Sunday, May 23, 2010

More Being Real

This is a continuation of my previous post on being real and the view of society to get over our grief asap. Life coach Dr. John H. Shlare gave the advice that to get out of heartache we stop focusing on what we don't have and focus on what we do. Easier said than done. I get irritated at all the self-help suggestions that fail to give suggestions at the end. What should the grief-stricken focus on when their worlds have collapsed and their grief is centered on what has been lost and the missing loved one?

Case in point - yesterday I had to venture into our quaint and adorable little suburban enclave to drop items off at the resale shop. The local farmer's market was going on, the fountains were flowing, the pots of flowers blooming. Lovely and pretty as a picture to be sure. Now just insert all the cute young families going out to a leisurely breakfasts after Junior's little league game. Notice all the middle-aged couples shopping for fresh vegetables and wine at the market so they can prepare a special Saturday night dinner together which will be shared on the patio. Everywhere I looked were families and couples and no single, tired looking middle-aged moms like myself. It was depressing and disheartening.

We live in such a couple's dominated society. On Thursday nights I watch the new comedy "The Marriage Ref," which pokes fun at married people's squabbles. All the commercials are geared to couples. The gossip magazines follow the latest couplings of the stars. The message I've been receiving is that something is wrong with me because I'm not part of a twosome. I feel embarrassed in addition to the great loneliness. Often I tell people I'm a widow because it makes me feel less of a loser.

I'm supposed to feel happy and excited about being able to date and the freedom of singlehood. But I tell you, middle-aged dating is exhausting. I'm too tired to make much of an effort now. I've already put myself out there since my husband's death and I'm not sure I can do it again. Maybe if I were younger. I'm missing the drive and energy. All that being upbeat and smiling, putting on the happy face! Getting to know someone is kind of like a job and I already had put my time in with my marriage. I look at the matronly middle-aged women with their men at the farmer's market and wonder how they would handle being newly single and "out there." I am bitter and weary.

So with all that said, now lets turn it around and focus on what I do have! A life with two sometimes ornery and difficult teen boys, the youngest who can take his anger and frustrations over his Dad's death on me. I'm struggling financially doing the best to make ends meet just barely. I can focus on my health (although I think it is rapidly declining as the result of always feeling depressed, lonely and stressed). I do have a roof over my head. But quite honestly, those things don't come to the forefront of my mind when I'm in the swarm of suburban families and couples, all smiling and looking as though they should be on the cover of postcards with the heading: "This is happiness!"

It's all well and good to be advised to stop focusing on what I don't have. But a little challenging when what you don't have was taken from you without just cause. And all you can see around you is evidence of what you once had, what you once loved and valued.

I don't want to hear advice from people who aren't in my situation. Dr. Phil, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and Dr. John Shlare should consult with a panel made up of people who have actually been widowed, as well as divorced. Get the advice straight from the horse's mouth. And please throw in some practical suggestions besides just telling me what to do. Those of us fighting grief sometimes don't know which direction to turn and we could use a push.


  1. Funny that you should mention the situation at the farmer's market. Yesterday, I had to deke into the one near here to pick up something that had been left for me at a vendor's stall. I don't go out in public too much - I'm literally a hermit - so it's always strange to be in the middle of a bustling crowd of people. Yup. Plenty of happy couples wandering around together. Didn't seem to be too many singletons. Now, I didn't really feel too weird or out of place as I've become so used to making my way through the world completely alone (well, except for my dogs) - but what I did feel was some anger. I looked at the male part of so many couples and thought of how out of shape most of them were compared to my husband who died at 56. People always guessed our ages at a decade less as we were both such active people. My husband was so young and athletic looking and even when he was first diagnosed with cancer, when he was sent for respiratory function tests, he scored about as high as you can get even though he had a big tumor closing off most of one lung. Early on, his doctors all used to say it was hard to believe he could be ill as he didn't look it at all. Anyhow, I look around at all of these balding, bowlegged, overweight guys in their hiking boots and khaki shorts and t-shirts who are probably 5 years younger than Don, and I think of how weird it is that my strong, slim, healthy husband who took such good care of himself is dead and all of these guys are still okay. I know, it's crazy that I think this way, but I just can't help it as it's something that really jumps out at me whenever I'm out and about around people. It probably doesn't help that I'm an artist, so I'm incredibly observant of every little thing. In any case, there's just another spin on ways in which we can be hurt or angered or reminded of what we have lost.

  2. Hi WitM
    Julie here. You often mention seeing couples in the street it makes you sad to see that. I agree that we live in a society made up of couples, and in fact made FOR couples, but there are lots and lots of singles out there, and lots and lots of people in unhappy marriages. What I'm trying to say is, what you are seeing is a mirage, the world isn't made up of people living happy fulfilled lives and you are on the outer, there are lots of unhappy, unfulfilled people out there. Also, there are a lot of happy, fulfilled single people, but maybe not where you are out and about.
    I thought it was interesting that you talk about your grief representing the depth of your feelings. I have thought about this a lot myself, and have come to the conclusion that living my life and being happy doesn't mean I loved my husband any less, and it doesn't dishonour his memory. My life is just as important as his ever was, and I owe it to myself to find a way to be happy, which is still a work-in-progress. I've also been divorced and widowed, but now my son is seriously ill with secondary cancer, so I too have a hard and sad life. I don't expect the world to change for me, but I have to carve out a life of meaning amongst what is left. I wish the same for you.

  3. Julie - I acknowledge everything you have brought up here. I do realize that what I am seeing may not be reality but there aren't many singles here in an upper-income bedroom suburb of Chicago - our town is know for its family orientation and families make up the majority of its population. My issues come from my wanting to be remarried and part of a couple. So, I guess when I'm out, my eyes are naturally drawn to what my heart seeks.

    I also have been thinking/reflecting a lot about the fact that I owe it to myself to be happy again. I have come to the conclusion that my divorce really hurt me in many ways, including the belief that I deserved to be punished and unhappy... Now at the two year mark I am finally giving myself permission to seek happiness and surround myself with it despite my hardships and losses. Like you say, it is a work-in-progress.

    My heart goes out to you and your son. I'd take on another divorce or death of a husband over having to face a life-threatening illness of one of my sons. I wish you strength.

  4. Bev - Thanks for sharing your observations. The men in my community are usually pretty fit - it is the women who've "let themselves go" and I always struggle when I see this because I start going to that place of jealousy feeling resentful that they have what I don't and because they've let themselves go, they don't deserve it. I'm getting better at keeping such thoughts at bay because in the end, they don't get me anywhere. I guess I need to focus more on myself and take pride in having done my best to keep up my appearance and to be grateful for my health.

  5. WitM
    Oh, yes I see now. It is similar where I live because it is an expensive suburb, so when people divorce, they usually have to move out of the suburb so you don't see as many singles out there. It is also probably a function of the events you are going to. Maybe the singles feel like you and stay away?
    I also realise I want to be part of a couple, but if it doesn't happen, what then ... spend the rest of my life longing for something that may not be possible? Finding meaning in our lives is really where it is at.
    I know last time I was single I started sewing a lot more - I came to the conclusion that being in a relationship is a creative activity, and using my creativity actually filled up part of me that was empty. Maybe you need to actively pursue the knitting that you have touched on a few times, and it might help (although I know that sounds lame, but if could help, at least)?
    I totally am with you on seeing unfit, unhealthy blokes out there and wondering why they are still alive and my husband (who rode 300+ kms a week), is dead. Who knows what God is thinking, it is just damn crappy luck, I just don't spend any time thinking about what is fair and what is not, just makes me angry.

  6. Julie - It is funny that you mention the knitting and how your sewing filled up the creative need/energy. I've been thinking about spending the summer knitting up some items for fall that I could sell at a craft fair - we have lots of them around here in Sept. and Oct. I figured I'd focus on an autumn theme and do little pumpkins, leaves, dish towels and cloths in warm colors and so on. I've just been toying with the idea contemplating using up my huge yarn stash in the storage shed. I figured it would be a goal to focus on and who knows where goals ultimately lead?

    Anyway, thanks so much for commenting about this. I also know what you are saying about life being meaningful where we are at. I struggle with that frame of mind though - it is so easy to stay stuck and sad/depressed because of all the pain and longing for what I don't have. I am finding it takes a great deal of energy to rise above all the old mindsets and to adopt new ways of thinking and seeing life. But when people like you take the time to bring up these issues, it does give me renewed strength and perspective. Hugs back to you.