A What Not to Say Post
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
This post has been floating around in my head for a while now, and I’ve been asked a few times to address it. Today is that day.
As you know, all of our grief journeys are as unique as we are. I can only write about it from my perspective. But from my lonely little island in the ocean of grief, I can still observe the experiences of the other W’s in my tribe on their lonely little islands.
This isn’t a “pros and cons” of having children post. There is no grief experience that is “more” than another. No, what I’m attempting to describe is simply what I’ve observed, as imperfect as that observation may be. So here goes.
But first an introduction. Hi. I’m Lisa. I’m a childless widow. For those of you who are confused because you’ve heard me describe with glee that I’ll be a blue-haired granny this summer, I’ll explain. Dan’s bonus son and his preggo wife have adopted me into their lives, but I never had any kids of my own. Caught up? Okay, good.
Widows With Children At Home
When you have children at home, your grief experience is very different. You still have responsibilities, and you have young lives depending on you for guidance as to how to walk this path. Kids and teenagers can be selfish in their grief. They’ve already lost one parent and can’t bear to see you lose it too. You may not be able to grieve the way you need to. They still need and demand you to be their parent. But as lonely as widowhood can be, you’re not actually alone. You still have purpose.
I also see the flip side, where children and W’s become an incredibly strong team of survivors. All for one, and one for all. It’s a beautiful thing in the midst of the ugliness of loss and grief. Not gonna lie, more than once I’ve observed this bond with envy.
Maternal instinct seems to trump implosion in this scenario, at least from my vantage point. But I also worry about these W’s, since they tend to repress their grief so that they can care for their children. I’ve heard more than one W express that their kids were the only reason they couldn’t/wouldn’t commit suicide. Heartbreaking. Grief is a bitch no matter what your kid situation may be.
Not having children, my grief experience was totally different. I had no one else to feed, bathe, clothe, get to school, worry about processing their grief and trying to provide some semblance of normalcy. With only myself to worry about, I was able to invest the time needed to go through the grieving process. I was able to be a complete wreck without damaging anyone else as I tried to rebuild my universe piece by shattered piece.
And many things were made easier by not having kids to care for. I didn’t have to consult anyone or think about their feelings when it came to selling our dream home or moving across town. Solo-travel didn’t require any discussion. I could stay in bed for days, eat or not eat, cry for hours and drink myself to sleep at night without worrying about little eyes watching and learning.
But I was also doing it alone. And being suddenly alone, I was dragged into a new life of silence that was deafening. I went from a home full of noisy activity to a house so quiet I thought I might lose my mind. (Ever wonder why I have music playing 24/7?) I had no one to come home to, cook for, or make me decorate for the holidays. No one to live for. And by live, I mean to engage in life’s activities, although regular readers know about the dark times where it meant to stay alive. Like I said, Grief is a bitch.
Widows With Adult Children
Somewhere between the other two groups are W’s who have adult children. You’d think that these children would be the best support network a W could have. You’d be wrong. Some are, it’s true. They do their best to love and support their mom while grieving the loss of their dad. But so many I see are the opposite. Selfish. Judgmental. Even cruel. My heart aches for these W’s. They’ve not only lost their husbands, now they’ve got to deal with damaged relationships with their children. And don’t get me started on the adult step-children who just exit stage left, no matter how long their step-mom was part of their lives, sometimes taking grandchildren with them.
Widowhood is incredibly lonely, no matter if you have children at home, adult kids, or if you’re childless. I’ve spoken with many W’s about the loneliness, but can’t even begin to describe it to you. What I can tell you is that widowhood also brings fear, uncertainty, and self-doubt to the party. And if you allow it, it can bring isolation. DO NOT ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN. Friends and Family of W’s, did you get that? Don’t allow the isolation to happen.
And it should go without saying, don’t ever say the words Lonely Widow out loud when you are referencing a W. Most people think it means a widow who is alone and wants male companionship. That’s not correct. The loneliness comes from the ever present reminders that we are doing life on our own, with no guidance, no partner, no idea what the future looks like. It comes from the painful awareness that none of your friends and family have a clue what you’re feeling, so even if you’re in a room full of people you love, you still feel completely alone. So toss Lonely Widow in the what not to say throat punch file and move on. Thanks.
What Not To Say
So what about the what not to say part? I know some of you can’t wait for these, and it’s been awhile since I posted one. This list isn’t as are you freaking kidding me funny as some of my others. And believe it or not, I’ve heard ALL of these, including from other W’s.
- You’re lucky you never had kids./var. At least you didn’t have kids./var. It could be worse, you could have kids. @#$%^&* REALLY? I spent years trying to have kids. Thanks for telling me all the miscarriages and a failed adoption were LUCKY. I’m so stupid, I should have thought of that for myself. I feel so much better now. <<INSERT THROAT PUNCH HERE>>
- It’s so much easier for you since it’s just you. Sigh. Please excuse me while I go cry alone into my bourbon.
- It will be easier to start over with a new man without the baggage of kids. Oh for f@#$ sake. If you call a kid “baggage” to my face I WILL rip you a new one.
- You’re only lonely if you choose to be. Okay, this one is a tiny bit infuriating. Unless you’ve lived this, you need to shut the hell up. If I laugh out loud, you’re probably safe. If I put my drink down, you’d better move out of arms reach, and quickly.
Those of you that know me know I love the glittery silver lining, no matter how dark the cloud may be. Not having kids at home means I was free to sell or give away everything I owned. It allowed me to uproot myself and see where the wind took me. It gave me the opportunity to build stronger relationships with my nieces and nephews, the most amazing young people I’ve ever met. And it gave me the freedom to embark on this crazy adventure. I LOVE MY LIFE. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss having a family to share it with.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Hey, you. Yeah, you. If there is a W related topic you’d like addressed, message me, and I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for reading. XO, L