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We're friends, not doctors, financial or legal professionals, and we're not "grief experts." But we are here, and we've been "there."

Every year since Ray died I have had a week of anxiety as I plan the last six weeks of the year. Gone are the days when our children rang and said: "What are we doing for Christmas this year Mum?".  Now I ring them and they say:  "I don't know, I never plan that far ahead." It seems the present generation doesn't plan the way we did, they just rush out at the last moment and buy a few things and that is it. I know with the boys they always depended on their wives to do all the planning, buying etc and now my youngest hasn't got a wife he is struggling. But I know he is sensible and will find a way to celebrate his way.

My daughter as a Salvation Army Captain has a busy time in the lead up to Christmas. Like most charities they assemble Christmas hampers, supervise toy drops and raise money for the poor and homeless.  They also do Christmas Carols at different houses. In our summer climate they can gather on front lawns or driveways and sing in the neighbourhoods of the suburbs they serve.  I will be able to join with them in doing that next year as they will be a lot closer to where I live. So this is a transition year for me in a way, the time between having all my family far away and having one family much closer.

A couple of my close friendships seem to have faded away this year so there are party invitations I no longer get.  These are both married couples who were supportive at first but now feel I am okay and they don't have to bother any more with my "widowhood" (third wheel status).  It was bound to happen.  If you do something out of duty and not out of love it does become a burden so goodbye for now dear old friends. I have gained some acquaintances but at my stage of life am not sure these will turn into friendships, we do not have the time to live in companionship until those friendships blossom.  Being friends takes time and time is in short supply.

I have plenty to do but more and more am doing it alone now.  I did try out a few groups but didn't find the fit I wanted.  I will try a few different ones next year and see how I go. January is a down month in Australia, school holidays, a lot of people away on family vacations, grandparents looking after grandkids etc so no new enterprises start in January, always mid-February before new groups start up again.  I always have plenty to do with some child minding of the kids who come back to their mother for holidays, she works so I fill in a bit.  There will be things to do with them like swimming in the pool close by, picnics by the Lake etc.  It is a good way to fill in time for me,I  do love all of my  grandchildren and on the whole they are good fun to be with. But I know I am not a substitute for being Granma and Pa together and I do really miss that aspect of our lives.

November starts the closing down of the groups I do belong to so it is "bring-a-plate" season.  As it is summer it is light finger food, we really don't have the traditional foods, far too hot for the "Turkey Roast with all the Trimmings"  so there is fresh fruits and salads and sometimes seafood or cold meats, or a combination of both.  It is nice, I do enjoy dinners out, but the thought that I will probably not see these nice people for the next three months does cause some sadness. All my routines have changed and people I would talk to on the phone or who were close by and would visit, that just doesn't happen now. There is the usual problem of what a couple does when visiting a single woman so they just don't come here any more.

So building a new life is an ongoing project, I feel as if all of my energy is going into coping with being alone.  If Ray were here and we were in reasonably good health life would be so different.  When there are two of you it is troubles halved, happiness doubled.  It is his parties and your parties, his input into Christmas and your input into Christmas.  It is phone calls from his folk and from yours. Christmas was such a happy time, once upon a time. I know all of that is way back in time for me as a long term caregiver.  But even in the last few years of Ray's life I had a partner who I loved and who loved me.  Being loved is a wonderful feeling, one I no longer have. Being alone is so different. 

I know people see me and think I am coping well with life.  They see that I am "busy" and I am, but not fulfilled.  It is strange but after three years and two months I still feel as if I am marking time.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.  What am I waiting for?  Who knows?  I hope it is a happy event rather than a tragic event that will turn my life around.  I could use a boost right now.  I know it is the season to be jolly but jolliness, like happness, is somtimes elusive.



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Comment by only1sue on December 18, 2015 at 2:20am

Phyllis, I was thinking the same thing tonight.  I am going to my son's place for Christmas and everyone at a dinner tonight said:  "Have a great time."  I am just looking for a peaceful time, some time away from the every day plodding along of my life and nothing much else.  Over the last few weeks I  have had that "waiting for time to pass" feeling too.  I just wonder what it is I am waiting for.

Comment by Phyllis on December 18, 2015 at 2:05am

Sue, your last paragaph really hit a chord in me.  I have been thinking along those same lines for some time.  I think we are in this widowhood state about the same amount of time; Don died in August 2012. I too am busy; I have something planned, either volunteer or social, about five days a week.  And that's fine, if I had someone to come home to.  But when I am home at night, it's like I go into this alternative state of nothingness just waiting until morning when I can start preparing for my next commitment.  I attend a grief counseling group two times a month, and I asked the facilitator about coping with this limbo stage.  I said, the obvious end of being in limbo would be a new relationship, but what if that doesn't happen for me?  I'm not sure that's at all what I want anyway.  How do I know it will be time to just accept my present state - busy during the day, TV slug at night.  I feel very unfulfilled and I don't know the answer.  The facilitator said acceptance just happens.  That was not enough of an answer for me, but one I will have to go with at this point.  Fulfillment is a lot more than just filling up hours, be it with doing volunteer work for others or doing social things for my own enjoyment.  Eventually, fulfillment will come from within, I guess, but I'm still waiting.  

Comment by only1sue on December 1, 2015 at 11:53pm

I seem to be rushing against the clock to fit in all that seems to need doing.  Periodic rain has the grass growing and the weeds growing even faster, hot and strong winds have meant pot plants need more frequent watering.  I have been to two funerals and had a lot of extra visits to do in my church job.  Oh well at least while i am busy I am not getting distressed about other things.

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