It was a couples’ weekend of sorts. At least that’s what it would have been if my husband Jim were alive.
I have carefully avoided most gatherings that I perceived as “couples gatherings” since Jim died in December 2010. I didn’t want to feel the emptiness of the space beside me where he should have been standing or sitting or laughing.
I didn’t want to experience the odd-woman-out kind of feeling I was sure I would have, so I stopped attending what I perceived as “couples” activities.
I remember some of those times early in my widowhood when I tried to pretend life would just go on without me doing the work involved with my grief. And those couples’ events were absolute torture.
But only one couple from this recent weekend of food and fun were people Jim and I knew together, and they are more family than friends. The other two couples are friends – new family — I have made through connections with my four Brittany dogs since Jim’s death.
Still, you would think that kind of weekend would give me pause. The fact is that it didn’t, and I think my fear of such things is fading.
I tend to see myself as half of a couple with one person missing, rather than a single person. Seeing myself as simply a single person in a group setting would seem sadder to me because single equals alone in my interpretation of the word.
Thinking of myself as half of a couple – even when half is clearly gone and not coming back – has made my reality a more palatable situation. It, at the very least, has let me move my life forward into more social situations.
And although I know Jim would have loved these new friends of mine, and they would have loved him had they had the chance to get to know him in person, the fact remains the members of this group clearly are MY friends.
Even at the campground where I am camping for my 20th season, the population has evolved into a different configuration from what it was when Jim and I camped there together.
The campground owners and their family are still there, although they too have experienced changes in the forms of births and deaths. There also is a handful of people who were our friends together when Jim was alive, but there are many new faces with new stories and new opportunities for friendships.
And new friendships that are mine alone, including a couple of women who are relatively new widows. We sometimes find ourselves at the same gatherings of friends or at the same campfires, and I feel a special kinship with them.
But knowing I have “widow sisters” does not define my circle or me. I am finally comfortable in my own skin, and have found my own niche in that small and closed community where Jim and I once shared an identity.
I see that as a milestone in my grief journey: to go from avoiding situations where I might feel like a fifth wheel to happily seeking out groups of friends for the sole purpose of enjoying recreation together is a big step I think.
And an even bigger step, I realized, was when I was making preparations for my weekend with the three special couples, I thought of it as a friends’ weekend – not a couples’ weekend at all.
I won’t say I didn’t think about Jim on that weekend, and our group talked about him. But the stories about him and discussions about marriage and life together made me feel closer to Jim in a warm and happy way.
And to see my friends happy with their spouses made me happy too, giving me a new kind of bond with them.