Fact: Socializing after being widowed is different.
The Story: I’d not only lost my partner in crime and everyday shenanigans, but I also no longer knew who to go to the movies, theater, or eat out with. My plus one was no more, and I was no longer someone’s plus one. The world had changed.
At one event the host graciously welcomed me, and then guided me to a group of women in a corner slightly removed from the other guests. This turned out to be the place to which those whom death had displaced and made widows were relegated. I know the host meant well, but I couldn’t help but wonder ‘is this the corner to which I will be banished from now on?’ After the usual exchange around how long each of us had been widowed, the conversation lagged and I moved on. This was not my corner.
Some months later, I found myself moving back to Toronto. I believed starting again with the support of a few old friends meant new and old acquaintances would see me for who I was as a whole, and not first and foremost as a widow. I brushed off my ‘Hello neighbour, I’m new here, let’s get to know each other’ skills and forged ahead. Having not lived in the city for over 20 years, I’d forgotten that people in Toronto are wary of, if not downright aversive to, friendly people.
‘Now what?’, I wondered. I racked my brain over a cup of black coffee and thought perhaps the people I’d been seeing regularly at the dog park might be open to making new friends. Not so. These dog park folks turned out to be clique. What perplexed me the most was that the same people who ignored me in the dog park would wave or say hello if our paths crossed on the street. But, inside the park… it was a little like high school, and I, the newbie, was not a part of the in crowd.
Eventually, I did meet a few neighbours in the building I lived in, but everyone was pretty much busy with their own lives and existing social networks. I saw a lot of movies on my own during that first year- not a bad thing, but I missed the company of others.
Slowly I began to connect with people through courses, volunteer work, meetups, and neighbourly conversations. The occasional night out with a new gal pal or two were definite base hits. I was not yet out of the game. Still, I spent at least 90% of my evenings alone. Gawd, how I missed good company–not to mention theatre, dim sum, and live music. This was proving to be far more challenging than I thought it would be.
Then one day when I was perusing Groupon for a spa deal, I decided to buy tickets to a show. Yes, tickets as in plural–as in more than one. I bought two. I then boldly invited someone to come with me as my guest. It worked! Instead of spending the night watching Netflix, I was out at the local theatre, socializing and having fun. Finally, I’d found a way to connect with others that worked. Not only that, but in return for my efforts, others began inviting me to join them on their grand adventures, and or sometimes, just for coffee.
Like most things, this was not a perfect system. Sometimes I had to go through my entire roster of folks before I found someone who was interested and available to join me. Sometimes I knew the person well, and sometimes not so much. This was a little stressful. In the end, it turned out spending time together let us get to know each other better: another step forward into the next chapter of my life.
Note: There is a fine line between feeling we are supposed to be out living and wanting to be out living. Watch for it. It’s okay, especially in the beginning, to go within to heal, to be quiet, to rest. The day will come when you’re ready to rejoin the world and all it has to offer. When it does, inviting others to tag along on one of your adventures is a good place to start. And if you get stuck in the corner with a group of other widows, feel free to leave, and find someone you have something in common with, besides loss.
P.S. I’ve found it is always better to go the movies by myself than to miss something I want to see. The same holds true for travelling and taking vacations. I’ve done both and learned good things about myself, and the world in which we live in – things I never would have learned had I stayed home.
Be Brave! You’ve lived through and survived far worse. Step into the unfamiliar. It doesn’t matter if it’s travel, pickle ball, painting, or wood working. What matters is exploring and discovering new (and old) loves. Because with love comes healing and the re-igniting of joy.
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To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is… thoughts on loss, struggle and new beginnings click here
Photo by Joseph Pearson