me that this woman – and her husband – were also invited to this party. And that she was now, among many, many other awful things, going to have to deal with this solitary bullshit. I hate it for her, I hate it for me, I hate it for all of us.

After way too much overthinking, I have decided I am going to go to the party. I have had so much support these past years and a lot of that support came from the people that will be at this party. I need to remind myself of that, remember that these are people that have had my back. I have come to realize that many widows do not have the type of support I have had and for that support I will be forever grateful. And you know, as a widow, there are only so many invitations you receive. You have to say yes whenever you can and get yourself out there! Sitting at home watching a movie does absolutely nothing for your low self-esteem, nothing to relieve your sense of loneliness, nothing to sooth your anxiety, and certainly nothing to make you feel less of a mess. This is the time to look yourself in the mirror long and hard – which is therapy in and of itself – and remind yourself what an amazing, bad ass, gorgeous, special, interesting woman you are. This is the time to feel your own vibe and be your own Plus One. This is the time to remind yourself that there are many that are indeed grateful to have you in their lives. You have come so far in this life – walking into a party alone is not the biggest mountain you’ve had to climb – unless you tell yourself it is.

My act is so not together – but I’m working on it

I suppose this past year I have been more together than I have been in recent years. But these past few months have been some of the hardest in my life –

I talked with a friend on the phone last night that I have not talked to in a few years. She said to me, “You really seem like you’ve got it going on, got it all together.”

Wait, wait…

I adore you Sarah. It was so good to catch up and I am glad I was able to clear that up for you – my sh*t is so not together. I suppose this past year I have been more together than I have been in recent years. But these past few months have been some of the hardest in my life – and that’s saying something.

In the space of 3 weeks, two really hard things happened in my life. A man that I loved so much and thought I’d spend the rest of my life with broke up with me. Then while I was reeling from that, I was unjustly and brutally fired from a job that I adored and was really good at. Yup. Really. I sh*t you not. I spent the summer alternating between crying and drinking. It has been unbelievably difficult and both of these things have caused me to really take a hard look at myself, to reflect on what went wrong. I have floated in and out of self-doubt, hatred, anger, sadness, deep anxiety, fear, helplessness, isolation and rejection. Throw in a dash of crazy just for fun and I have been a real party. My poor children – they have been so wonderful and supportive and they have let the crazy slide (for the most part). I broke out all kinds of unhealthy coping mechanisms. Would you believe me if I told you that I started smoking, after not having smoked in 20 years? Of course you would. Yeah, that was one of the many ways that I coped. I have since stopped but it was quite helpful and I loved it – every minute of it. I do not endorse smoking cigarettes for anyone and at first I attempted to hide it from my kids. But then I thought, I am 47 years old – and it’s not a healthy thing for them to see, but I would rather be honest with them then hide in the shadows. I was embarrassed to tell my therapist that I was smoking but she got it and shared that it was a very empowering and self-soothing activity. And she told me to not do it for long. I love her.

I spent a lot of time alone this summer, in the sun, on my back patio, thinking. Just thinking and thinking. Over and over through my mind, not just the recent events that were so hard to process, but also the past ten years. I did a lot of “Really? REALLY????” which seems to be a frequent one for me. Also a lot of WTF’s, peppered with other creative swear words. I still don’t get it – how my life could look so completely different today than it did 4 months ago. After all these years and all the struggles and difficulty, feeling confident and really good was foreign to me but I was learning how to sit with it and enjoy life without always being afraid. I was really, really happy, and secure in a way I haven’t felt in years – possibly ever. And then the bottom fell out. How could it be true? How can this have happened? I just couldn’t t believe it. I still can’t.

But you know what? I may never believe it, never get it. And that’s OK. It doesn’t really matter, all the why’s and how’s. Not now. Having more knowledge won’t fix any of it and all of the why’s and how’s require a hell of a lot of emotional energy. Energy that is better put towards being good to myself and living my life – looking forward not back. I am done with being sad (for the most part) and I am done with moping, drinking (well…), smoking and woe-is-me-ing. It had its place, served its purpose, and now I am focused on finding my way back and using all that has happened and all the emotions to energize me to work on me. Looking at what I want out of life and planning for it and making it happen. Living with true intention. This still looks like a hot mess most days but these are the thoughts that are in my head and my heart now and that feels good – learning more about myself and what I want, and what I don’t, every day. I have learned so many lessons in my life, so many that I never wanted to learn, but they all have a purpose. I don’t know what the hell it is yet but I am confident in that. A brilliant and strong friend has told me that once I commit to finding myself and wanting to grow into my higher purpose, life begins to take shape. She also told me to love myself and be Bad Ass. So that’s what I am doing. Being Bad Ass is my favorite.
bad ass