I did a talk in a church group drawn from several churches last Saturday about being a widow. A few of the people who came have known me well over a lot of years and know of the years I looked after Ray with the defects of the strokes and then the dementia. Some of them even knew me when I looked after my Mum and Dad so it was a friendly audience. It was hard in a way to get through the talk as a lot of what I talked about was painful to recall but afterwards people came up to me and told me how they could relate to what I said. I guess we just have to go on educating people so they know how we feel. Some said they never realised how long it took to get over a bereavement. I was glad I was able to do the talk, to stimulate some interest and felt in the end it was a positive experience.
We can be honest here about how we feel but how does that work out in the real community? I know when I say something about how lonely I am people do a half smile, I know some are thinking; "how can this chatty lady possibly be lonely?" but I am. When I come inside and shut the door the world is shut out and I am alone with my thoughts. I never knew it would be like this to be a widow, I always imagined that there would be so much to do that I would enjoy coming home for a rest. I didn't realise it would so often feel like no-one cared, that they went home to the love of their family and I came home to no-one. I know it is not like that for everyone by the replies on here but that is the way it feels for me.
There was a woman of my age in attendance whose sister I went to school with and she has always been a single lady. She commented that she could understand the way I felt as I had been married for such a long time and had become accustomed to always having someone else around. I thought that was a good analysis of how I felt. She said as she had been alone most of her life it was hard for her to imagine what I felt when I walked into my home as hers had always been her sanctuary from the world. It did give me something to think about - how I could make my home my sanctuary. It is another part of the learning curve for me now, making changes that will make me feel better about being alone.
I get by quite well now day to day but sometimes the loneliness comes down like a black cloud and I don't do so well. Luckily for me remembering how much worse off a lot of others are helps. That is one benefit of the pastoral care work I do, I do see people who are not only alone but in need and have their needs neglected. At least my children are still in touch with me, do consider how I feel and from time to time respond to what I say. These older ladies are often quite cut off from their families and so do have needs that are not going to be met in any way other than by social services and often services they have to pay for. So far I am able to do everything I need to do for myself, make my own decisions etc.
I like to give help and support and that I can still do through the pastoral work I do for the church, and on the sites I belong to. Keeping busy is the key for me. Today I helped out at a coffee shop we have just started on Friday mornings at the church, went to a friend's husband's funeral, stayed and supported a disabled woman I know who attended and then went on to visit two people at a nursing home. To some people that may sound dull and not much fun but there is a lot of joy to be found in helping others. One of the women I visited in the nursing home was crying when I got there and laughing when I left, so that is a bonus for me. One of the staff had brought in a half grown kitten and the residents showed such joy on their faces when it was their turn to cuddle the little fluffy creature, simple things mean so much in that situation.
I am blog moderator on a Stroke Recovery site and one of the bloggers writes a blog a day, just a couple of paragraphs about his day. Because he had had strokes he acts as a mentor and visits people in a particular hospital who have had strokes, travelling by public transport. On his journey he meets many people and likes to encourage them, sometimes by buying them a cup of coffee or handing on his newspaper. He talks to people and befriends them. This man who is handicapped himself has not allowed that to drag the joy out of his life and he is a great example to me on my down days and I often read his blogs a week at a time to see how he responds to people, it is a great lesson to me on living with gratitude.
I still go through periods of everything reminding me of my loss and off I go on a crying jag again. Grief is strange that way. Three and a half years and I am still subject to sudden tears. But I am not crying all the time, I am not sad all the time, I am doing nicely most of the time, or it may seems so to those who do not know me well. Life will never be like it was, it will never be as it should have been according to the way I planned it, a happy retirement with the man I loved. But it will one day be the life I have chosen to live. That is my goal and I feel as if I am working on bringing that into perspective now. So the next step may be making my home my sanctuary. Or there may be other lessons I need to learn first to enable me to meet that challenge head on.