It's More Than Merely Coping; It's About Accepting Your New Life

It happened again yesterday: Bob was on my mind throughout the day. I had sent a college friend a happy birthday email, and he casually replied that the reunion weekend was coming up and that he hadn't heard yet if Bob was coming.

Heart pang. I loved going to campus with my husband during the spring to watch lacrosse, and meet up with the old gang. Oh, sure everyone was getting grayer, last time I went, but there was the comfort of seeing old friends, their wives and their families, and talking about the good old days. I attended a woman's college and met Bob at an all-male school, and these reunions are on his campus. The last time I went to an alumni reunion, only one of our group was divorced and remarried. This time around, three of them will be bringing new spouses, none of whom have the history that the old wives had. In my case, I have known the guys since I was 19 years old when they lived in the fraternity and looked younger than their sons. I knew all of the old stories and then some. I wonder if I will ever see this group again? While Bob and his new spouse are invited to their children's weddings, I no longer receive even a Christmas card, except from a few.

When I divorced, my mourning extended farther than simply losing my husband, I lost many of our friends and his family, which was unforeseen, and I lost all those rituals that I so adored: these reunion trips, vacations with couples, tennis night out, etc. This is the toughest part about moving on: the landscape of your life changes radically after the loss of a spouse. At first you are lost, and reel from place to place, clueless as to which way you should go. Slowly, you start to regain some sense of direction.

Oh, I've regrouped and formed a new life. In talking to other women in my situation, I realize how lucky I am. One woman, who has been single as long as me, has yet to bond with a close group of women her age. Although she works, she feels lonely and isolated. She told me that if it weren't for her teenage daughter, she would have no social life, and then she asked me, with a hint of envy, how I had been able to move on.

Being an extrovert helps, I replied. I didn't add how much hard work it had been to fight off depression, or how much of a sea change my own attitude and emotions had gone through, so that I was able to embrace and recognize all the good things going on in my life. Tonight I will go to a restaurant with a group of single friends after work to decompress; on Saturday I will visit a friend who is recovering from knee surgery; and on Sunday I will visit a friend's house to pick out some clothes (she sells the Doncaster line on the side). We will chat, discuss clothes and Jane Austen, joke and giggle, and drink wine. Last Sunday, three of us went to a movie. So, although there is no man lurking in my dating horizon, I lead a full and active social life.

The toughest part about being suddenly single, when every cell in your body craves a mate, is to embrace your new life. Letting go of my preconceptions (divorce is bad, I was a lousy wife, single women are losers in the game of love), and enjoy each day for what it offers. It's hard, I know. I still have setbacks, like I had yesterday, when the old yearning and wishful thinking takes over. I was melancholy all day long, but that is part of my new landscape - recognizing that this yearning for a lost past will always be with me.

As you find your way in your own new landscape, take heart. You have it within you to find your new direction. Carving that new path takes hard work, however, and time, but with patience and the help of friends and family, you will find your way out of your heart ache. Just follow your instincts, and keep moving. For your own emotional health, you simply can't stay where you've been.


Elaine Williams said...

I read your post with interest, finding many similarities between your single life and mine, even though my loss was due to death of a spouse. Many, many of the same feelings, fears and situations arose for me as you state. In some ways, loss is a universal emptiness, and yes, we do learn to move on. I am four years into this process and like you (I'm 51) I have pretty much reinvented myself. Many times it was incredibly hard walking this road, but I write about my loss experience for others to see you're not alone, and we can triumph and go on to a wonderful life, even after our loss. elaine

Vicki Curlee said...

My husband, Bob, walked out of our 32 year marriage on March 31. We had known each other 33 years. So your post with the similarities hits very close to home. I am not handling this well at all and if it were not for our daughter giving me pep talks once a week I don't think I would still be among the living. I haven't worked in 5 years while caring for my mother in our home. I lost all my friends during that time so I do not have a support system now. This is really hard and I feel very lost and lonely.

Anonymous said...

I believe I could re-invent myself if I was in my 20's or even 30's but at 55 I have just too many commitments to my children and my job to get up and go (or would it be run away?) I know how Vickie Curlee feels - trapped in a place she would rather not be and deserted at a time when she had thought she would be assured of lasting company. At least I have an incredible support system of friends who I can call upon .. they can't kiss and hug and love like my husband did but they can console and frequently make me laugh .. 'course they're not there when you come home to an empty house at 9pm after a long day at the office. I really don't know how I go from day to day to day .. but the sun keeps rising and I just keep getting up. All the books, blogs, DVDs, and CDs tell me it will get better - but when???