As I was leaving the house this morning to walk to the library (in nineteen-degree weather!) it suddenly struck me as strange that no one cares when I leave. No one cares when I get home. No one cares if I stay home or stay away. Obviously, I care, at least to an extent, but for the most part it doesn’t matter because wherever I am, there I am.
A lot of people care, not just about me but also that I am safe and well and that we can visit occasionally, but for the daily comings and goings? No one.
I’m surprised it took me this long to realize the strangeness of this situation, though it really shouldn’t have been a surprise. The first couple of months after Jeff died, being alone didn’t seem strange, just so very, very sad. I couldn’t stand coming home to an empty house, not because it was empty, but because I forgot it was empty. I’d unlock the door as always, ready with an “I’m home!” and then it would strike me . . . again . . . that he was gone, and full-on grief would slam into me.
For the next few years, I took care of my aged father, and when he was gone, I was so busy clearing out the house and getting it ready for sale that I didn’t really notice that no one cared whether I came or went. When the work was done, that huge house was so empty that I noticed the echoes but not much else. Also, by then, I was involved with dance classes, so my dad’s house was mostly a place to spend the night.
The years after I left my father’s house were spent traveling or renting rooms in other people’s houses, and I was blogging about my activities, so I didn’t notice that no one was around to pay attention to my comings and goings.
When I bought this house, it was such a new and wonderful experience — both owning a house and making a home in a new place — it didn’t really strike me that no one particularly cared about when I left the house.
But now, it’s been almost three years since I bought the house. Although the thrill and the feeling of being blessed isn’t gone, I am more aware of being alone. (Not lonely. Just aware of aloneness.) That awareness could be why I talk to Jeff’s picture, and why I tell the photo when I am leaving, but a photo doesn’t care.
Now, almost twelve years after his death and all the moves I’ve made and all the things I’ve done, I’ve suddenly realized how strange this living alone is. It’s nice, of course, being able to do what I want and go where I want without regard to anyone else. But it’s also . . . not sad, exactly, but . . . strange.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.
January 28, 2022 at 7:57 pm
Strange is an interesting word. Interesting in the sense that at some point the strange should become ordinary, but hasn’t. Living alone seems to have a way of finding new ways to be strange.
I wonder if that continuing strangeness make us strange in new ways too?
January 28, 2022 at 10:40 pm
You ask a good question. My feeling is that yes, it does, but that it won’t seem strange to us because we are living it.
And you’re right. Living alone does have a way of finding new ways to be strange as I discovered today.
January 28, 2022 at 9:05 pm
Living alone !
It is different for a young bachelor and old bachelor.
Young widower and old widower (after more than 30 years of life living together).
Some people born to be to live alone and they were happy.
It is also different with the social situation.
I feel it is a delicate subject and depends on cultural background.
And your financial independence.
January 28, 2022 at 10:42 pm
I should have said that living alone feels strange to me because obviously, I have no idea how other people accept living alone. Though for a lot of people, having a pet helps if for no other reason than it gives them someone to talk to.
January 29, 2022 at 1:25 am
I try to figure out nearly the last four years. Strange I don’t know. In my case it was brutally imposed. Nearly all my life I have lived with my parents and with my wife. After her brutal departure I am still wondering is it is possible to live another way ? With grief influence at the moment I have no answer. All my life I have
been learning to adapt and readapt to stay alive. At the moment I feel it is very sad. Eventually it is cruelly strange.
January 29, 2022 at 8:07 am
Yes, you’re still at the sad stage. That never truly goes away, but it does get easier. Eventually.
January 29, 2022 at 1:10 pm
As you’ve acknowledged, there is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. I’m a huge introvert who values — absolutely needs — big chunks of alone time. I’ve never stopped to think about being alone as strange. But then I’ve been content in my marriage of 62 years (and hope for that love and companionship until the end of my days!) so I don’t pretend to know how your kind of aloneness feels. I suspect how aloneness affects a person depends a lot on their personality.
There was a time when the lifestyle that came with being a pastor’s wife sometimes felt suffocating but my commitment meant there was an obligation to be involved with people even when I might not feel like it. After retirement we’ve continued to be involved in various activities but now I have a lot more opportunity for alone time. My hubby likes to say life might still be busy, but now it’s a busy-ness of our own choosing. Perhaps the fact that you can choose to come and go without being accountable to others is what makes your aloneness tolerable. I suspect that if you needed to tell someone, you’d find a friend or neighbour who would be happy to be entrusted them with your privacy.
January 29, 2022 at 7:09 pm
There is a huge difference between being alone with someone and being alone without someone. I always had a lot of alone time when I was with Jeff because we were both introverts, but it’s not really being alone because they are always there in an emergency or to say a few words to or whatever. And they are there to care about when you leave or when you come home. When there’s no one, it’s . . . different. And having to call someone or make an effort to get together to talk is not the same as the effortless togetherness of a long-term relationship. Unfortunately, no friend can replace that.
January 30, 2022 at 8:45 pm
You’re absolutely right, of course.