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I haven’t posted recently but I’m back.  It’s not that I’ve been away (although I did take a very ambitious trip for a few weeks which will be the subject of another blog entry).  Thankfully, I haven’t been distracted with illness. Primarily, I’ve wondered how to orient my blogs now that I feel less as if widowhood defined me.  I’d like to avoid using the “moving on” cliched expression.  Instead, I’ll say I’ve progressed from feeling like just half a person.  I do feel much stronger and like a whole person, a single woman on my own.

In a few weeks, I’m coming up to the 8th anniversary of my husband’s death.  That is an extraordinarily long separation after an incredibly happy and supportive marriage.  As we all know, grief has a way of coming at you when you least expect it.  I’ve no doubt that it will be another difficult anniversary.  But I think some of my newly acquired strength will be there to help me out.

To express this stronger single person I’ve become, I’ll be drawing in color!  I hope you’ll join me for explorations as a single woman with both wonderful memories of the past and resilience to deal with the present and future.  Stay tuned.

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There is this quote by Paul Tillich, the existentialist philosopher and theologian:  “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”

It’s an interesting quote and for me, in my 7th year of being a widow after an incredibly close marriage, I am finding there is certainly a difference between the two states.  I can not say that loneliness is never a companion.  It is, especially when I summon up the courage and take a tour by myself with strangers, many of whom are couples.  My husband is not there to sit next to me on the bus or hold my hand in a museum or on a walk along the rim of the Grand Canyon.  The loneliness then is profound.  And while I have made some dear friends on these same tours, I acutely feel the absence of my husband, who was my favorite travel companion.

But I am learning to appreciate solitude and even to discover that I can fully enjoy myself on solitary visits to a museum, a movie (especially with a bag of popcorn), a play (primarily if it’s a matinee when there are likely to be fewer couples) or a walk in the park.

I have family and numerous friends in New York City.    I have been taking classes and belong to The Transition Network, a nonprofit organization comprised of more than 600 women over 50 in New York City who are learning how to enjoy growing older through peer groups, special interest groups, lectures and group activities (thetransitionnetwork.org).  In short, my schedule is usually pretty full with activities involving other people.  Except when it’s not.  And then I have to decide if I am in a state of loneliness or solitude.

I find it’s much better to celebrate solitude than wallow in loneliness and towards that end, I try to make a point of doing something that I know I’ll enjoy doing –seeing a particular movie, going for a walk in Riverside Park when the sun is getting low in the sky with an iPod playing my favorite music, finding a particular museum exhibit I know I’ll enjoy.  I think you get the general idea.  In short,  I am learning to enjoy the times when I am my own company.

 

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I do have to say that, overall, I’m doing pretty well and am very lucky.  I have a wonderful family and many friends.  My family consists of two devoted children, their spouses of whom I’m very fond and with whom I get along well, and 3 incredibly adorable grandchildren.  My friends fall into two categories:   “good friends” to whom I can tell just about anything, and know that they are listening and care.   And other friends with whom I enjoy spending an afternoon or an evening going to movies, the theater or out to dinner.  The women’s organization, TTN, of which I’m a member, has been enormously helpful in creating networks of other women who are widowed (or divorced, or never married).   I’m in pretty good health (so far), and am very active.  I have a small business creating art objects which provides an outlet for my creative energies.  Also,  I’ve been auditing one class each year, and am about to take a class in making art with an artist from a local museum.  I’m very active as a volunteer in trying to raise awareness (and funding) for research to help find a  treatment for PKD, the kidney disease that was responsible for my husband’s death.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t bumps in the road when things aren’t always hunky dory.  The emotional triggers are always situations when I sense my husband’s absence acutely, even 7 years later.  I had one of them recently when I saw a young couple walking down the street, holding hands.  It’s something my husband and I did all the time.  There’s something about walking down a street and holding the hand of someone you love that’s almost magical.  You are two against the world and nothing seems impossible.  Sometimes, I’ve even walked along and held my hand out, expecting, and hoping, it would be grasped. It obviously never is now and that really does make my heart ache.

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I’ll be widowed for 7 years this coming July.  It’s definitely gotten easier to be on my own than it was at the beginning.  After all, we were married for more than 4 decades.  And we got married when we were just 22.  I never even lived in an apartment by myself.  I went from a women’s dorm as a graduate student to an apartment when we were married. My husband and I did everything together, so, in over 40 years,  I never went to the movies or the theater by myself.  I did work and occasionally had to make business trips, so I did have the experience of being on my own for hotel stays, dinners, airplane trips, but business trips are different.  Besides, I could always call my husband whenever I felt lonely.

The biggest challenge of being a widow is being on your own.  Always.  Even with close family.  Even with good friends. Even with almost 7 years of this new normal, it’s difficult.

As Eponine despondently sings in “Les Miserables”:

“Without him
The world around me changes
The trees are bare and everywhere
The streets are full of strangers”

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I am embarking on a new project, namely,  to write “Widowingon” as a graphic memoir.  If you are reading this blog entry, then you are among the first to know.  I welcome any comments!

The illustrations above are the likely frontispiece and also the first page.  Since all journeys usually start by opening the door and going out, my “widowingon” memoir will begin by my leaving the brownstone in Brooklyn where I lived for 3 decades.

The house was filled with memories of family dinners, birthday parties around the kitchen table, play dates when our children were growing up,  discussions about college applications and then acceptance celebrations, and the countless mundane daily activities that get patched together into a quilt of living in a fulfilling marriage and raising children.

Leaving the house in the early afternoon of January 11, 2012, after the movers had filled 2 trucks of household possessions for temporary storage in a warehouse in the South Bronx while my apartment on the Upper West Side was being renovated, was unspeakably difficult.

The memoir, like the blog, will attempt to document the adjustment process that I had as a widow.

I wanted to mention here an article written in the New York Times on January 20, 2015 entitled, “Writing Your Way to Happiness”. The gist of the article is that “writing..can really nudge people…into a more optimistic cycle that reinforces itself.”  I believe that to be true and I’m grateful to this blog for contributing to that evolution.

I’m hopeful that the planned “Widowingon” graphic memoir will be an additional source of happiness.  Let me know what you think.

I am widowed for just over 2 years after an extraordinary marriage that lasted almost 41 years.  I’m embarking on some challenging transitions.

In October 2011, I purchased an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, near Columbia University, where my husband and I met.  In November,  I sold our 4-story Brooklyn brownstone that we owned for three decades but worked out an arrangement with the new owners to stay in the house for a few additional months to be able to sort through its 30 years of contents.  Movers came on January 12th and moved my possessions to a storage facility in the Bronx while a 3-month renovation on the new apartment begins.  I moved on January 13th, a month ago today, to a temporary apartment in Midtown to wait out the renovation, due to begin now.

To add to the huge seismic shifts in my life, before my husband died, I sold a company I started 25 years ago.  My daughter once told me that most people have only to cope with the enormity of their spouse’s death and can then, if they’re still working, return to the familiarity of their work.  I needed to re-invent myself on all fronts.

This blog will tell my journey to try to accomplish that.