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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."

I have a saying:  'the weak can never help the strong", you all know what I mean.  Sometimes I look for help with something but I know a lot of those I am friendly with cannot help me, they have too many troubles of their own. I know I am a strong woman, I looked after an invalid husband for 12 years, the first four months after Ray had  had six months in hospital and rehabilitation unit I also looked after my Mum and Dad, Dad with cancer, Mum with Alzheimers, then my Dad died and I continued to look after my Mum for two more years.  Then my husband had another stroke (he had seven major strokes all up) and I had to put my Mum into care, partly because she was running away all the time and I couldn't safely leave my husband to look after himself while I chased after Mum.  It seemed so easy when I only had one person to look after.  But because we all know this ends in widowhood I can say he slowly went down hill, had more strokes then fits, seizures and a whole raft of medical problems, became harder to care for etc and died three years ago.

I think there used to be a sign on my forehead that said "Rescuer".  I have had counselling experience, eight years on a Suicide Line, did a Diploma which majored in pastoral care and worked for Social Security so maybe that is in the back of people's minds when they come to me for help and advice. Last week we had a big hailstorm resulting in a lot of damage to homes.  I was one of the lucky ones, no damage apart from a few shredded plants.  I went to the shopping centre today and four different people came up to me and told me their story, of dismay at the damage, dealings with the insurance company, where they were with that right now etc. A couple said they would need to move out of their homes at some stage.

I did feel sorry for all of them, offered what help I could and moved on. I can't rescue them all.  I could take in an old friend if she needs it, probably when her floor coverings are ripped up and she needs to move out while they are being replaced but it would only be for a few days.  Can I rescue families with dogs, no, families who want their own ensuite, no, families who want to go back and forth to their homes three or four times a day so I don't know when we are eating, no.  I have a busy enough life already and I can only do so much for people without getting burnt out now. So if anyone needs me, yes I can help, but there are conditions.  Once I was not like this, my arms were open to everyone but age and a kind of weariness has stopped me feeling that way in this present situation.

Through my pastoral care role in the church I do a lot of visiting.  I love the work and find it rewarding.  I also find it emotionally exhausting some times.  I think partly because there is no-one to debrief with now.  Once I would come home and tell Ray.  I would leave out details that would breech confidentiality and just tell him general facts. He would listen and then go on with what he was doing.  That was fine.  Now on my own I have no-one to share any of this with and I find that a problem. Three years since he died and I am still finding more ways in which I miss him.  A long term relationship like we had is irreplaceable.  I could get a new partner but there is no way he could replace Ray in so many ways.

And so I am no longer the rescuer.  I am the listener instead.  I can help people to see what the problem is and maybe help them establish priorities and even make plans to deal with their problem but I cannot rescue them, maybe I never could.  And now I need to make more boundaries because I know how much I can take emotionally.  I wish we could go back to when I thought I was superwoman and could handle it all but back then I had a good backup in Ray. How much things change when that person you relied on for so much is gone.  Okay he was not that strong man those last few years of his life but then I had dropped everything else to look after him so he had no need to be.  Now I am back in the mainstream of life I am realising more and more what I have lost.

My children still see me as "Mum who can cope" and sure I can, most of the time anyway but sometimes how I long for a hug, for someone to discuss my problems with, for someone to give advice based on who I am and what would help.  No-one knows me like Ray did.  He and I had traveled the same road for so long.  I know people who have been in a long term relationship will understand this, 44 years of marriage, making a home, raising three kids, a lot of shared history was ours.   We had know each other since we were young.  If I take on another partner now he will not know all of those things, we will be starting all over again.  I am not sure I can manage that. I am beginning to understand why people say they will not remarry or even get another partner. As time goes by it is hard to imagine being that close to someone else at my  age.

I am not shutting the door on the future, I have always been open to change so I am hoping to continue that way.  I just find that in the long hours of the night when I am sleeping badly a lot of these kind of ideas present themselves for review.  What will the future bring? Whatever it is I hope I can handle it gracefully and continue to live life with some laughter and joy. 

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Comment by Blue Snow on October 9, 2015 at 2:31pm

I would die of shock if I ever found myself interested in another man. Like you, I had a good one for 42 years and we both worked hard to build our lives together. I could not just walk away from my house, merge assets and move in with someone else or have someone take over Don's place in my house. I know people do that, and many times it works out great but I guess I'm just not that lonely. I do understand missing the feedback widows no longer get from our mates. That's hard, isn't it. But deep down I always know what Don would have told if I could still share experiences and feelings with him.

Being a super-good long term caregiver like we both were I guess it's normal for friends and family to still see us as strong and able to handle anything. (Or maybe it's just easier that way because then they don't have to offer help or understanding to us.) So we go on playing the role and don't ask for help when we'd really like some. They see what we show them and for now, for me, that's fine because I AM strong and I AM able to handle things. One day I won't be able to do those things and when I finally ask for help, they will take me seriously. That's my hope anyway. LOL

Comment by only1sue on October 6, 2015 at 2:32pm

Dianne, you make some very good points there about being a widow.  i don't have people to follow in that way, my MIL died young, only 57, and my Mum had dementia when she was widowed after 61 years of marriage and I took care of her. So I am a pioneer in my family, the first to be widowed. I would like to have a companion if not a partner but so far the men who have taken me out, mostly just the one date, have not been someone I would consider.  Call me fussy but i had a good man for 44 years and that is a hard act to follow. Luckily I do have a bunch of older widowed friends so i do get to go out with them occasionally.

Comment by Dianne in Nevada on October 6, 2015 at 9:27am

I can relate to much of what you wrote, Sue.  I so miss having my Vern here to talk to about all kinds of things. Of course, the bulk of my 'rescuing' these days involves the widowed community ... and if he were still here, well ... I wouldn't be involved with widows, would I?  I know that I'm strong (even though I don't especially care to have people use that as an excuse for not offering me help or a kindness) - I proved that strength surviving these past years of his illness and death.  But oh how wonderful it would be to have him here to hold me up when I'm not feeling so strong. 

I have no desire to date or re-marry and often get push-back from friends about that. The 41 years I had with Vern created our history together and I just don't feel I have it in me at this point in my life to have to take care of someone else that I don't have that long, beautiful history with. It sounds rather selfish when I write that, I know, but it's how I feel. I'm quite sure I would feel differently about this if Vern had died when I was young, but I'm so grateful that did not happen. And I'll admit I just don't have the self-confidence to put myself out there in the dating world. My last date was in 1969 and things have changed rather drastically since then!

So I'm doing my best to create a good and full life alone. Finding things I enjoy doing that I didn't have the time to do before. Creative stuff, traveling, reading. My MIL was widowed for 30 years, my mom for 14 years. They both lived good lives alone - one was very social, one spent a great deal of time alone. I think I can figure this out, too.

Comment by only1sue on October 5, 2015 at 9:28pm

I am gong through a series of events where I wish there was someone to rescue me.  I just have to remember that I am the strong one whatever comes to me now has at some stage in the past been overcome.  Bah humbug!

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