My husband has been gone for more than three years. I should be used to living as a widow and existing in my “new normal.” But today I realized, no matter how long I exist without him, I’m not sure this will ever really feel normal.
Sure, my life is on an even keel and I’m doing okay, but this is only year three of living alone in comparison to twenty years living as half of a couple. For twenty years, I was a married woman sharing a life with someone else. For twenty years, I lived with a man I loved and we spent as much time as possible together, enjoying each other’s company. Of course, we weren’t completely joined at the hip. When we met, we were individuals in midlife. He had lots of hobbies and interests, and so did I.
Rick worked on websites, went for bicycle rides, surfed the net, loved to grocery shop (ugh), and enjoyed cooking, as well. He read tons of books – often several a month. I worked as a tech writer and spent my spare time reading, doing genealogy or puzzles, playing cards or games with friends, or meeting old pals once in a while for happy hour – where Rick would come by at the end of the evening to chat with my friends before driving me home.
But for most of those twenty years, our evenings were spent together: dinner or drinks under the gazebo, going to trivia, or enjoying our weekly movie/dinner date night. We spent weekend mornings at the diner and afternoons hanging out or working in our yard. And while we were together, we talked about everything and nothing for hours and hours. The communication never stopped – if we were apart, we texted constantly. Every moment we weren’t involved in our hobbies or interests was spent together. And, of course, we slept together every night, nestled in each others’ arms.
Day after day, night after night, year after year, for more than twenty years, I was happy to share my life with this man. I had my interests and he had his, but the best part was the time we shared together, the part we made into our life, and that was my “normal.”
And then it all ended suddenly, and my so-called new normal began. I still have my old interests, and have added a few new ones, but all that free time after cards, trivia, happy hour, and movies is now spent alone in this quiet house. I’m used to it. After all, it’s been years, and we can all adapt to just about anything. But, perhaps due to the pandemic, perhaps because I’m now more isolated than I’ve ever been, perhaps because I’ve spent the week going through a crisis (several family members have COVID), tonight, my life seems more alone, and this house seems far too quiet. The emptiness is more prominent, and maybe because of that, I realize that this phase of my life – widowhood – has never truly seemed normal, after all.
Last Tuesday night, I sat alone watching the election returns. Sure, I texted and gabbed with several friends, but ever-present in my mind was the fact that Rick wasn’t here with me. Mr. Politics wasn’t offering his opinion on the ups and downs of the events of the evening. And – you guessed it – it just wasn’t normal.
It’s always times that were so significantly “us” that bring the fact home. Holidays, birthdays, other events we traditionally shared together. Times I used to turn to him for support. Times that were special to us… those are the times that remind me that I may have gotten used to life without him, but it still doesn’t feel normal. Maybe after another decade or two, when I’ve spent as much time without him as I did with him, maybe then it will seem normal. Maybe it never will.
The one thing that makes it a little more like the old days is that I still hear his voice in my head. Will that ever stop? Last night, I was trying to reset an Ipad. I followed the instructions I found online… Hold this button, plug this in at the same time, click this, accept that, wait for this, etc. etc. It didn’t work the first time, and I was starting the process all over, when I heard him in my head with the words he used to tease me with during all those years we were together. Any time I was fooling around with something technical, puzzling over something that didn’t work, he would chuckle and say, ”It’s good you’ve got something to fiddle with.”
And I smiled to myself, because I can bring it all back so easily, those normal days. It was good to have him back. It was good to remember the old normal again, when love was always in my life and things were right with the world.
My husband of 22 years took his own life in front of me on Feb. 5, 2020. He and I had been together since I was 16 and he 20. We raised a wonderful daughter together and did everything together. So now I also know what you mean by normal. There is no normal anymore. There are nights when I hope and pray to dream of him, just to see and hear him for a few moments. If only I could be granted just a few more moments with him. I am usually an huge holiday fan but this year it all seems so bleak and even torturous. I continue to make it through day after day, trying to act as “normal” as I can, but it’s mostly just exhausting doing even that. I’m so glad that I found this site and know there are women like myself who still struggle to accept our new reality.
It is good to read something that describes exactly how I feel, “nothing is normal”. I often say to friends “I just wish I could remember what it is to feel normal”. I dropped my friend off at her home last night after going to dinner and shopping a little. Her husband opened the door, so glad to see her, even though it had only been a few hours. Oh, how I wanted that feeling back again. I was with him for 54 years and married 3 weeks shy of 48 and he has been gone 2 1/2 years. It is a continuing lonely journey even though I have a great family and friends.
Sandra, you’ve spent nearly your whole life with your husband, so it must be more difficult to adapt than I can imagine. Your description of how we miss those little things, like coming home to them, described the feeling perfectly. Yes, we are lucky to have the support of family and friends, but when we return alone to the empty house, it is awfully painful. Sending a big hug your way!
I can certainly identify with Sandra……am 78 years old and have been a “couple” my entire adult life. My beloved husband died over 6 years ago and although, I am certainly at peace with his death and the reality of my “new normal”, I cannot seem to find peace with the change in my “status” as a single woman and the loss of my “couple” identity. I so miss the evening conversation as we reviewed the activities of the day and the knowing that I would always have a partner for plays, concerts, church, pain and joy. Yes…I have a loving family and many friends and health and resources. My life is full and productive (still work about 20 hours a week and volunteer another 20)…however, the deep hole in my heart still exists.