Help for those left alone

I am a facilitator for the Red Deer Widowed Support Network and submit the enclosed in providing hope, understanding and recovery to all those who have lost a spouse in death.

I am a facilitator for the Red Deer Widowed Support Network and submit the enclosed in providing hope, understanding and recovery to all those who have lost a spouse in death.

It is just me now!

The turkey and trimmings are now in the freezer awaiting their second coming. The chocolates and the brandy no longer in sight, waiting to reappear at our waist line. Our parents, in-laws, all the adult children and their children have returned home, leaving us with many so fond memories but with an empty house.

Where only a short time ago my house was truly a home, it now shelters only me. The now empty space shows still the remnants of love and companionship. The decorated tree is still standing, but is now barren of the decorated gifts beneath its green wings. The long table recently laden with nourishment, surrounded by conversation, laughter and reminisces of the year has bid final farewell sits empty now. My shoes are no longer crowded at the front door, I would wish it was still. Reality has returned, the joy of Christmas now appears as an artificial effect.

Loneliness has been identified as the absence of an emotionally meaningful relationship. You do not fully understand the trauma of loneliness until you lose someone whose presence has come to mean a lot to you. It is like a vice around your chest — every breath unwanted, agonizing.

For days, the heaviness weighs down and you have absolutely no interest in anything. There was absolutely no appetite for anything, it is like a recurring nightmare. It’s unreal, yet the truth of it keeps pounding in your head. There is no longer any real purpose to anything, no one to share the odd little things that have occurred during the daytime.

How empty it is all — life can never be quite the same again.

In addition to feelings of loneliness, you also discover that you no longer enjoy a sense of belonging. Your family and friends do not know how to relate to you, and you’ve become a fifth wheel. You are exiled into the never-never land where each day the longing to be close to someone you can care about gets stronger. You want to be with just about anybody, you don’t want to be alone and lonely. You want the phone and the doorbell to ring. You have no one to say nice things to, or hear another say those nice things to you anymore. You want someone to put their arms around you and say that they love you.

Once the activities with which you have surrounded yourself are ended, you become conscious once again that you are alone. Deep down inside you know that all your activities, or even the people whom you meet, will not be able to fill this void in your life. The longing only settles when a new adult attachment is made. The real pain of loneliness comes as a reaction to the absence of a loved one and is likely to extend over a period until that deficit state is resolved.

I am writing about the emotions remaining following the death of a spouse. My wife passed away on the morning of June 17, 2011, following 45 years together. The journey of a surviving partner is a trip nobody can adequately prepare to travel. If you are a widow or a widower, you are referred to as being widowed, but you are still alone.

Although it is normal for some of us to seek solitude, there is a difference compared to loneliness. Solitude is a matter of choice, we all need time to ourselves at one time or another, loneliness on the other hand comes without our approval. When loneliness visits, we do not have the discretion to refuse its presence. It has a key in our life, and many do not have the strength to banish its entry.

As grim as this scenario may seem, I am advising you that we need not suffer alone. Remaining by ourselves becomes the most difficult resource of healing.

If you find yourself hurting emotionally following the loss of your husband or wife, there is hope and recovery help is available. During 2009, the Widowed Support Network was formed in Red Deer, and it is now in the fifth year of operation and currently has a membership in excess of 100. The group functions are unique and have attracted participants from north to Leduc, south to Airdrie, west to Rocky Mountain House and east to Stettler.

We are about connecting with others in the same situation.

The facilitators are not trained counsellors and have also lost a partner. They ensure the group is relevant to not only those who have lost a partner, but also for those who have travelled this journey a lot longer.

This is not a group someone should attend to meet a replacement; respect and confidentiality are paramount here. Members are just people who want to socially connect and understand how to deal with life without our partner. We pool our talents, and resources together to help each other.

The first Friday of each month we meet at the Black Knight Inn at 6 p.m. in the restaurant to experience an evening of eating and social engagement. The third Friday evening of each month, we gather at the First Christian Reformed Church located at 16 McVicar Street in Red Deer at 7 p.m.

You can email us at widowedsupportnetwork@gmail.com or call 403-755-0977 or please be free to drop in on a Friday as mentioned above. I would add that there are no fees required and the group is religiously neutral.

Jesse J. Mlynarski

Red Deer

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