Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cumulative Effects

This is going to be a crappy post - be forewarned - you don't have to read if you're looking for positive stuff. That's just not in me today. Over the years I've gotten a fair share of criticism that these posts are far too negative. So I feel guilty for blogging. And then I feel a need to explain myself. Which I don't really think is necessary. I mean this is my blog, my posts, my thoughts. I should be able to do whatever I want with this. But I guess I do want to clarify that for the most part I try and put on a good game face - most of the time. There are still times like this though when like the photo of the tree, I just feel so broken, down and out - dispirited and lonely. Sick and tired of holding up the fort for the boys and I, weary of the day-to-day doing it all on my own...

Then the tide shifts and I'm back at it with more confidence and strength. Though the point is, I think that people do break down from the load. They snap and tumble. There seems to be this belief (false) that widows need to keep strong and at it. Whenever I break and fall it is like I have failed and people aren't sympathetic - sometimes even other widows. "Too bad," I say. This is the nature of extended widowhood. All the crap about becoming stronger because you have to do everything on your own. Years ago I used to respond to that silly phrase "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" with the exact opposite - "What doesn't make you stronger does indeed kill you." Or maybe I should say instead of killing you, weakens you. 

 Widowhood can be a very wearying life because of the emotional and physical intensity involved. It is taxing. I have nothing positive to say about the widowhood experience. Hence, since I'm blogging about long-term widowhood, my posts tend to have a negative vibe. This has begun to really bother me. Maybe it is better to stop posting - I've struggled with this on and off since I've been posting. But I will leave that contemplation for another time.

Here in greater Chicago suburbia, we were hit with a violent storm last Sunday that knocked out power for many for days - til Thursday! Our community fire works and 4th of July parade and celebrations were all cancelled, which was sad. Then there was the excessive heat - a record of 3, 100-degree days in a row for this area. The heat was hellish. It made me think about extremes. Since widowhood, I have just hated anything that is extreme - frigid cold that is 40 degrees below zero; 12 inch snow storms and in summer crazy storms and hideous heat. 

I just want life to be smooth sailing without the extremes - day after day of predictable 70 degree weather with no rain and only sun.

Someone recently reminded me that real life isn't like this - for most of us, it involves dealing with major bumps along the road. Upon thinking about this I believe for me, that I don't do well handling significant stress (bumps in the road) on my own. In school I always preferred working in a group vs. on my own. The same for marriage or being in a relationship. Even in high school/college, I did not like being alone and sought out relationships.

When last Sunday's storm hit, I thought it was a tornado and I was frightened. Part of me inside said, "Oh no, I have to deal with this alone - I don't want to do this alone - I want someone here beside me helping me figure out what to do. I want and need someone to provide mutual comfort and support."

I think a lot of this current state of mind comes from my starting to become even more freaked out by both my sons going off to college. The realization that I will really be living alone, on my own, in a home completely alone for most of the year is really dawning on me. All these years I've been so focused on my boys and getting them raised on my own - that was my main job and occupation. And I realize now that for the most part I won't have that daily focus anymore. I've been alone in parenthood the past years but now I'm going to be really, really alone. This transition is disconcerting to me. 

I read recently that some people "hide" behind their marriages. Perhaps I'm guilty of hiding behind my parenting. It did become a focus and source of my energy to go on after my husband's death. I've put pretty much all of my focus and energy into it. So I am realizing that there isn't a lot of substance remaining in terms of a job or friends or new partner. Of course I am aware that now I will have the freedom and energy to devote time to myself - meet new friends, maybe travel a bit, have fun, be a little selfish, explore job options. And that is exciting and good. 

But bottom line, there is still loss involved in this new phase of my life. And along with "extremes," I'm not up for more loss. My personal insight into that comment about everyone having to face stress in life and bumps along the road, is that of course that is true. But maybe the difference between facing the bumps or "extremes" as I am feeling them is that life can be easier faced with the love, support and hands of others be they partners, family or friends. Facing life endlessly alone isn't healthy or productive. Widows hopefully can call on others for some support and help. But there is still a gap - like those 10 minutes of experiencing 90-per-mile winds alone.

Well, I could go on and on in this vein because it is one of those things that doesn't really have an immediate resolution. It is what it sadly is.

The heat wave broke late last night and it is about 83 degrees right now. Yeah! As it is in nature, the storm passes and normalcy is restored. I've vented and released some of the fear and sadness I'm experiencing about this new phase of my life. I just remembered something the weather people kept referring to over the week - "cumulative effects of the heat." Our bodies keep increasing the effects of the heat over time leading to more stress and strain on our systems. The same could be likened to widowhood and its cumulative effects as well.


  1. Dear Friend:

    You are not alone in your thoughts of long-term widowhood. It truly stinks, especially when there are many other cumulative stresses added on to it and having to face them alone.

    Many of the things you have written, I have been thinking as well. More reality is hitting me and to face it without my husband still is so difficult for me.

    Know that my heart aches for you. I am sorry for the most recent event that has happened.

    I know you feel broken right now, but you have strong roots that have proven over and over growth in your life and in your sons' lives.

    I will be praying for you that you will see some light to face what lies ahead and will be filled with some blessings.

    I am glad you share what is truly on your heart. You are real, my friend!

    Much love!

  2. Dear Beth, my friend -

    I can't tell you what it means to be in touch with someone who truly gets all this. Thank you for being with me along this ride. You are never critical - always kind and supportive and I am truly grateful for that!

  3. I'm glad you had the courage to write this post because I really identify with it. After 3.5 years of essentially being along, it's worn me down and out. I am thinking of you - my friend x

  4. Boo - I was thinking of this same thing today as I went about my day. The being alone stuff and how that just wears me down. I popped over to my close girlfriend's home this afternoon for an iced tea and was telling her that right now I'm so weary I don't even want to take out the garbage. I just look at it and sigh - and then tell one of the boys to tend to it and get upset that I have to tell them to help out... I told my friend that I really need to know is how to feel less weary - what do I do? what do I think? How can I become less so? I just don't have a clue.

  5. I too have a blog; I don't get comments from others; and I often wonder what people think because I "tell it like it is" and that is often my heartache and misery which is negative sounding, but truth be told - widowhood is not a "positive" experience, at least for me! My son reminds me that "this is your blog mom, for you, don't worry about who or what anyone else is thinking, just keep doing it the way that you want." I do try to be sure to include a post when something IS good. People don't get it. I didn't "get it" when I was married. I "get it" now. I didn't know, but have been struggling for quite a while with wanting my closest friends to understand; to REALLY understand my loss, my angst, my hatred for life some days, and just how hard my life is......and it was futile and I was frustrated.....that was when God spoke to my heart and said "Quit trying to make them understand" and He reminded me of this quote which has been quite helpful to me , "For those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible." I have since been able to relinquish my unrealistic goal for others to REALLY understand and I wouldn't wish a "real life/death" experience like this on anyone.

  6. Dear Widow in the Middle,

    I found your blog to-day and was so thankful to do so. As like you and other widows, I too am now finding the road of widowhood very hard. It's been four and a half years and for the first three or so I threw myself into everything. I sometimes say that I was like the merry widow - totally in denial, grasping at every opportunity offered me, throwing my all into every thing I took on, was 'busy, busy'. Of course, I cried alone - often. But, picked myself up again as I thought 'he' wouldn't like to see me like that.

    Now, like you, I do not seem to have the umph to get up and go anymore. Don't want to spend energy on superficial conversation. I've done all that and it left me very weakened. What I'd like most of all is a friend or two to whom I could share my thoughts, my fears, outings etc. Not with a counsellor but with a friend. I haven't made that kind of friend. My husband and I were very close, I hadn't needed other friends. We did what most couples did, socialised with other couples but that ended when he died and four plus years of trying to make women friends has not worked. They all seem to have sufficient support systems to not need another friend especially a single perhaps a bit needy other friend.
    I do feel for you, my friend. And, please feel free to express exactly what you are feeling because those of us who feel like you (and as you say, not always) do not feel we are alone.

    I have always come over as 'strong'. People bring their troubles to me but for a while now, I find I cannot take anyone elses troubles too. I have been a 'good' widow, done all the recommended things and came out the end weakened and still very much alone - and I live totally alone and have done since my husband died. When I'm feeling 'better' I like my own company and my house but to-day and yesterday and with the last while I do not. Perhaps, its because I've come through a long painful physical injury alone and that has added to what is already a hard road.
    Maybe, I'll start my own blog - it does help writing about it.
    You are going through another big loss, the loss of your boys from the house, plus moving house, one of the top three stressers. Do you have to do it now?
    On occasions, I have found that thanking God for the good things in my life has helped but sometimes I know one does not seem to have the energy to be grateful or it does not seem 'true' against the heavy load we carry. But, I know from experience that when I've actually put my mind to it, it does work.

    Like 'Thank you God, for my two boys, for their health, for getting them into collage, seeing them grow up, for my own health, for my soft bed, for my income, for being able to see, hear and especially to walk. For being able to appreciate beautiful music, a baby's smile,a new day. the courage to keep going, my friends, the blue of the sky....

    That sort of thing. Bless you, you have done so well.

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