Why does widowhood have to be so lonely?
There are so many losses and changes that are in and of themselves isolating. Then to compound matters, often the people we once spent so much time with start pulling away – or perhaps we do – for lack of commonality and understanding during this newfound season.
To sum it up, the widow journey can be isolating and lonely and it sucks!
Over the years I have gone back and forth on the subject. I’m lonely and know I need to do something about it. Perhaps I should call that friend for lunch or have that couple over for dinner. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so lonely and isolated if I initiated things more. Maybe people want to get together, they are just trying to give me my space. Maybe, maybe, MAYBE!
Then there is the part of me that gets angry that I have to let people know it’s okay to include me in things! Shouldn’t they know (I assume) that I CRAVE adult hang time and to be included? That my life 24-7 is focused on my kids without another adult to share in the responsibility, problem solving and around the clock fun and wild experience? I have so much going on AND I have to initiate these friendships and get togethers?!? How frustrating that can feel!
There are so many explanations, I suppose, for the loneliness and isolation that can come with being a widow.
I have had friends tell me that we (my children and I) are a reminder of something they never thought could happen to people our age and it scares them. That one is hard to swallow but at least they were honest.
I have had friends over the years who are great about including me and meeting me to hang out. This is, however, as long as it is during the day and seemingly a girlfriends-type outing (think pedicures, going to lunch, taking a walk). Those same friends have not been shy in sharing with me that the get together or dinner party their hosting this weekend is a couples thing and they wouldn’t want me to feel weird in any way if I came solo. I guess I am supposed to feel appreciative that they didn’t invite me so I smile and shake my head in understanding. Yet in my mind I am thinking: I am not going to be your “day only” friend and decide that my time is better spent with other people.
Weekends and holidays have been tough. They are notoriously spent as a family and with other families. Somehow a single mom and her kids don’t often fit into that equation that other more “in tact” families seem to. I can understand that it isn’t as fun for the husband to not have a buddy to hang out with but goodness! Something about the whole thing feels very outdated and limiting.
And don’t even get me going on the things that have been said to me about my “suddenly single” status (all on its own) making it uncomfortable for wives to have me around their spouses. That one has quite possibly hurt the most. A lot.
Needless to say, it’s been a struggle.
Perhaps you can relate or maybe your experience with people is completely different. I share all this not to sound negative or like a victim. Actually, what has come out of it has been quite the opposite. It has helped me cherish at an entirely new level the women and families that do include us and treat us well. It has also pushed this former self-professed Introvert into finding that little piece of Extrovert inside her.
That little piece that needs to be heard and validated and is willing to push outside of her comfort zone to get what she needs. It has taken me quite some time but I have come to realize and accept that I need to be an initiator (at least part of the time) in the relationships that are important to me especially even more so now that I am a widow. I am far from perfect in this new role as initiator but I have come a long way! Additionally, moving to a new city where I did not know hardly a soul surely helped the development of this new, more extroverted side of Krystal.
Now certainly I go through seasons when my introvert side protects me in a cocoon so I can work through some heavy grief. But faithfully, when that time washes over me, my (relatively) newly established extrovert side kicks us into gear! She will be damned, I have found, to let loneliness and isolation be part of her story for too long! Perhaps I have always had this side in me or perhaps it was Mike’s death and some harsh realities that birthed her. Regardless, I am thankful she is here today and that we are doing this widow thing together. Wink, wink!
So here are some suggestions or strategies for finding friends after becoming a widow that have been life-changing for me. I call it, Operation Make Friends (the Widow Edition). They may seem obvious because many of them are. What isn’t so obvious is this part: you have to do them ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it. You have to look inward and make a choice: do you want to stay lonely and isolated or do you want to take a chance that there are some amazing people out there ready to do life with you.
I also want to say, that there is this incredible snowball effect that takes place once you start initiating and putting yourself out there. I used to call it my YEAR OF YES (and truthfully it went on for several years) because each time I said yes to one experience, new friends and a new experience would follow. It has truly been incredible.
Introducing: Operation Make Friends (The Widow Edition)
Find a Group to Attend.
It can be a support group, grief group, faith-based gathering or study, or hobby. Meet ups based on interests are popular these days so that’s helpful. Personally, I attended Grief Share and immediately joined a Bible Study. Both helped me feel a little less lonely and a whole lot more seen and understood. As time passed, I added in more activity-based groups like joining a boxing club and a summer trail run club. The buzz words for Find a Group to Attend are: Seek. Initiate. Be consistent.
Find a Group Online.
There are so many wonderful communities or groups online to be a part of both for widows and for specific interests. I have joined various widow and interest groups both on Instagram and Facebook and they have not been a disappointment. The women especially in the widow groups are amazingly supportive and encouraging and are often available all hours of the day! The Hope for Widows Foundation is phenomenal and offers all sorts of support and resources. My one suggestion would be to be sure to join groups that are positive and real. Be careful of inviting negativity in your life! The buzz words for Find a Group Online are: Join them. Grow. Participate in discussions. Be encouraged. Be an encouragement to others!
Volunteer and Serve Your Community & Beyond!
Look at a local church or groups in the community for ways you can serve. Serving others is healing. It allows a reprieve from whatever is heavy on you right now. I have found some incredible insights and healing in my own widow journey while serving others. There are also some impactful organizations that you can go out of state or country with. Feeding that need in you for travel while helping others is a win-win in my book! The buzz words for Volunteer and Serve Your Community & Beyond! are: Show up. Smile. Initiate small talk with those you’re serving and working alongside. Process. Journal. Share your experience with others. Invite others to join you next time. Return and Repeat.
Psychologist and author, Dr. Jenn Hardy, also offers these suggestions when branching out to make new friends:
- Stay off your devices while in public
- Plan conversation ideas out ahead of time if you feel uncomfortable with small talk
- Plan out ahead of time if and how you will talk about your widow status (My addition!)
- Laugh at people’s jokes
- Be interested in what people share
- Let it be known that you are looking for friends (This isn’t desperate! Its relatable!)
- Accept that you may need to ask people to hang out more than once
- Find the disclosure balance between not sharing enough to connect and over-sharing in a way that overwhelms
I hope these suggestions encourage your heart a little. If you’re apprehensive about trying something new, perhaps ask a family member or friend to join you. Also, if you are having difficulty finding ways to plug in and meet people on your own in your community, reach out and ask for help! Helping people get plugged in happens to be a gifting of mine! Lastly remember that you are brave and can do this if your heart so desires. Now go make yourself some new friends my friend.