A Stranger in a Strange Land

Shortly after finding myself a widow, I wrote that the feeling as though I was in the aftermath of an explosion: 

“Imagine sitting in a beautiful home and everything around you seems perfect. All of a sudden, a loud bomb explodes and completely destroys the home and life you’ve built. There are pieces of it everywhere, splinters of wood, bricks lying about. And you’re still sitting in the midst of it, seemingly unscathed, except for a very sharp splinter of that wood must have pierced your heart because it hurts like nothing else has ever before. 

For a few weeks, there are people who gather to help, picking up bricks where they can, mostly while you’re still sitting there in shock and pain. And you so much appreciate it because you’re doing just your best to keep breathing. And then it’s time for you to get up and do the heavy lifting, because no one can rebuild your house (life) except you. 

Your closest loved ones are still there to lend support, to take those 3 a.m. calls and listen and guide, but they have to go back to their own lives and live them, because their house is still in tact. So, you get up alone and brick by brick, start hauling them into some kind of place to rebuild something. You probably don’t even know how to build a house alone and you surely don’t have blueprints or plans; the bomb destroyed all. 

Everythingwas destroyed and all that’s left are memories. 

When you get something propped up, something else breaks or you realize you don’t even have a clue to fix it or maintain it. If you’re lucky, you have friends who can come over and show you how to change the water filter, hook up the generator, calk….whatever. You think you’ve cleared the shrapnel and splinters (the triggers that sets your pain back), but sometimes when you least expect it, those splinters of your former life pokes you, makes you bleed and starts the pain in the heart from that main piece all over again. 

Sometimes, it’s almost crushing, punching you in the gut and laying you up for an entire day. In the meantime, you eat, you work, you take care of those who need you, all while your life is still in a blown out mess. And everything seems harder because rebuilding is so exhausting. 

People who’ve survived this same bomb tell you if you keep working at it, you’ll someday rebuild your home and maybe even enjoy it again. Some days it’s easier to believe them than others. But what everyone agrees on is that just like building a physical home, rebuilding your life takes lots of time, picking up the pieces takes patience.”

Two and half years in, I will add that not only has your life exploded and you’re left in the ruins, but it also feels most days as if you have also been abducted by aliens and dropped onto a different planet. 

Some things seem familiar, like your work. But even that is different now. Sure, you still work to support yourself, but before you were also working for a joint dream. Maybe it was a house, a vacation, and your retirement. All that has changed. You have to figure out what you’re working for now. You have to create solo dreams. 

At the same time, your life takes on things that once seemed so foreign before. This week, I solved the problem of figuring out how to apply anti-itch medicine to a bite right in the middle of my back (I tape a tissue to the end of my back scratcher, put the medicine on the tissue and apply it to my back while standing in front of the mirror). 

Dating as a widow/widower could (and probably is) the subject of a voluminous book. I haven’t experienced a date with anyone but my late spouse since I was 15. It’s something I never thought I’d be doing again. Talk about feeling like a foreigner in a foreign land! 

So, this is life in widowhood….it’s doing things you never have, or haven’t done – maybe like me – in over 40 years. It’s learning to do things on your own. It’s dancing in the middle of my living room alone with the dogs, which seems to make them happy, too. 

This is life now. We can only Live Large in it if we find our way through the chaos and foreign-ness of it all. If we choose it. 

What have you done to help rebuild?    

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