I have a new boyfriend, I have all my friends, workmates, Berlioz, my family, etc. It’s been a year and still I have days where I feel so alone, not just alone in the fact he isn’t around anymore but also alone in the experience of being a ‘widow’. I know there are hundreds and thousands of people who have lost their partners, but some days none of that makes you feel better. You just feel like an outsider, outcast, or the one I use, freak. The loneliness and the heartache that no-one else really knows, really gets to you.
I was reading a very interesting article about dying and heartache. People often talk about dying of heartbreak. And strange as it may seem, it is surprisingly common. They did a study on people who lost partners (admittedly this was for over 50 year olds but still) Surviving spouses have a 66% higher risk of dying in the three months after their partner’s death. Between the stress of looking after the house, the shock of event, and the loneliness, it is entirely possible to die of “Sudden Adult Death Syndrome”, a cardiac condition which can be triggered by emotional stress.
So it’s really important to look after yourself after the death, take steps to get out there and try to be less lonely (easier said than done, I’m aware. I’ll list something things that can help below), but also if you know a widow, remember that the pain they feel. The loneliness and heartache can contribute to a higher risk of dying in those first few months (and a higher risk of killing themselves). You can also help them by forcing them out and about every now and again. Don’t push them too much. One step at a time.
I did not die in the 3 months following Riley’s death. Some days it would feel like I would, the heartache was physical enough that I thought I was having a heart attack. I would just collapse to the floor, holding my chest. The pain was worse than anything I have ever felt (and I get my period monthly!). There were also the days where I thought I’d had enough and wanted to just lie down and die, do something drastic to get out of this situation. I can confidently say that I will not be doing that to get out of this situation. I still have the days where the loneliness gets out of control, and can be triggered by anything or nothing at all.
Sometimes it’s in a song, sometimes it the smell of the grass, sometimes it’s the rumble of a motorbike, but every now and again I am transported back and I feel just as alone and upset as I did in those first few weeks. Seeing his name, getting letters about the estate, seeing his face pop up on facebook when I’m not prepared. My heart just sinks.
And this emptiness cannot be fixed. Nothing fills that Riley shaped hole in my heart, every day I learn to love more, I love new and exciting things but instead of filling up that hole they just make my heart bigger. There is no replacing, there is no fixing. There is only learning to live with a part of me which is gone. People are so prepared for something/anything to fill that hole in their heart, money, shopping, alcohol, etc. but honestly, it won’t go away.
But I do have a couple of things that have helped me feel less lonely. For when a hug from Matt or playing with Berlioz just isn’t cutting it.
Firstly acknowledge your loneliness (out loud). Why are you lonely? Seems dumb but it’s a good place to start. “I am alone because I wish I wasn’t a widow and that Riley was still with me.”
And then you are acknowledging it and it’s easier to work through.
Go on a date, by yourself. Sometimes alone time is what you need. And in a restaurant where it is socially decided that you should be with someone. It makes you really own the aloneness, but not the loneliness (NOTE: Not a great one to do earlier on. I went on a dinner date and got stood up and it was honestly the worst. Friends of widows. DON’T EVER STAND THEM UP IF THEY HAVE MADE THE EFFORT TO ORGANISE TO HANGOUT).
Attend some meetups. As I said in my first blog post, I would not attend a widow’s group because I didn’t like the fact that it would probably be older people and I’d get bitter about them having most of their lives together but maybe that would be the kind of thing you would do?
Watch a movie (obviously not a tear jerker. I fully recommend NOT watching P.S I love you or Me before you). If you watch it by yourself or with friends just be fully immersed in an interesting story that’ll will take your mind off how you are feeling (remember lots of snacks as well). I suggest Disney because I love it and it nearly all the time has a happy ending (don’t watch ‘Up’ though, that is an amazing movie but makes me cry every time). Or read a solid bit of Fiction (Lord of the Rings full trilogy will take a wee bit of time to get through).
Take a nice trip, get on a random bus and have a day trip looking around a part of the city you don’t usually see. A change of environment can be quite helpful!
Volunteer. Helping others gives you that good feeling that really helps with the lonely feeling inside. Not great to do very often because then you decide that’s how to go about your entire life. Helping others is all well and good, but you have to organise yourself as well!
Make your bed. You feel super accomplished by doing a small task like that.
Look at photos. Grab a couple of snacks and maybe a wine and look through the highlights of your life. You had so many good times, you will have so many more.
When you are concentrating on the past, As I say when you are ‘transported back,’ it helps to bring yourself back to the present. My therapist suggested counting things in the room. Everyone knows counting and breathing helps us to get calmer but it’s combining the fact we have to look around the room and count things that are in the space we are occupying. I have started counting the number of shapes on the roof above my desk. Or all the keys on my keyboard (108). It helps remind me this is the here and now!
The main thing you have to remember, and this is very important:
The happiness does not replace the pain – but with time the happiness outweighs the pain.
Catching myself smiling in the mirror, laughing at something stupid Matt says, or when Berlioz finally learns to jump over my arm to get a treat instead of going under it cos he’s a lazy sod. All of these moments, from the small smiles to myself, to the laughing with friends as we play video games, I have come to realise that these moments outweigh the misery and despair I went through to get this far. I will still have lonely days, I will still cry randomly, but I know, deep down, I am making it. I will make it.
Lazy Sundays with the puppies ❤