We may find ourselves suddenly single at any age. For me it was 60. My husband of 41 years died very suddenly and all at once I was single. Others find that a marriage breaks up, or a relationship comes to an end and however long the marriage/relationship has lasted there is a void left in our lives. We have been used to being one of a couple Bob and Judith, Bill and Jane, Elizabeth and David. Now we are single and alone.
If we are lucky we have a supportive family and good friends. But we all go through various stages when this happens.
Resentment; anger; frustration; hurt; unloved/unlovable; betrayed; vengeful; unworthy/worthless; scared; invisible; denied; shunned; denigrated;
Immobilized; fearful; wanting to hide; rudderless; limited; without purpose; wanting to move away/to be unknown So we employ Blocking Mechanisms such as alcohol, food (comfort food), drugs, and busyness in work or otherwise, indiscriminate sex
Acceptance; gratitude for all we do have; to love ourselves (again) and know that we can survive.
So how do we move from Phase One to Phase Three?
Start by acknowledging that the feelings we have in Phase One are perfectly normal and totally acceptable for a short time. We need to recognize that we need these feelings to identify where we are at the time. We don't want to keep them; we want to move through them.
So many of us get stuck in Phase One. We continually talk about our loss to friends and sometimes even casual acquaintances. You know you have talked too often and too much, when the listeners eyes begin to glaze over, or they start to play with their hair, look off into the distance and start scribbling. These are only a few of the tell tale signs that you have worn out your welcome in talking about this subject.
This is an easy way to lose those friends who you really are going to need in the coming months. Don't disrespect your friends.
I had a client, let's call her Jane. Jane's husband had died some four years earlier and in Jane's words “all her friends had deserted her". They had grown tired of hearing about her loss and once it was pointed out to her that she had been abusing their friendship she made the decision to stop complaining. She employed some of the coping mechanisms shown below and eventually made amends with some of her friends, and in the process made new ones.
By Phase Two we have made the acknowledgments above but we are still fearful and immobilized. If we have been left by our spouse or partner through their choice, we may want to hide; perhaps we would like to move away to where we are unknown. But for so many of us this is not an option.
So maybe we employ those blocking mechanisms which really don't achieve anything; they simply put us into another place for a short time. After the alcohol and/or drugs have worn off we are still in the same place we were. The busyness only serves to hide the feelings; the sex is great (perhaps) at the time. But we do have to move on and take control of our own lives. Easier said than done for some.
By Phase Three, which may well have taken several months to reach, we have accepted that this awful thing has happened and can't be undone and have acknowledged that we are strong and can move on. Perhaps we have to make a whole new life for ourself. This can be hard but with the help of the friends we have retained and the new ones we have made it can be done.
To get to the third phase we need to employ some Coping mechanisms. I suggest talking to a life coach. The coach will be totally unbiased and can help in many ways that a friend or family member cannot. In the first place, your coach is coming with no baggage - no information of how you were earlier or any of the other things your family and friends know.
Some other Coping Mechanisms are:
- Be kind to yourself. We say ‘pay yourself first’
- Take time to be alone in a place you love - the beach, park, garden.
- Experiment with solitude - ask yourself how you are feeling being on your own. Is it as scary as you thought?
- Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings just as they come to you.
- Learn to meditate or pray. This quiet time can be very healing and often when meditating answers to some of the coping problems will appear.
- Cultivate friendships. Join a club where there will probably be other women in the same situation.
- Look up old friends and reignite those friendships. Who knows, you may be able to comfort and support one of these people.
- Make up any old quarrels. You will be surprised how free this will make you feel.
- Recognize the blocks to coping.
But as always recognize that ‘this too will pass’. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Don't wait for it to come to you. Take the first step and meet it half way.
There is no right or wrong way to deal with this. Some people can get to Phase Three within a very few months, others take a couple of years. Know that it is your journey and you are taking it at your own speed. Take your time.
When we reach Phase Three we are ready to move on. Remember every journey starts with just one step. What will yours be?