Monday, July 21, 2008

Adapting To Being Alone

Soon after our spouse dies and the funeral is over and the family has gone back home, we find ourselves facing the awful reality of being alone. Awful not only because we don't want to be alone, but also because we aren't ready to be alone. We still think like we're married, and we have hundreds of habits that are appropriate to our past life as a husband or wife. Throughout those early days and for months after, reality is constantly scraping against these thoughts and habits, harshly reminding us that we are alone.

A good example: you get out of the house for the day and come home to a dark, empty house. As the silence envelops you, you think again that this is now how it is — you are alone. And that isn't going to be changing anytime soon.

Understandably, this can often cause a great deal of anxiety and fear. As I've posted about previously, we can respond to anxiety actively by facing our fears, or we can respond passively by avoiding them. It is quite common for widow/ers to avoid fears early on by plunging into work, physical activities and exercise, or projects. Anything to avoid confronting this reality of being alone. But if you're still avoiding being alone as you approach the one year mark, it's maybe time to ask yourself why.

Chandra Alexander has posted a great article about this avoidance of being alone, and I think it speaks directly to those of us who have lost our mates:

Avoiding Being Alone

Are you afraid to spend time alone and will you do anything to avoid it? If you are constantly avoiding alone time, here are some things to think about that just might help in setting you free.

1. Is doing “anything” better than being alone?

  • If doing anything feels better than being alone, you need to deal with this issue, because doing “anything” is not better than being alone.

  • When we run from something (being alone), the focus remains on the running and not what we are doing.

2. Do you feel anxious when faced with the prospect of being alone?

  • The feeling of anxiety lets us know that the feelings we are running from are beginning to rise to the surface; that’s what happens when we spend time alone.

  • You will always feel anxious when you enter unknown territory. You are used to being distracted. When you are alone, many of those familiar distractions are removed; as a result, you will initially feel anxious.

3. You must face your fears or you will always be running.

  • Running becomes very tedious, very tiring. The only way you will ever be able to stop running, is to turn around and invite the demons in.

  • When you face your fears and refuse to run, the chase stops!

4. Spending time alone is the ONLY way to really know your SELF.

  • It is only in the quiet moments that we are able to KNOW the depths of who we really are.

  • Can you not answer your cell, turn the TV off, and sit quietly?

  • Can you bear the anxiety that comes from not being distracted? If you can, you will be rewarded with an expanded sense of Self.

5. Enjoying your own company is the reward.

  • To be able to have a solid sense of Self - whether you are with people or alone - is what you want to happen.

  • There is NOTHING better than enjoying your own company!!!

In my case, after working hard on getting used to being alone, at 20 months I decided to be really alone. I felt I was mostly ready to confront myself fully and completely, so with much trepidation I attended a free 10 day silent meditation course. It turned out to be the major key to my healing. I highly recommend it.

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