Reflecting

This blog generally trends towards a lighter look at the oddity that is my life, but as we approach the anniversary of Bunny’s passing, which was the impetus for this journal, there are a few things I feel the need to write down. Don’t worry, there will still be some posts providing the chuckles, but a few more serious blogs will be sprinkled in. Just wanted to give you all the heads-up …

Widowed status is a strange situation, very unlike what I expected, if there is any way to expect such a thing. I think there are some common scenarios that many widowed people encounter, and of course, some that are quite specific to individuals, based on their own set of circumstances.  And then, there are those things that come up out of nowhere, both good and bad, that just completely knock you off course.  

For example, many (and there is no way to over-emphasize the word “many”) people you considered dear and fast friends when you were a “couple” with your deceased spouse just disappear. Gone. The same people you spent holidays with, laughed and cried with over the years, watched each other’s families grow up, gone. What happened?

I think, in some cases, they were friends of your wife/husband and now that your spouse is gone, that common thread is gone. Or, they don’t quite know what to say, so they say nothing at all. Or, they simply don’t want to deal with your anguish, so away they go.  Of course, they are “always there for you” and advise “just call if you need anything at all”. But for me, I didn’t know WHAT I needed when first facing her death, other than a return to normal with her back at home, yelling at me for not paying a bill on time or making my favorite dinner or sitting down with her to watch that same old movie yet one more time. Those disappearing friends are not going to fill that void, and they know they can’t so they just … go away …

What I didn’t expect were those friends, some just casual acquaintances, that did become a firm support network for me. People, now nearly one year later, who continue to stay in touch and share my joys, and tribulations, and life events, good and bad. They want nothing from our relationship other than to maintain it. They somehow know, inherently, just what to do, what to say or not say, when to call or write … I don’t know how that is the case, but they just KNOW what to do.   

Anyone who is widowed will likely understand what I’m saying here. Sadly, the widowed community is massive, yet you feel so alone when you first “join”, a club you most definitely did not want to be in. When you’re first widowed, in those early days, that’s when you really, really need your support network. And I got it from some … A brother who, the night my wife died, ignored my plea for alone time, brought over a pizza and some scotch and let me know that I wasn’t alone. Co-workers who picked up my load at work. My daughter, who wasn’t sure what to do, but was absolutely there whenever I needed her, despite her own grief. 

And there were others, of course, who gave support. My employer, a massive commitment from them for “whatever you need” that never wavered. My close musician friends, giving me the stability of playing with them in a creative environment, an outlet for my emotions that only a musician could give. My music partner, who I didn’t even realize had become my best friend during all those years of playing together, supporting every decision I made, non-judgmental yet probing to be sure I had thought it all out, inviting me into his home and family repeatedly for a meal and some semblance of normalcy.

As anyone who follows this blog knows, a few months after my wife died I met Sheila, also widowed (within one week of the time my wife passed) and with extraordinarily similar life circumstances, and that initial on-line mutual grieving has blossomed into an incredible new life together. And when my life took this unexpected giant turn, those who had disappeared went further into the recesses while those who supported me embraced my good news. And oddly enough, those who shrunk away seem somehow miffed that I’m not still a crumbling mess curled up in the fetal position, mourning the death of my wife of 35 years. 

I’m not unique, or alone, in this scenario. Some people simply cannot deal with grief, I understand that. But for some of us who are widowed, what we really want during those initial days/weeks is “normal”, not a constant reminder that our lives have been forever changed. We know it’s changed, believe me. My best friend and his wife understood that and provided whatever “normal” they could, all the while fully supporting my need to grieve.   

I’m well aware that the death of someone important in your life affects each of us differently, and Bunny was important in many people’s lives. But she was not more important to anyone else than she was to me, no matter what people may think. In too many instances people expected me to give comfort to them, to let them know it would be okay. That was not going to happen and for those who somehow felt slighted or otherwise left out because I couldn’t comfort them, I think you need to re-examine your viewpoint.

Coincidentally (or not) the people who have turned out to be a major support network for me are also the same people who celebrate my new life with Sheila. They see the joy that a great relationship brings, they can balance the idea that a new relationship does not supplant the previous one, but rather, compliments and builds on all those positives. It’s not a betrayal to the deceased spouses in any way, although both Sheila and I felt twinges of that type of shame at first; both of us openly talk about our prior lives before we met and both of us celebrate each other’s successful marriages. We take the time to enjoy our incredible good fortune, knowing that far too many widowed people don’t get this type of “second chance” at happiness.

My initial intent when starting this blog, besides the idea of getting my own inner thoughts out, was to let my network of people know that I was doing okay … damaged and hurting, but okay. After I relocated here to Georgia to be with Sheila, the blog was a good way to keep friends and family updated about my life changes, including retirement. Based on feedback, I’m assuming the blog is serving its purpose and I find readership increases steadily (only proving that many of you have absolutely nothing better to do with your time).

As I approach the 1 year mark, I wanted to let all know that I have no intention of elevating the anniversary of Bunny’s death to some type of “event”. I’m sure I’ll have some words (when DON’T I have words??), but a celebration of her passing is not of interest to me. But, to those who have been so supportive over the past year, thank you all … you have made it easier to get through and I appreciate your rooting for me as my life adjusts in this wonderful new direction. And to those who haven’t been able to stay in touch, I fully understand the difficulty of the situation and there are no hard feelings at all … I hope your lives are blessed in some way for having known Bunny.

In any event, thanks to all for helping through this past year ….

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