Sunday, March 9, 2014

Four Years a Widow

Early grief was terrible. I remember feeling dazed. And I remember how my grief affected me physically, and how that took me by surprise. For two or three months after Michael was gone, I took anti-anxiety medication to deal with the strange sensation of anxiety that would overtake my limbs, and make my heart race.

I took a sleeping pill each night because I didn't want to have a hard time going to sleep. I didn't want to lay there and feel miserable. I'd just spent the day feeling miserable. I needed a break.

Silence. Life became so silent after Michael was gone. Gone were the days of listening to Michael laugh and talk on the phone with his friends, and the melodic sounds of him playing the guitar in the back bedroom. Gone also were the days and nights of the sound of the oxygen machine's compressor, and Michael's cough. The silence was so big. So overwhelming.

I read a lot. Read my Bible. Read everything I could about grief and Heaven. I went to church practically every time the doors were open. It was a refuge.

Each day was different. Some better. Some worse.

Then I got pregnant. After so much tragedy, something someone incredible and beautiful was growing inside of me. Something Someone that belonged to Michael.

Through the pregnancy, and through Michaela's babyhood my grief has continued to diminish in its intensity. Nevertheless, being a young widow with a child is very hard, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. There are so many precious moments that are mine alone when they should be ours.

I've been struggling with loneliness. I've been lonely every day for four years, but it doesn't really get easier. I am not comfortable with my loneliness. Yes, there's the loneliness of a wife missing her husband, but it's even more than that.

I don't know if it's just me, or that I'm a widow (couples are notorious for avoiding widows), but I have absolutely no social life. None. As much as I love being with my daughter, I really miss adult conversation and companionship. Yesterday, a dear friend called and we got into a deep conversation about faith (we always do). Michaela was not impressed, and her behavior deteriorated the longer I stayed on the phone. I knew I needed to get off the phone, but I was so enjoying the intellectual stimulation that I was reluctant to do so. Until she pulled my hair. More than once. That did it.

Look, I know a lot of mothers of young children struggle with that sort of thing. But, more than likely, their husbands come home and they have some time to talk to him. That never happens here. I spend my weekdays with 31 children, and then I come home to my child. I haunt Facebook just so I can have some sort of adult interaction. Pitiful!

And I feel stuck at home. Michael and I used to go out of town frequently. That is much harder as a single mother with a small child for many reasons. I just want to get away. I know we'd be doing more if Michael were here. I know because we used to, and I know because that's what families do. We are not a family. We are family, but we are not a family. Get it? I have a daughter. I do not have a family. You cannot tell me otherwise.

I suppose other people who aren't widowed struggle with loneliness, and feeling like they aren't in the position to do the things they want to do. But for me, I associate these feelings and limitations to the changes I've experienced since becoming a widow. Since Michael hasn't been here.

The longer I've been a widow the more it seems like some others have forgotten this terrible loss in my life and the changes it has imposed upon me. I can think of several times in the recent past where I felt that an extra measure of thoughtfulness should have been extended to me, but wasn't. In those moments I feel that I am invisible, and that I have no voice. When I say something, I don't feel that I'm understood. So, I'm not saying anything anymore. I'll just avoid things when possible.

Four years (and two days) a widow.


  1. I think it is so important that you said this. What stood out the most here was, " we are not a family, we are family". How absolutely true.

    I could sit here and offer all sorts of suggestions for grown up time but really, they don't change the situation and frankly, when do you have the time.

    Don't stop saying something, I think we need to be reminded. I can only speak for myself when I say I don't have any friends that are widows and being that you are so very young, I imagine that it is rare in your circle of friends also. We learn how to act and treat people through experience. I am sorry that you are the teacher but please forgive our inexperience and lack of understanding, it isn't meant to be unkind. Remind us, you deserve many extra measures of thoughtfulness.


    1. Thank you, Dawn. Thanks for understanding and caring.

  2. Ditto what Dawn said.

    I'm so sorry we did not have the chance to work more closely together when I was still in California. I know we differ in many significant ways, but since moving here and reading your blog and staying in touch via Facebook, I realize how much we have in common too. I would have liked to have been there for you over the past 5+ years to support you during Michael's illness, in your loss, during your pregnancy and as you navigate the path of single working motherhood.

    So many times I find myself wishing I was close enough to share the load, to swing by your house with Connor in the back seat and a couple coffees so we could let the kids run around in the yard and share our frustration with Common Core, potty training, clueless parents, etc.

    I know very well what that sense of isolation and that feeling of starving for adult human interaction is like. It is soul-crushing. It was a very real part of my life when we lived in CA and for most of the time we have lived here in AZ. It went completely against my introverted nature to actively seek social opportunities, and it's only even been a possibility from a practical standpoint very recently - since Connor started kindergarten and the girls became old enough to babysit from time to time. That said, it has been a life raft for me. I felt like I was drowning and would never surface again, but finally connecting with a small group of wonderful ladies with whom I share some common interests has made the challenges of life in an unpleasant place and a difficult situation much more bearable.

    I wish I had a practical to-do list I could share with you, something that would solve the problem of social isolation and loneliness, but if that existed I'm certain you would have figured it out long ago. Your situation is totally unique to you, and will ultimately be yours to sort out according to the timeline that works for you and Michaela. Just know in the mean time that there are many of us out here - friends, colleagues and blog readers - who are all pulling for you, praying for you and cheering for you.

    1. Michelle, you are such a sweetheart. I wish we'd known each other better when you were here, too. I'm sure my circumstances will change in time, as yours have. I'm just in a season of life where there's not much more time in my life for anything more than work and being a mom, even though I desperately want there to be. I truly appreciate your kind words.

  3. I'm surprised what you say about couples avoiding widows. The same goes for divorcees. It's the insecure wives who don't trust their husbands around beautiful women! So sad. You'd think we'd have progressed to a more sophisticated mindset by this day in age, ey?

    Go for a fun book club or biking/hiking gig for some me-time w other "big people."
    And, if you need someone to Michaela-sit, I'm sure a mob will show up, ready to fight for the job!!

  4. Please don't stop saying how you feel, Joannah! Every time you write something (I remember how you posted on FB that it's okay to call a widow on certain important days), I learn from it. I wish we lived in the same city, but the small distance won't stop me. We will continue to hang out often, my friend :-) Big hugs and continued prayers. And thank you for sharing what you are thinking and feeling so your friends can try to understand and be there for you. xoxo

  5. Thank you, Ashley! You've been a good friend though my trials.

    Colette, I look forward to the day I can participate in some grown-up activities. :)

  6. blogger ate my comment! Joannah ((((hugs)))). I'm sorry. And yes it is true. I too lost a man I loved far too soon and I'm a single mum. My son is also very ill and what has happened and started within days of his hospitalization and diagnosis, is our closest friends (who are an aunt and uncle to the kids) went from seeing the children weekly and sending them cute messages to nothing. Nada. It has been months. My son asks me if since he got sick they don't like him anymore. My daughter asks why they stopped loving her and was it for the same reasons her previous family gave her up. They've cried and cried. I've reached out and nothing. Nada. I can't tell you the last time my phone rang in an evening, or I had an evening or weekend invitation. I have friends who go round to their sisters for a glass of wine at night but they'd never think to come here. Never. It is so painful and lonely and I constantly question whether I've hurt people, I then ask them and they look so confused and ask me why on earth I'd think that. What I want to say is I think that because my grief and trauma is met with silence by everyone. I think people can't imagine what it must be like. We also don't have family so that has an impact. It is very very very hard. I am so so sorry for your pain. I'm praying for you and wishing good things for you always.

  7. "I can think of several times in the recent past where I felt that an extra measure of thoughtfulness should have been extended to me, but wasn't. In those moments I feel that I am invisible, and that I have no voice." okay. This is exactly how I feel. Invisible. I question why people can't see my pain, worry, grief and why a little bit of grace couldn't be bestowed upon us. I'm sorry you've been through the same thing. ((((hugs)))) Did you say you are on facecbook?

  8. I am on FB! So good to here from you. Please contact me via email, or on FB. I want to keep in touch with you. XO


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