It’s the eve of Thanksgiving and I just put down a book, Intimate Relationships, which talks mostly about marriage. It’s one of those scholarly type books that one doesn’t just breeze through. The section I read tonight talked about the dissolution of marriage and loss. Interestingly, the topic of widows and widowers was mentioned, all in one relatively short paragraph. The paragraph stated that “the magnitude of the loss is hard for outsiders to comprehend” and, over time, ratings of life satisfaction are higher than those who are divorced but not as high as those who are married. Ummm…duh.
With so much insight I began thinking about my experience and adjustments to date, nearly 11 months, of being a widower.
So where are the big adjustments? To begin, I feel that I was a fairly well-functioning adult when I got married—as much as any 23-year-old may be—so I already had some knowledge on how to cook, take care of a house, and raise children. None of those skills vanished with the “I do” and where well honed over the long marriage to Carrie. So my adjustment to widowerhood has not been so much about learning the “how tos” but adjusting to the withouts. Although I feel that I am in a place of contentment in my widowerhood, there are many withouts, many healthy and normal relationship aspects that I miss.
So here is a short list and some of my thoughts on withouts:
I miss someone invading my personal space…and invading someone else’s. By nature or perhaps nurture, I am a touching type of person. So I miss having someone who I welcome into my space, the physical proximity. Likewise, the lifelong invitation to invade another’s space is missed. Whether it is hand holding, a light caress, or just sitting together so close its hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The absence is a big adjustment.
I miss sharing history. I miss the “remember when” stories. Those shared memories of some event or occasion where the details of one memory are brought together with the other’s memory. Although I still have my perspective, it is an adjustment to not have the rest of the story.
I miss the emotional intimacy. Really, it’s all forms of intimacy but I think it begins with the emotional. I miss having a safe place to share the frustrations and joys of life. I miss having a person with whom I can readily express intellectual and spiritual insights. I miss being there for someone else, knowing everything about another which gives context to shared thoughts and feelings. This is another area of big adjustment.
I miss having someone to pour love into. I am finding this one hard to put into words. The idea centers upon the work involved in making a marriage relationship great. This work is something I miss. The thinking about someone, the planning, and, finally, doing something to show how much the relationship means. It is the idea of giving oneself away, of personal self-sacrifice so the other might benefit. Of course I miss the reward of building mutual affection.
As I finish this post it is Thanksgiving Day in America. A day where I can truly say I am thankful. I am thankful that I had the “withs” so I can miss “withouts”. I recognize my blessings as there are so many who have never experienced them to begin with. Today I will gather with people who are very important in my life, eat a big meal, and be thankful together. I am thankful for these people and many others. They are walking this journey with me. I am thankful for a relationship with God through Jesus Christ who has orchestrated all that I am and who ultimately fills withouts.
So in spite of my widowerhood, I am thankful. And being thankful, I am also excited about the future. Excited about this journey of ups and downs and arounds, it’s called life.