Saturday, May 3, 2008

Maw Not Yaw

So, why is this blog all about being middle-aged and widowed? Well, as I looked around for support groups when my husband died, the ones I found all seemed to be aimed at those widowed young. Luckily for me, I just about qualified as young, so I was able to use three excellent sites: The WAY Foundation - aimed at the Widowed And Young, Merry Widow, originally aimed at the young widowed, though now claiming to be for everyone, and YWBB - Young Widow Bulletin Board. But it struck me as unfair and a bit mean to exclude the older widowed, either actively, by the membership rules, or in more subtle ways.

I fell, as I so often seem to do, between the categories. I was classified as young when the Golfer died, but my family had left home, so I had little in common with the young mums on the message boards. More than that though, I felt that somehow older widows and widowers were being told - well, you've had your life - you should think yourself lucky. And of course, that is true, to an extent. It's one of the many glib truths we all say to ourselves, if not to the people concerned.

But have you thought about what that actually means? I didn't, until I experienced widowhood myself, and wondered what it must be like for people older than myself, unlikely to have time to 'make a new life for themselves', as we are constantly being exhorted to do. You may, like me, have been in a very longterm relationship (married 24 years, together since we were 18), or you may have been on a second or third marriage. It doesn't really matter. The difficulty for the older widowed person is that, in a way, your life is over. Your children, if you had them, have left home and are making their own lives. You may be retired, or you may have been deep in retirement plans with your spouse. It is not only hard to start over again when you are older, you actually can't start over in the important things - you've had your family, you've had your career. I think this makes being widowed after your mid-forties hard in ways that are quite different from the challenges of being widowed young.

For another thing, you probably don't have parents around for support. That was, and still is, one of the most difficult things for me. My parents have been dead for ten years, my in-laws are dead, there is no-one to lean on.

One of the other problems of a long marriage (it certainly was in my case) is that you haven't spent a lot of time cultivating your own friendships. You may have married couples as friends but they melt away like snow in Spring when you are alone, as if being widowed might be contagious. Can't blame anyone for that of course - it's my own fault that I didn't keep up my own friendships - but that doesn't alter the situation one finds oneself in.

So if your husband, wife or partner dies after the age of 45 or so, you can find yourself more alone than you have ever been in your life, and with no obvious way of making things better. That is why this blog is dedicated to older people who find themselves unwillingly alone. I hope lots of you will comment on and add to my stories and experience here. Maybe we can help and inspire others out there as lonely as me!


phase3jrl said...

I absolutely agreed with what you said.

Twice widowed myself and having college age children of my own, I must say I am very much in your same shoes. When I was widowed for the first time (Aug 2004 at 47), friends regularly encouraged me to let go with the past and move on to my new chapter. In fact, some even 'envy' at me for getting a fresh start; especially when I managed to remarry within 6 months after my first husband passed. Since middle age women (I'd say mid 40's to mid 50's)are more likely to having grown children and already into some kind of career, there is a distorted believe that women our age are considered care takers (to children and parents) and hence better equiped to facing widowhood than both the younger or older age groups. Middle age women are fully expected to be at peace when our husbands departed and continue to act and live a normal life as if nothing had happened. We are considered strong and able and hence require little financial or emotional supports from society. The lack of attention to widows at our age group have sadly reflected this general attitude. We are just not getting the kind of special attention that we desperately look for. May be, the old custom of wearing black and addressing the bereaved 'Widow Smith' (instead of Mrs. Smith) a real nice touch. Our ancesters must have foreseen something that we failed to notice!

Unfortunately, this line of thinking is by no means unique in this country. When I was widowed again this past December in Australia, I discoverd that social attitude was somewhat a repeat of that in the States. In short, my marital status remains mute and unnoticible as it always has been. After all, the average age of women when widowed is only around 53 to 55 in this country, there are simply too many widows at our age group to receive the needed attention.

I am indeed grateful to find that website where women our age are voluntarily forming our own network to sharing experience and for self support. I wish I could contribute my share of effort in the same course.

Puddock said...

Thanks phase3jrl and welcome to Rosehip or Prune!

I am so sorry to hear of your experience. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be widowed twice. I hope you are doing okay and that you have some support. Feel free to keep popping in here and commenting - it's nice to have the company.

I agree with you about the old idea of a mourning period and some kind of badge to wear. Not only does it take the bereavement seriously, it also gives you an opportunity to step out of the grieving process when the time comes. I have found it difficult to feel I have permission to move on and would have found a 'graduation' ceremony of some kind helpful.

Take care ane hope to see you round the blog again.