Grief in General

The Solitude that Follows

Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. Friends. Friends of the Family.

Dad.

Wife.

I’ve known loss.  If you are reading this, chances are you have too.

For all the many, many wakes and funerals I have been to one thing has continuously occurred to me. The wake is so much easier than the funeral.

When I sit back and think about why that is I can only come to one conclusion:  Support.

There is so much support at a wake. At least in my circle of love they usually last over six hours and the room is usually filled to near capacity.  In the case of my beautiful wife, we had every seat full and another sixty people or so standing.  Over two hundred people attended her services on that cold January day. A full house of standing room only for a beautiful soul that certainly deserved such a fitting goodbye. People came in droves, as I stood by the casket and welcomed everyone, something that I also did at my dad’s wake. With each person that came up to say their final goodbyes to Michelle, stories and memories were shared, kind and inspiring words were spoken.  A sense of hope and love in a moment filled with heartache and despair.

For Michelle’s wake I opened the floor so that anyone who wanted to speak could.  After the last person who wanted to speak did, I gave the eulogy.  I thought that I would cry during it, but I didn’t shed a single tear as I read it.  A product most likely of having read it so many times before, most notably to Michelle as she lay in a coma the morning of the day that she passed. Talk about some hardcore tears. Professing my love to her with the eulogy that I tried so hard to perfect as she lay dying.

After I was done speaking at the wake we played six songs that meant so much to Michelle and I.  A few from the wedding ceremony we didn’t quite make it to, and a few others as well.

The wake.  A moment of support, community and love.

As is always the case the funeral the next day was attended by far less, however the support was still there.  We attended an absolutely beautiful church, played some amazing songs, including Amazing Grace, and went to lunch with everyone after.  The most beautiful moment was when my sister’s father in law sang ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ as the pall bearers carried her light casket to the Hearst.  The clouds and grey suddenly making way for the sun to shine at that exact moment, and no – I’m not making that up.

And then, the funeral ends.  And when all of the final good byes are said and all of the supportive Facebook messages are sorted through and responded to something interesting happens.

Solitude begins.

Although in fairness, it’s not complete solitude right away.  Family and friends realizing the scope of loss and the rawness of it all reach out, come around and are generally there for you.

But, then something funny happens.  Some time passes.  And the solitude grows.

And then, it grows some more.

And then by the time you realize it, it’s almost complete solitude.

Now, before I go on, let me state clearly:  Part of this blog entry is about myself, but do not think I am alone.  Whether it be the in person support group I go to or one of the number of support groups I am apart of on Facebook the undeniable fact is that the most complained about feature of being a widow or widower that I hear is this:  Solitude.  Or to put in terms that I don’t like to use because it makes many of us feel rather pathetic: Loneliness.

So solitude is there and then it grows, and apart of you begins to wonder ‘Why?’, but then something funny happens.  You realize you are guilty of the same.

You think back and you realize that when your Aunt lost her husband and daughter in the span of one calendar year you told her at the funerals that you would be there for her, but you weren’t.  Nope, not even a little bit.  You ask yourself how you could have failed a loved one like that, and you feel guilty.

But the answer is clear: For You, Life Moves On

For the world, even those who loved the deceased, the Earth continues to rotate, the sun continues to shine, rainy days continue to damper outdoor plans and life moves on.

But for a select few, the loss is more profound.

And for those select few, solitude is almost certainly to follow.

‘It seems like everyone avoids me.’

‘All my friends are married.’

‘I think they don’t know how to act around me.’

‘Everyone thinks I’m fine now.’

‘Nobody gets it.’

‘People go on with their life, yours is the one forever changed.’

These are some of the comments I hear or read.  Over and over again.  From widows and widowers who feel as though the loss of their love was simply the first step of loss in a whole new world.

Ok, it happens.  We’ve all done it. Certainly nobody means any harm.  Life goes on.  I get it.  We all get it.

You adjust and adapt through the grief.  You try to move forward, not on.

But how?

‘I just don’t want to bother people.’

‘I don’t want someone to spend time with me out of pity.’

‘I’m no fun anymore, I don’t want to bring people down.’

These are some of the comments I hear or read.  Over and over again.  You see with the loss of your love, something else happens.  Self-doubt.

Often it is not immediate, but rather later in the game.  Think about it.  The person who was your biggest cheerleader, the person who chose you instead of anyone else in the world to spend the rest of their life with is no longer around.

The love you felt from them is gone.

And then slowly, other support starts to drift.  And solitude grows.

And knowing that you aren’t exactly the same person as you use to be, you start to feel like a burden.

And then you take a step back, and you wonder if you are handling things correctly.

But really, what is the correct way to handle the loss of the love of your life?

Do you post about it on Facebook?  Start a blog?

‘Attention! Attention! He wants attention!’ – that’s what many will say.

‘God, he needs to get over it already,’ – some others will insist.

Maybe you take the opposite approach, maybe you act like all is OK.  Shoot, maybe you decide you want to find love again.

‘If he’s already looking to date he must not have loved her that much,’ – yup, some will think it.

‘He seems to be doing great.  I don’t think I would be doing that well if my spouse died,’others will proclaim.

Judgment of your actions, your life, how much you laugh or don’t laugh, how much you cry or don’t cry begin to run rampant.

And you let it affect you.  Even though you know you shouldn’t.

You take it, and you internalize it, because after all, your other half isn’t there to share those feelings with anymore.

You have a lot of free time on your hands now to sit, to stir and to think.

It used to be when something good happened, you couldn’t wait to get home to tell your love.

Or, when something bad happened, you knew you would have your other half there to help you get through it.

I mean, sure, you could text a friend or a family member.

But there’s that self-doubt again.

Do you really want to be a burden to them?

‘Haven’t they had enough of me and my loss and my problems?’ you ask yourself.

And then Saturday comes, and after having a really good week, you all of a sudden are having a horrible morning.   You thought you were beyond this type of breakdown, but then you remember the big headed guy’s blog from Volo, IL who you follow and he told you that grief comes in waves. So the tears are there, and they are rampant.  The type of tears that make your stomach hurt.  But nobody is around to see.  And you actually consider walking to a neighbor’s house for a human to human experience, but you don’t.  You get through it yourself.

‘How are you today? Maybe we can do something later?’ a friend of yours asks via text message shortly after you gather yourself.

‘I’m fine, I’m not feeling well though so I’m going to stay in,’ you respond.  You’ve learned by now saying ‘I’m fine’ is a lot easier than explaining why you may not be fine on that particular day.

Solitude.

And so, the cycle continues. Because quite honestly, half of the time you really don’t want to do anything and the other half of the time you don’t have anything to do. And sometimes you want to be around certain people and sometimes you don’t want to be around those same exact people.

And let’s face it, sometimes being around people brings comfort and other times it flashes a bright light on the void that is.

That’s ok.  And that’s normal.

Solitude, it can be a lonely road.  It can also be a two way street.

© Copyright 2017 John Polo

41 thoughts on “The Solitude that Follows

  1. In the midst of sorrow n pain we find our own peace and serenity – we can’t depend upon others because they have gone on wth their lives — we focus on the love and memories no one can take away– hugs to you —

  2. Well said! We were in shock last Christmas when my husband died. This Christmas season is really hard. You have hit on so many things that I feel.

  3. This is so true! It has been over 5 years since my husband has passed and I still have days where I say that I am “fine” or “good” and I am not, but don’t want to burden my friends with it. Thank you for sharing your story .

  4. Wow John… your words,are so very profound and true! I have felt every aspect of this,blog! Barry died 4.5 years,ago…yet it still feels like yesterday. And I was one of the guilty ones who didn’t understand the loss of a spouse!
    I enjoyed your blog! Hang in there!!! Thank you for sharing your story!!

  5. I just lost my husband and your thoughts resonate so much for me. Doesn’t make me feel as “lonely” any more. Thanks for sharing.

  6. On point. You touched on every thought and emotion I have experienced in the past 93 weeks since my husband died. I feel I can only be myself around my children, to let those emotions bubble to the surface and spill over down my face. Time makes life less awful, but it is a roller coaster of emotions. I have found I need to listen to me- not to do what ‘others’ feel is normal, but only what works for me. Not to push feelings I’m not feeling, or celebrate what I honestly don’t want to celebrate. The friends that understand will be ok if you tell them, not this time. All the others can take that long walk off the short pier. I just pray they never have to experience the paralyzing grip of the grief you experience when you lose your spouse. Or, your child. Or, your parent.

  7. I feel everything just as you described. My husband passed on Jan 4 of this year. This Christmas is so hard and last Christmas was too because our sons and I knew it was our last Christmas as a complete family. Not sure which is harder. When I say my prayers my last request is for strength to get through this and courage to move on not only for myself but everyone going through this kind of loss. Thanks for putting this into words.

  8. Thank you. I find myself in this same thing. My husband died in 10-22-16 suddenly no sickness no symptoms. He went into the hospital on the 8th following week they told us stage 4 lung cancer. The 22nd he passed. He was only 48 years old. I’m just a mess everything said was right on.

    1. Kimberly, I too lost my husband on 10-22-16 one week after a missive stroke. I can hardly breathe some days. I pray for the strength to muddle through the holiday. Tomorrow would have been his birthday. I do not think I have ever felt so utterly alone.

      I hope you family is a source of love and comfort during this devistating time. I will keep you in my thoughts. Please reach out if you ever need someone to talk to.

    2. I feel your pain. My fiancee found out he had cancer on September 9 and passed away on October 10. We were supposed to be married Oct 15. I also have a roller coaster of emotions. Family tries to help but they don’t really understand what I am going through. I feel alone even when people are around me. I am so sorry for your loss. My heart aches for you because I know the kind of pain you are feeling . God will help us through this somehow, someway.

    3. same thing with my husband he passed 7-10-16 went to the er for some swelling under his arm stage 4 lung cancer passed within 3 weeks of diagnosis he was not sick or showed any symptoms he passed of a heart failure it is so hard we were married 26 years,i am sorry for your loss.

  9. Your words are so true. My husband has been gone for over 10 years and it seems each year gets more difficult and more lonely. Thank you for putting into words what so many feel.

  10. Thanks John, as my husband passed in September and this is the first Christmas without him. I know the solitude you speak of so well. His family members that tell you you’re stuck with us we’re “family” and then puff to busy or always, on their time…. I understand life goes on but it isn’t easy for the spouses, children, parent or sibling left behind. Much gradititue for post.

  11. This is me. In that space between choosing solitude to “spare others” and so wanting someone to be there for me.
    Never, ever having many friends, I’m slowly trying to get used to what my life has become. I will miss my loving husband until I can finally die. He was my EVERYTHING. Now, everything worth living for is gone.

  12. I feel as though you just dissected my exact emotions…. My father did on June 11th of this year and then my husband died, two months to the day later, on August 11th of this year as well. Not doing a Christmas tree this year, too many memories 😢. I guess it’s good to know that somebody else has felt the exact same way. Thank you.

    1. Deb…I completely understand.my husband died on 01/05 and my Mom died on 04/04…89 days apart. My two very best friends.
      That was in 2009. The hurt is still unbearable. My heart is so heavy at times that it is still hard to breathe. You are.not alone. I get it. ❤

  13. Your sentiments were so expressive of my own experiences… my solitude is so important for my well being and yet I am so lonely and yet it is difficult to be around people. I am growing closer to God, so thankful.

  14. Thank you for putting my feelings in writing for me; every word. At 2 years, I’ve realized when someone asks how you are, they aren’t even thinking of my loss because I’m suppose to be over it. People have taught me to say fine. I’m not fine.

  15. It is as though you can read my mind … Especially where you spoke of losing the one person who loves you more than any other .. Who has your back … And now all of a sudden is gone … The loneliness is profound. It has been 18 months … Hard to think that it will improve. Thanks .. I wish you happiness
    Anne

  16. Thank you for sharing your story. I lost my mom in May and I struggle daily, not only with the huge void I feel in my life but the exact point you’ve shared, where did everyone go? They are all there in the beginning, and now it seems they think you are OK now, months have passed and their lives have carried on and they don’t check in on you to see how you are doing, it seems as though my life has stopped and it’s physically hard to move on.
    Grief is such a roller coaster, one minute I’m smiling and having an ok day and the next a memory passes through my mind and I’m in tears.
    I hope you all have good Christmas and are surrounded by loved ones, and can get through the holidays with lots of fond memories of your loved ones.

  17. I lost my love Dec 14, 2015. Your article made me cry. I have felt all those emotions. They say grief is different for everyone but I can see there are also a lot of similarities.

  18. Kully

    Everything you’ve said is so true . I lost my my husband in March it’s so hard to move on and not a day goes by without not thinking of him . Thank you for sharing .

  19. It was so comforting to read that other people feel the same as I do, my husband passed away two and a half years ago, we had only been married for three years. He gave me so much love and I miss him every single day. It would have been his 59th birthday on 25th December, making Christmas time doubly hard to get through. I too say I’m fine but I know I am not, and don’t think I ever will be

  20. So true..all of it. Lost my husband in Feb, of this year. I don’t feel like Christmas, in fact I feel nothing..it’s terrible.

  21. I lost my husband suddenly 4 weeks ago on the 19th of November..I’m having so many of the emotions and feelings you describe..He was always the one in control and I’m a mess without him..He was only 57..He survived a kidney transplant and would have celebrated 19 yrs with his kidney on the 25th if November..I had such a bad day today..I feel as if my world has ended..We had no children so I don’t have that kind of support..I already feel like a burden to my church family and friends ..Do you ever stop crying?? I feel like a zombie with a smile on my face..

  22. Thank you for sharing your experiences..seems we all have so much in common, regrettably. My husband and best friend passed in March of this year after finding out just 2 weeks before that he had stage 4 peritoneal cancer. As with others, he’d had no symptoms. We were not prepared for this mentally or financially, so I am now really struggling. This is such a lonely life, although I know we all experience that feeling. I just hate that so many “friends” treat me as a pariah..I’ll make it through Christmas, smiling in spite of feeling like curling up in a corner..it’s what we do.

  23. Thank you. It’s like you looked into my heart and were able to put into words what is there. It’s my first Christmas without my husband and all I want to do is stay in bed until after January 8th (the day he went to be with Jesus this year). God bless.

  24. I lost my husband on Easter Sunday 2015. Like so many others he got sick and passed away 18 days after the Dr’s found the tumor, and by that time ,the cancer was everywhere. He never really comprehended what was happening. For that I am grateful. Some days. It’s like time is standing still. The tears still come, and some days I can’t breathe. I never knew what a broken heart was like until now. He was only 52. He kept telling the hospital staff that he wanted to go home for Easter, and he got to.

  25. You nailed it! When someone asks how I am, I either say “How are YOU?”. “Status quo”, or “Thats always going to be a relative term for me”.

    Brilliant!

  26. Thank you for your words because it speaks so much truth. I loss my fiance 44 days ago…
    As you described my biggest cheerleader is gone… the person I would go and talk about all my feelings to is not here to listen… the love I received from him is gone… It’s the loneliness and the weekends that are so very hard because that was our time and now it’s just me time. I do try to go places but it’s scary cause I never know when grief will hit me. Went to the grocery store today and saw a friend who asked how I was and that’s all it took and I started weeping. Better luck next time I guess.

  27. Thank you for putting into words, all the thoughts and feelings and emotions I’ve gone through for the past 121 weeks since my beloved husband of 23 years died. The anxiety of it all is overwhelming at times.

  28. You are exactly where I am. Part of you in ripped away, no one understands. All I get is, everyone grieves, more or less , it’s enough of it. Yet they cannot speak of their father and talk with me about him. I only have my little dog and God to talk to, they get me through each and every horrible day I am still her without him. You know, you understand. God Bless you.

  29. Amazing how this so describes what I am going through. All the outpouring of support in the first few days was overwhelming. I eventually answered every text or message. I said that in the weeks and months to come, when the silence is unbearable, I will need to hear from people. Two and half months have passed and the silence is deadening. I do try to reach out but the energy just isn’t there. Thank you for posting this

  30. My husband of nearly 49 years died on January 22nd 2016. He died 3 weeks after his diagnosis of cancer, and was quite well until 3 days before he died. Sometimes I am grateful that he did not suffer for long, and sometimes I wish I could have cared for him for much longer. The shock was enormous, and leaves regrets. And I have experienced many of the emotions and challenges that have been posted on this wonderful website.

    It is such a relief, isn’t it, to find that so many other people are feeling what you also have felt!
    One of my roles in life has been to be a grief counsellor and educator, and I know this from much personal experience too. To know that although everything you experience is deeply personal and nobody else’s experience can be exactly the same as yours, but also to know that grief is a normal and natural and healing process if we let it happen, is really important. We’re not going crazy! Losing someone you love hurts like crazy. And it takes time and patience to live with this huge gap in our lives. And we all do it differently, but there is also a process of feelings we have in common.
    Thankyou for sharing these feelings. I am hurting too, having just celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary without my very dear husband. God bless you, hold you, keep you.
    Adelene

  31. My husband passed 8 months ago……such unchartered territory ,the emotions that accompany those words.Thank you for sharing …….it makes me feel less alone.It takes a lot of courage to share your soul and I appreciate it.

  32. Beautifully described. All true. The fog has lifted. The realization that he is never coming back no matter how how you pray. 2 years, 10 months into this journey I did not ask for or want. I still have those occasional waves that catch me off guard. But I am making a choice to look ahead and try to live and love this one life that I have been given. It took me over 2 years to finally come to terms with it all. Scary as hell. Loneliness sometimes is almost unbearable. But I am here. I am alive and I will continue on this journey and trust God to lead me.
    I pray for your loneliness to be filled up with love, joy and peace John. Hugs.

    1. Terri, You are about as far into this new chapter as I am, 2 yrs. and a few days now. The lonliness is the worst I have ever felt. Feel no purpose, even with a small amount of family they too, think all is going well. Well its not and I accept that. But just wish I knew a way to make it okay and fill the emptiness. My fog lifted, although the same confusing chores are there along with paying bills, cooking, shopping for one, taking care of house, those silly bothersome things that have be done w/o any help. Oh yes still have my dog and cat and outside things for home that need to be done, I could go on. Guess learning on you own is good, but wish I was sharing again, not assuming all the responsibility. Just a bummer, and everyone thinks I’m okay now.

  33. My loss was only 6 months ago, and I have felt every single thing that you put in your blog. It’s as if you are walking in my skin. It is terrifying to read people’s comments that 5 years down the road they are feeling the same thing. I have had profound losses in the past, but nothing to compare to this. I know in my head that it will abate. But my heart – and that self-doubt that you so accurately described – say “I’m not so sure.” Thank you for sharing your heart – and a glimmer of hope.

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