Just lately I have been asking other widows how they cope with things like loneliness, isolation, family events to which they are not invited etc. Luckily the lunch group from church is very helpful as we are mostly widows and I can talk to them privately or as a group. Most of them have been widowed a while with the exception of a woman my own age whose husband died four months before Ray did. On the whole their advice has been quite helpful.
On the other hand I am getting advice from the non-widowed on how I should live. I find some of it difficult to assimilate as it is not really welcome and I find some of it goes against how I feel and what I know. A lot of the advice I get from family and non-widowed friends is about my safety. I know where this is coming from as I have had a few small accidents in the past few months, and so they are concerned. There is really no solution to the problem in my view as I do live alone, I do climb on steps or on chairs (which I realise is dangerous) and I have fallen off them. But in my opinion it is not frequent so what is the problem?
Since I stood on the rake in the back yard I think my children think I am careless and would like me to stop activities such as gardening and carting rubbish and get someone in to do it. I don't see it that way. I want to be as independent as possible for as long as possible and if that means taking a few risks so be it. I am not ready for a retirement village yet although I suspect that is further down the track for me, maybe after I turn 70. I will eventually sell this house and go into a small villa but I am still enjoying living here so why hasten that?
By letting other people into our lives we are opening ourselves to a lot of well-meant advice, so I have to field the questions and suggestions as best I can. Luckily I have a wide diversity of friends so the advice from one sometimes can be the direct opposite of the advice from another so I get to choose which I like best. But my kids do think I should take their advice into consideration. Bless them, they do see me as being a lot different from how I see myself but maybe some days I am kidding myself, particularly where jobs I once did easily, like carting vegetable matter the length of my house block, is concerned. I know I may be overplaying my strengths and abilities.
Which of course is why I would like a companion to work alongside me. I don't think that is going to happen any time soon so I will go on alone. Sometimes, like this week when I was really sick for a day, some kind of tummy bug, I just want someone to be here, to make me a cup of tea, to bring the painkillers, to just watch over me. And sometimes when I am having a lonely day I just want someone to be there for me. I had my husband as an invalid for many years and looking after him was a lot of hard work but the companionship was still there. He was in the house, I could hear his breathing at night. I was not alone.
I think putting all of this in words helps me see where I am now. Nothing is changed but everything is changing. I know it is happening in ways I can't yet see. The relationships in families are not static either and I have to be patient with my children as a new relationship evolves that will allow them to see me as their widowed mother without too many worries that they should make me "safe". Because to make me too safe, to try to wrap me up in cotton wool, would be as stifling to my maturing as it would have been to them had I done it when they were young. It has to be live and let live.
And as for the advice of well meaning friends it is smile pleasantly, nod slowly and say: "I will have to take that into consideration. Thank you for your concern." or something similar.