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How old were you when your spouse died? How does your age affect your self-concept now that you're on your own?

I'm interested in hearing from widows and widowers of all ages to know what it's like to be a certain age when you have your loss. We have widows and widowers of all ages here on Widowed Village and we all must have some different viewpoints depending on our age.

 

So I was 44 when my husband died in '06. I felt surrounded by intact families with moms and dads..and I was out of place and out of sync with my friends who were no longer single but also had never experienced being widowed. I felt so different from everyone else. I felt like a lonely loser at times. I hated going to my children's school events alone or to social activities.

 

I also felt too young to want to be without a partner, so I wanted to date and to be part of a couple again. But I felt like being in my mid-40s was a terrible age to be single because there would be no one to date who wasn't either divorced after only being married briefly or a little old to still be single. Also, it was hard to talk to my friends about dating. They were mostly in mid-life marriages and didn't really want to hear about my dating...so that felt a little lonely too. No one to compare notes with. I felt like I wished I didn't have to date again, yet I think it made some of my friends a little jealous to think of me getting to do that again. Again, I felt very out of sync with my peers.

 

I also felt like it was terrible to lose my husband after we had done the hard work of raising young children and then they were just at an age where travelling and doing stuff with them would be so much easier now that they weren't really little anymore.

 

I felt like it was unlikely I would ever find someone else again.

 

 

 

 

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Bradley -- your experience sounds very familiar to me.  Even though my wife was 50 (I'm 53), she was very young at heart (and young looking), and we considered ourselves to just be approaching "prime time".  We were also business partners for 20 years, as well as best friends, each others' favorite people, etc.  We were a self-contained unit that never felt like we lacked anything because we had each other.  And now I've lost her.

For the first few months after she died, I seriously considered checking-out early.  Life felt utterly meaningless and the prospect of the next _x_ years being more of the same was nothing I wanted.  It seemed like ending it would be the easiest thing, and would solve my problems.  But (obviously) I decided against it, and for a number of reasons.  The first and most iron-clad reason was because I knew all too intimately how the grief caused by losing her was affecting not just me, but everyone who cared for her.  The notion of subjecting my family and friends to a second loss like that, made me feel like a monster.  So that closed and locked that particular exit for me.  (I still reserve the right to re-open it, in the event of a serious illness or injury.) 


But there were other reasons which also occurred to me, that I've come to value more than just the prohibition I mentioned. 

The first is that I want to do everything I can to keep the memory of my wife alive in those who knew her, and to celebrate her life in ways that I haven't even thought of yet.  She loved gardening and flowers (something I was never good at), but I've been learning so I can beautify her grave.  It's in a non-endowment country cemetery, so I've been able to put in hidden watering systems, plant the areas above and adjacent to her grave, put in some solar-powered fairy lights in the tree above it, and so on; I know she would approve.  I've been designing her grave monument (I was trained as an architect) in a manner that she would appreciate, and have ordered the stone from England, which a monumental stonemason will be carving.  I've also been writing about her and her life.  There are other projects I've begun gathering ideas for and just completing them will take time enough to get me through the next few years.

Also, my wife loved to donate her time and energy to causes she cared about, and was big on volunteerism.  I could always take it or leave it, but as it happened, a few months ago I got roped into volunteering at the local VA hospital every couple of weeks, helping older vets who live there (recreational activities), and sight-impaired vets (reading to them).  At first, I resented the time I spent there and couldn't wait to be done with each session.  But one afternoon, I was reading to a guy who had been badly burned in Vietnam and was left blind.  And something about the hospital room reminded me of my wife as she lay in the cardiac ICU for 4 weeks, while I sat next to her bed, terrified that I was losing her.  I thought of what it would've been like for her to have been alone -- and not just for 4 weeks, but for 40 years. 

Something changed inside me and I saw that trying to help others, even in the very modest way that I was trying to, could give life a purpose.  Intellectually, I knew that I had led a charmed life for the 27 years that I was fortunate enough to be with my wife, and that most people would never have anything even a fraction as satisfying and nurturing as that.  But now I felt a visceral connection between my emotional state and the state they must live in -- each of them mourning the loss of their mobility, their senses, their youth, their opportunities, and certainly, of loved ones.  How many of them had lost a spouse, family member or close friend, and couldn't even say good-bye to them, or attend their funeral?  How dare I begrudge spending a few hours a month helping others who had probably suffered more than I ever could!  How could I expect anyone to care about my tragedy if I refused to care about anyone else's?  It seems to me that being open to helping others might be a perfectly valid reason to go on, after my having enjoyed so many years of carefree happiness. 

I still sometimes have to struggle with this new model of life.  Before she died, we always looked at life as being one long continuum.  Now, I have to see it as being divided into two periods.  That's hard.  But if I am going to go on (and apparently I am), it would be better to at least be useful to others, and to do what I can to keep her memory alive in the world -- and just as importantly, to try to be open to things I haven't thought of or experienced yet, that might also provide meaning and relevance.

RCH,  Thank you for the generous reply.  I wish something made me feel better but nothhing does.  we were together 6 years and only married for 1.5 years when she died.  I feel completely robbed.  At this time I cant imagine being with another women as I miss her so so so much.  She was bubbly and just talked all the time to me.  The quietness and lonliness is unbearable yet nobody else can replace her.  Having a great marriage and traveling together was my single goal in life, for all my life since I was a teenager.  I feel just as we were starting our life I was robbed.

Now I dont want to travel and explore alone and it makes me sick to think of doing it.  I have tried volunteering a bit but it doesnt help.  My life periods were a poor 17 year marriage before Nicole.  Then six great years with Nicole.  And now this horrible period while still in my 40s.  I dont want to be a solo person the rest of my life yet I know I cant date this year.....intellectually thinking anyway.  Since childhood I never even dreamed of signing up for a solo life starting in my 40s.   At this point I am not sure when or if I can date.  I just walk around empty all day every day.  Keeping her memory alive is something I can see eye to eye with you on.  Thats really the only reason I have to wake up right now.  I am saving my money  for a very special head stone.  I want her favorite colors on it along with a picture on it.  She was just a kid in the real sense of years.  I am also going to give 1/2 of everything I have to the american diabetes association when I die.  She also had almost no family left.  They all died.  Her mom is alive but she didnt raise her.  her sister is the only one that really is in grief.  I am no longer afraid of death.  After seeing all my pets die and then nicole die in one year I just think its not as big of deal as I used too.  I know the object of god is to be internally joyful regardless of outer circumstance but I dont think I can get there. I figure I have to give it a few more months to see how I feel then but THIS as it is now just isnt going to work.

I am trying to stay open to things I have not experienced yet.  When I was married for 17 years I experienced a lot of things traveling, a lot of the times by myself and thought it was great, however, I was a drinker and partier back then.  Now I dont drink or party (4 years now) and have just been enjoying being with Nicole for the last years. Nothing I ever did in my previous, pre-Nicole life seem worth doing.  I look at the pictures of me before Nicole and wonder how I found any enjoyment out of life at all.  I spend half my time crying and 1/4 of my time angry and the other 1/4 of my time actually doing something like griefwork or working on our business.

I eat like a horse yet still have lost 35 Lbs just because of the never ending anxiety and missing her and asking god why this had to happen just as we were starting life.  I FINALLY had someone, the right someone.  The world seems like a cheap horror movie.

Yes, the silence and alone-ness is unbearable.  So many things feel unbearable. 

I talk to myself a lot.  I criticize myself a lot.  I cry a lot.  I feel like half of me has been ripped away, leaving a raw wound the length of my body.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that despite all that I have lost, she lost much more.  She was always so much more involved with living than I was.  She was constantly joyful about being alive, and looked at the world with childlike wonder and amusement, whereas I have always been more cynical and pessimistic.  She lost not just all of the joy she had in life, she lost life itself.  Surely that's far worse than what I've been dealt.  The difference is that she doesn't know it, whereas I am constantly aware of it.  For some reason, acknowledging that helps me gain a little perspective on my situation.

We also had traveled together a lot over the years, and it always was so much more enjoyable than traveling alone could've been.  (She was also great at all of the planning and arrangements; far better than I.)  We had spent 2015 working harder than usual to be able to save up enough to go back to Japan in October, and then back to England in April of 2016 for our 25th anniversary, to renew our vows (we had been married there).  But in July of 2015, she started getting ill and in late-August, she was diagnosed with cancer.  So much for traveling.  And then 9 months later, she died.  Friends in Paris have been encouraging me to come stay with them, but the thought of traveling without her feels not only pointless, since I wouldn't enjoy it, but as thought it would somehow be unfair to her.  That may not be rational, but it's how I feel.

Kelly's mother is her only close relative left, and like Nicole, she didn't raise Kelly either (her father raised her after her parents split-up, when she was 12).  Her mother is in denial about Kelly's death and hasn't left the house since Kelly died (11 months).  She didn't want to go to the memorial service and she hasn't been to the cemetery.  I've been doing all of her grocery shopping, and so on.  I never liked the woman (especially after everything Kelly told me about the way her mother abused her as a child) but now I just feel pity towards her; she's such a mess.  But at the same time, she's part of Kelly's DNA, so sometimes she reminds me of Kelly, which is simultaneously familiar and heartbreaking.

A week or so after Kelly died, her beloved cat stopped eating and would just sit by the front door, waiting for her.  Despite vet care and support, he went downhill quickly and I had to have him put to sleep two weeks later.  It broke my heart again; I felt like a murderer.

As for eating -- I've lost my appetite and haven't found it again.  Everything tastes like cardboard or sawdust to me.  I lost 12 pounds in the first few weeks (I'm skinny, so it was pretty obvious).  I eat the same thing every day: I make a big, healthful smoothie for breakfast (the same one I made every morning for her while she was fighting the cancer), which I can gulp down in a few seconds and be done with.  That fuels me until late in the day when I'll make some pasta or a salad.  That's it, every day.  I couldn't care less about it.  Friends rave about restaurants and invite me to come with them; I just tell them that food doesn't appeal.  Drinking (which we used to enjoy) doesn't appeal either.  Pretty much all of my senses are disinterested and provide no pleasure.  Looking at the same sort of things that once would've been a source of happiness because they could be shared with her (say, a beautiful sunset) no longer mean anything to me; they might as well be billboards. 

Like you, I'm no longer afraid of death.  For me, the fear of dying was always tied to the fear of being without her, and her being left without me.  Neither of us had any religious or spiritual beliefs, nor a belief in an afterlife, but we always took some comfort from the thought of being together in death, with our atoms mixing together into the soil, providing nutrition to the plants and trees, and being together until the sun engulfs us and we're turned back into star-stuff.  But neither of us were supposed to die for another 30 or 40 years (we both come from long-lived families and we both lived very healthful lifestyles).  I now look at death with indifference, and life with a combination of indifference, bitterness and regret.

"Sometimes I have to remind myself that despite all that I have lost, she lost much more.  She was always so much more involved with living than I was.  She was constantly joyful about being alive, and looked at the world with childlike wonder and amusement, whereas I have always been more cynical and pessimistic.  She lost not just all of the joy she had in life, she lost life itself. "

Same here.  She was the one that "lived".  I am the worrier and business person.  She didnt worry, she just lived.  This makes it all the harder.  I believe in an afterlife though but I have no idea what it looks like or what parts of our mentality we might retain.  We lived in Thailand where they dont worry about death and grieve much differently than we do.  They just KNOW they are going to be reborn.  And they dont get so upset when pets die, etc.  I have no earthly clue what happens but tend to believe western christianity has completely distorted any afterlife view.

But I know I wake up every day crying and missing her.  I can keep going on, its just miserable each and every day.  Nothing to look forward too.  Money seems meaningless so working, while it keeps me busy, doesnt appear to have any end benefit.

Walking an hour a day sucks.  Trying to talk to friends sucks.  And now that I have heard so many grief stories I am getting tired of sharing mine and listening as well.  And I used to love animals!!!  Now I could care less about them.  They just seem to be in the way.  I think its because my codependence issue has been completely destroyed....not healed mind you.  Just obliterated in a negative way.

Cant drink alcohol, dont use drugs, could care less about food, but driving around aimlessly, playing a video game, and doing some work on our business seems to distract me for a few hours.  I try to make memorials for her but I end up emotionally destroyed by the end of the day so thats off the table for now.

Life is now a combination of indifference, bitterness, and regret.  Yes.  Thats it.  

I echo what Bergen says. It's been almost 4 years for me. I was married 30 years and we were together all the time. We had been retired for 11 years. I just turned 70.
I have moved to another state and love my new place and home and have made a few new friends. Plus my SIL is currently living with me, but that could change, as she has a guy.
In the beginning I was so lonely and thought I wanted to meet a man etc. but I didn't and now, I no longer feel that impulse. I've grown more content with my life and the freedom I now have in everything. Plus any new man would have to be just so and my expectations would be too high and at 70, the "pickens" are slim. Then who am I to think I'm so special, that I could attract an awesome man. Most men aren't looking for 70 year olds.
So am I just killing time until the end? Well yes in honesty, I am. But I try to enjoy it and keep busy and involved and also enjoy the simple things etc. this doesn't always work and I still get depressed at times and I am on a permanent antidepressant (low dose). But most of the time I'm fairly content. The hole is there, but it's smaller and for me, has hardened into reality. Time is the great healer I do believe. I never thought I'd get to this place, but I have most of the time. I'll always feel lonely for him and the past and what could have been, but I have no choice now but to deal with it as best as I can...
'

It's taken me several days to read and respond to all of these postings, as they hit so close to home.

I have so much to say, and I don't know how to say most of it...I've been...alone now for five years, and I'm 50.  And the sad thing is, I've gotten used to being alone.  Kids are in school, back for summer...but reality is that will only be for only so long.

And then what.

My wife was my world.  I felt so content...so complete with her.  And now...now what.  

Am I just marking time?  Probably, as Maggie said above.  I SHOULD do something besides work home work home work home...but I just...I don't know...

I may start volunteering.  Or something.

It's difficult for men on many levels, because we're supposed to be strong and tough-out the bad things that life throws our way.  Part of how we value ourselves, and part of our identity, is tied to the notion that we're only valid as men if we can get through difficult situations on our own.  The very phrases "man-up" or "be a man" mean "push through this difficulty alone".

But for those of us who were fortunate enough to have wives we really loved, and felt like each of us was one-half of the whole, we can't just tough-out the loss of them and all they meant to us.  And most men expect to die before their wives (as statistics show is the case), so few of us have a chance to prepare ourselves for what it would really mean to lose them.  It's the most disorienting thing; beyond our imagination or understanding.

I was talking with a good friend of my wife and mine back in September (4 months after Kelly died) and he asked me if I was "seeing anyone about what I was going through".  He's a big, tough guy, but explained that he had been to a therapist for a traumatic experience he had gone through a few years earlier and that it had been the only thing that kept him going.  He recommended a particular organization locally that's a graduate school for psychologist and counselors.  They have a program for their students where they have private counseling sessions for people, on a sliding scale (the student therapists are supervised after sessions by qualified psychologists who review the guidance that the students are giving).  I was dubious but I did a little checking into it and it seemed legit.   (I should point out that I'm a skeptic and am adverse to anything that smacks of new-age "woo".)

They offered a number of different "modalities" -- some based more on spiritual traditions (like Buddhism), some more on analytical psychology (Freud, Jung, et al).  But the one that interested me was "somatic psychotherapy", which is about the connections between the mind and the body and the way that each can affect the other (both positively and negatively).  I could tell that my body was changing since my wife died; my posture, body language and facial expressions had completely changed, my breathing was much shallower, I was holding a lot of tension in my body, and so forth.  I was also aware that since I had an hereditary predisposition to gastric stress disorders, I was becoming more vulnerable to them occurring if my body continued to be affected by depression.  So somatic therapy seemed to be the best choice for me.

I called the screening number and spoke with one of their staff.  After describing my situation and answering a number of questions, they arranged a preliminary meeting with a therapist.  It turned out to be the best thing I could've done.  I lucked out with a therapist who is in her final semester of the program and is extremely perceptive and supportive.  I have 1-hour sessions twice a week, and it's not only seen me through some very difficult times, but I have a much better handle on what I'm going through than I would've, just stumbling through it alone. 

When I walk into the room, she can very quickly tell if something bad has happened since I last saw her, and she can detect what part of me is being affected by tension or if I'm not breathing fully.  (It's a completely non-touching process, BTW.)  She listens, asks questions, offers different perspectives, and in general, reminds me that what I'm going through is normal, necessary and respectful.  Even if she offered me no help whatsoever, just being able to unload what I'm going through on someone who is bright, supportive and a sympathetic listener, would've been worth the price of admission.  Which, thanks to their sliding-scale pricing, is $30 for two sessions. 

So FWIW, I would highly recommend looking into something like this in your area.  It wouldn't necessarily have to be twice a week, or somatic psychotherapy, but having a person who isn't a friend or family member, who is trained in grief counseling and support, who can listen non-judgmentally and offer guidance, could be very helpful for you.  It's probably been the difference for me between sticking around and ending it all, and it's made me a mentally healthier person than I would've been without it.  It hasn't "cured" me, and I made it clear from our first session that I wasn't looking for "healing", but it saw me through the worst of the darkness and is giving me tools with which I can construct something useful of the life that remains.  I'll probably continue with it until she graduates in December.  By then, I hope to have learned enough to continue without it.  (It's not like Freudian analysis, where they expect you to be a patient for life.)

I was 51 when I lost my husband he was much younger at 37, so it was very unexpected.  He has only been gone a couple of months, but it is like time stopped when he died and it seems like forever ago that he died.  I don't know if at any age when you lose a spouse it matters.  Jill I do agree with you that you feel like you don't fit in anymore.  I was used to doing everything with my husband and yes most of my friends are married, so yes you do feel like the odd person out.  It is a very lonely feeling.  People at work talk about what they are going to do at there wedding anniversary and you think that was taken away from me now.  I was planning on retiring in a few years and was looking forward to my husband and I traveling more.  We both enjoyed going to new places.  Now I wonder what am I going to do now. I guess only time will tell. I know that this week it seems like everything has went wrong and I could always count on my husband listening to me and making me feel better.  Well instead of that I have been reaching out to my friends and they have been very supportive also my parents, so I feel very blessed for having them in my life.  I do appreciate this site and all the support I have received from other widowed people, you are a true blessing.   

I was 60 when I lost my husband Al 11 months ago. I'll be 61 in May but right now I feel so much older.  Al was my high school sweetheart and I was 16 when we married.  We had 43 great years together.  My kids and grandkids are adults now.  Much of my problem is that I have never lived alone, and yes the silence, the crying the loneliness is unbearable.  Everyone came today for Easter and they all started crying the minute they got in the house. I have no words of consolation as I am still a basketcase.  I don't work anymore (I have MS) and my days seem so empty and so long. I thought about volunteering, but honestly between the grief and MS I have no energy. I miss him so much that I want to go running down the street, screaming with my hair on fire like a lunatic.  What does someone my age do to feel better.  On top of that how does one survive with only 1 income?  I feel worse now then I did 6 months ago, and for the first time in many years I'm SCARED. I have no sense of purpose, no money to travel like we planned and will probably have to sell the house. Most of our friends have either moved, split up or died and so I don't have much of a support system other than my therapist.  I got asked out on a date by a man who was probably 45! I was flattered but it really freaked me out for some reason and I couldn't wait to get home. Obviously I said no thanks. Thanks to all for your support.  Sandi

I was 61 when my husband passed and after having married all my adult life, from the time I was 18 with my first husband and 12 years later to my second husband, it's a huge adjustment! The silence in the house pressed like a weight on my spirit. The air felt thick with emptiness.

A couple of months ago I got pets back into my life by adopting two kittens. The house isn't empty or silent any more and they give joy. It's not the same though, that's all I can say.

I was forty five when I was widowed in 2011.  I am in a totally different place now then I was during the first two years after losing my forty one year old husband to a massive heart attack.  All I can say is eventually for me, I decided that I had to get beyond the bitterness and entropy and force myself to live again.  It was not easy and it was the most back breaking work I have ever done.  (I graduated college in 3 years, went to law school and opened up a law practice, I know work.)  But I didn't want to become a bitter woman in her forties who had no future in front of her.  Although I felt that my life was over, I changed the phrase to "that life" is over and I must begin my new life.  And I did, I found a new career, forced myself into social situations, made new friends, eventually found new love. I went to grief counseling and worked through my bitterness and anger at the world. My new life looks nothing like my old life, but I am proud of what I have accomplished and happy in it.  Six years later, I can say that I still grieve, but grief does not rule this life, it is integrated into it.  Give it time, be gentle on self and take it one day at a time.  I will say for me the rebuild was worth it.

Hugs,

Val

 I was 35 when my husband took his own life. I am now 53 and I never remarried. I had two small children when he died and I just focused all of my energies

on raising them. I am now the mom of two grown up young ladies one in college and one married and expecting her first baby.  I am now looking at my life and I think  that now should be the time that I can slow down and enjoy life with my husband. I am going through my own pity party and I am mad that I am alone.

I still work full time and have a full life I just forgot about getting old and kids leaving home lol.

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