Distraction vs. Connection
If distraction can simply postpone grief, then where does one look for real emotional solace?
You will find it in connection. Instead of distraction, which may be prescriptive some of the time, look for connection. Find others who are also widowed and talk about the fears, the sadness that you share. Don’t spend time with those to whom you cannot tell the truth. Don’t be with those who urge you to cheer up and move on. Connect with those who have been through the same experience and are able to empathize (not merely sympathize) with your emotions.
These connections will make you feel less alone and more stable. They will also help to minimize the self-judgment that you are likely to feel about “losing it” or “falling apart” when you see that others are in the same precarious emotional position. The company of other widows is warmly embracing, for it validates your grief and makes a safe haven for you. Even if reaching out and talking honestly is not your habit, you will find, as many widows do, that being with people who have experienced spousal loss has a solid, stabilizing power. The comfort of this connection, this sameness, is embracing. The sharing of common feelings has more power to help than the distractions, which are helpful only while they last; connection fills the emptiness in an enduring way.
Do not be afraid of alone time. Yes, you may "sink" or "fall apart," but that is part of the intensity of loss. Some have said that aloneness is intolerable and that they feel too overwhelmed with despair and fear. This is partially an instinctive, primitive fear of abandonment, the kind of primal terror than an infant feels when its mother is out of sight. It is a tidal wave of isolation and sometimes wild panic. There may also be a certainty that you will always feel that way. However, these feelings will not last. Unless you are clinically depressed, you will remain in "the chasm" for a while, and then you will leave it for longer periods. Let the terror wash over you and let the despair take away part of your day. Don't feel there is something terribly wrong because you are engulfed in sadness. You are supposed to be!
And then, please phone someone and make a time to talk about your feelings. Try to find another person who understands, not theoretically, but someone who knows—first hand—what you are experiencing. Make the connection with someone who doesn't need you to explain, who will add the commiserating, validating comment, who will be on the other end of the phone knowing how you feel without judging you. If you do not have a widowed friend, try to find a bereavement group where no one will tell you to "feel better," "move on," or "keep busy."
Read on: Mourning is Unpredictable