Utterly freaked, frozen in the headlights and flirting with futility, the reality stick whooped me upside the head. “Now what am I going to do? I’ve haven’t lived alone or balanced a checkbook in 30 years”. I cooked each meal and did laundry, but Sandi reconciled the checkbook, paid bills, prepared our taxes, cleaned house, and kept me grounded and balanced. A clueless, albeit grateful kept man, I chuckle recalling telling my angel Sandi that I didn’t know cleaning house and paying bills was so therapeutic.
My first reaction was deluding myself into believing I wouldn’t need anyone; I’ll get it together. Not! In uncharted waters, I swiftly realized this response could harm my mental and physical wellbeing. People need the support of empathetic family, community, hugs, and gentle nuzzles from four-footed furry friends to feel unconditionally loved and lifted from the heart of darkness.
So, a leg at a time, I put my big boy pants on, and with tutelage mastered domestic fiscal responsibilities, adapted to living alone, and grew in self-confidence. I needed to learn to walk alone to show myself I could be lonely yet still strong. Though, it required a lot of support, I faced my worst fears then conquered them one by one.
Although, I most definitely understand it’s a necessary part of the healing process to be alone, grieve, bang the walls, to let tears, the blood of the soul flow until we dehydrate, and progressively accept the unwritten chapters of a new life frontier. I confess it felt good to grieve, as the depts of grief validated the depths of love we share.
Because loneliness takes as long as it needs, having outlets truly helps. My twin flames death and the ensuing vacuum reinforced I cannot control what happens, but I can control how I deal with it. It helped doing things meaningful: tending garden, writing my column and love letters to Sandi, hanging out with like-minded folks, carving out times of silence, growing my inner self, hitting the gym, and spoiling my two Morkies. Interacting with my fur babies releases the feel-good drug dopamine in my brain. Whee!
It’s not mentally and physically healthy to journey alone. If you simply can’t cope, The Institute on Aging (IOA) offers the Friendship Line, a 24/7, toll-free crisis phone line for people aged 60 years and above. ‘The IOA Friendship Line is the only program in the US that reaches out to lonely, depressed, isolated, frail and/or suicidal older adults. Their trained volunteers specialize in offering a caring ear and having a friendly conversation with depressed, lonely older adults. According to a Pew Research Center study, living with an extended circle of relatives to prevent loneliness is the most common type of household arrangement for older people worldwide.
Somewhat in control of where my thoughts go, I no longer need to distract myself and fill in the silence. Perhaps not for everyone, preferring solitude and going inward has been good for me. There came a lot of healing and inner peace once I learned to vibe alone in solitude rather than wallow in widower’s loneliness.
At last, comfortable in my own company, I no longer dread aloneness as much. How could I be lonely if I like the person I’m alone with? It was Jean-Paul Sartre who said, “If you are lonely when you’re alone, then you are in bad company.” Thich Nhat Hanh, global spiritual leader, poet, and peace activist adds, “Silence is essential, as we need silence just as much as we need air, just as much as plants need light. If our minds are crowded with words and thoughts, there’s no space for us. “I’ve learned the difference between loneliness and solitude. Solitude is a choice, like a contemplative mountain top guru.
The healing process required gluing the shattered pieces of my heart back together. My twin flames death and the ensuing emptiness reinforced I cannot control what happens, but I can control how I deal with it. Gradually the emotional clouds parted, and the sun shone down again, just not as brightly. Surviving aloneness takes courage, time, self-reflection, and on-going work. But you know what? Grief will always be a part of who I am, but I’m going to be alright, and you will too… eventually. And so it is.