People who have lost a beloved partner - whether through death, divorce or a breakup - know a different kind of loneliness. I have learned it is possible to be surrounded by dear friends or many acquaintances and still feel intensely alone.
I recently went to a bluebird conference on 9-11. It was our first anniversary apart. I didn't want to spend it at home by myself, moping.
There were 110 people there. Many knew Doug. They were kind and friendly. Yet I felt almost completely alone. That came as something of a surprise. I thought about it, and realized the difference between being with friends and being with Doug.
Doug and I had 27 years of shared history. We started dating 19 years ago. We lived together for the last 12 years.
I loved him with my whole heart. I held nothing back. He did the same. He knew me inside and out. He made me laugh. He didn't make me cry. He was kind and loving and understanding. I could tell him anything - whatever happened that day, who bugged me, my secrets. He was my husband and life partner and my best friend.
We enjoyed so many of the same things. Exploring, hiking, walking, joking around, watching movies, going out to eat, antiquing, going to lectures, building a puzzle, camping, going to little local museums, playing with the cat, going for a float down the river, visiting with special friends, working around the house, or just relaxing together on the porch. We went grocery shopping together - we even went on dates to the dentist together.
We were together every day unless one of us was traveling. We woke up together every morning and went to bed together every night. We held hands. We made love. We shared a home. We worked on it together. We pooled our finances and decided together on how to spend our savings. We planned our future together. I thought we would grow old together.
Now, there is no shortage of things to do. I have work, volunteering, lots of interests and wonderful friends, caring family. Some of the things I did with Doug I can do with friends. But I still go home alone every night. The sum total of the things I shared with my husband cannot be replaced with a friend or even multiple friends, or by family.
But most of all, I realize that is not just the fact of being ALONE that causes this crushing loneliness. It is about being without DOUG. And knowing that a lifetime of loneliness probably awaits me, because of course what the two of us had together can never be replicated.
He doubled my joy and cut my sorrows in half. Now my joys are gone and my sorrows are doubled.
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