I Am Alone. I Am With You.

Here is a riddle:

What is more sad? Going to the movies alone, or going to the movies with a group of friends, who barely speak to each other or acknowledge each other’s existence?

This past weekend, I had lunch with some new widowed friends in the city, and nobody else wanted to see a movie afterwards, so I went by myself. It was 3 blocks away from where we had lunch, it was a gorgeous day, and I really wanted to see Gravity. So I went alone. Going to the movies, or anywhere really, by myself, is not a big deal to me. I left my small town home in Massachusetts at 18 and moved to NYC – alone – to go to college for theater and pursue a career in entertainment. Then I lived in different buroughs throughout NYC for years, and was single, for years, and had many roommates and apartment changes, for years. Then I found my very own place in New Jersey and lived there – alone – for 3 years before my husband, who was then my boyfriend and about to be my fiance, moved in with me. And even then, after we married and shared our life together, I did lots of things alone. And he did too. We were two very independent people, who each loved and valued our time alone, and who also loved and cherished spending time with one another. We loved each other’s company, but neither of us had any issue with doing things by ourselves sometimes. So, I have been to the movies, several times, alone.

But here is something that the “non-widowed” world doesn’t quite understand. Going to the movies – or anywhere – by yourself, because you feel like it and because it’s a choice while married or partnered up – is completely different than going places alone because your husband is dead, and everyone else is coupled up, or has plans, or doesn’t want to – and so you have to. The first one is a decision you make within the luxury of a relationship. The second one often results in severe loneliness, intense sadness, guilt, anger, annoyance, and the kind of soul-crushing isolation that not many people comprehend.

And if you’re thinking to yourself right now: “What’s the big deal? It’s just a movie!”, then clearly – and lucky for you – you must still have your soul mate walking this earth with you, and so you don’t really get it. But that’s okay. Because it is impossible to get it – until you get it. Until you have been forcibly inducted into this horrific Widowhood Club, be thankful that you couldn’t possibly understand how seeing a movie alone when your partner is dead can play with your insides; churning them and spitting them out into the hot, humid universe, until you are left in a corner, weakened and defeated yet again by your new life.

That is how it was for me. In the beginning. The first year and a half or so of this new “after” life. Every time I left my apartment to venture out and do something, was like being dropped off inside of a haunted house. My heart would race, not knowing what emotions or unexpected terrors would be lurking in the corners, waiting for me. I would panic that the movie or the dinner or the Broadway show or the night out with friends or the whatever – would bring up flashes and scenes and fragments – that would further put the focus on my own solitude, or my marriage that was gone, or my future that would not be, or the day that I woke up and he had already gone to work, and then already gone from earth.

So I would go out into the world during these early days of grief, and after awhile, the panic and the earthquake brewing inside of me, just became part of my new normal, the new me. And sometimes I would get so tired of sitting in the apartment alone and feel so suffocated, that I would force myself to take a walk or see a movie down the street. And then sometimes that walk or that movie would just make things worse, watching the couples laugh hand in hand or having a storyline in a film take me to a place emotionally that I was not yet ready to go to.

And in those early days of grief, people everywhere, all the time, constantly, would say to me, in response to me saying that I feel so alone: “You are not alone. He is always with you.” Most of the time, this remark would be coming from someone who was probably typing or saying those words while their life-partner stood right beside them or sat in the next room or nearby – breathing air and living life. And so, most times, when this was said to me, my immediate reaction (privately) was that I might enjoy throwing this person into the nearest lake or hitting them repeatedly in the eyeball with a 2×4, because it is such a lame and cliche’ and thoughtless thing to say to someone, and the fact that YOU think he is always with me, means absolutely nothing if I can’t feel it.

 And I couldn’t. I couldn’t feel it. I could not feel him with me, no matter how many times people said it, because the pain and the grief and the thick fog of the air I now breathed in this new life – was too overwhelming to let anything else in. Nothing could get in. Only pain.

But then, with that pain, something happened during grief. Time. Time happened. And time does not heal all wounds. That is more bullshit cliche’ said by those who don’t know what to say. No. But time happened, and while it was happening, my heart and my brain and my skin and my toes began to finally process what had happened. Really, actually process it and sit with it and watch as the fog lifted, up up and away from my soul. And once that happened, the pain was still there – but I was no longer terrified by it. The grief monster still lurked – but I stared him down and waited. The sobbing still took place regularly, but I stopped fighting with it and let it flow through me like rain tap-dancing on an umbrella.

And once all of that happened and that shift occured, something else did too – I could feel him. I could feel him with me. Not all of the time. But some of the time. A lot of the time.

And so, that brings me back to Saturday. At the movies. Alone. I sat there, on the end seat of an aisle in a very crowded theatre – feeling peaceful and anxious to see the film. A group of 4 girls all sat down in my row, one of them next to me. They were loud and obnoxious and rude and clueless about life’s struggles. They all took out their phones and put them on silent, and began texting and playing games and using Apps and shoving their teenage faces into their devices, never once looking at or addressing one another, the very people that they chose to spend time with and see a movie with. One of them looked in my direction, and then texted the other one, and they both giggled. I can only imagine that she was texting about me, saying something like: “Who goes to the movies alone? What a loser.” 

And yet, as that movie went on and it became clear that floating around in space was being used as a brilliant metaphor for living, dying, and then living again, I actually started to feel sorry for these idiotic girls next to me. Because here they were, in this beautiful theater, in the greatest city in the world, lucky enough to have a group of friends to spend time with, and to be seeing this film that had so much to say and teach about finding the strength through pain to live again – and they didn’t get any of it. They were right there, inside of it, and they were missing it. They were missing all of it. They couldn’t see any of the beauty or the pain or the truths or the glorious, ordinary moments that were surrounding them right that very minute. Their eyes were glued to their phones, and their souls were lying dormant.

In my chair, something else was happening. Something that felt like home. I was watching a beautiful and thrilling movie alone, and I was watching it with my husband. His entire spirit and personality and being felt like it was inside of me, like it had entered my veins and sat in my bloodstream. I could almost feel his touch next to me. Almost feel his arm brushing up against mine, see him smiling at me, hear him sipping his root beer and leaning over to whisper like he would sometimes: “This is awesome!” 

And for the first time in a long time, instead of me thinking to myself or telling others: “He would have loved this movie so much! I wish he was here!”, I had no need to tell anyone anything, because he did love the movie, and he was there. Not because someone told me so, but because I could feel it.

And no, feeling my husband with me in spirit or soul is not even close to the same as him actually being here with me, for real, in our life together. It’s a pretty shitty substitute, honestly. But it’s a hell of a lot better to feel him with me, than to not feel him with me. And it took 2 years and 3 months for me to feel him around me on a more regular basis. For me to talk to him out loud and not feel like a complete jackass, or like a lunatic talking to myself. It took all of this time just to come to a place where my insides aren’t spinning, and where the dizziness stops. The pain and the grief that was once pounding on my temple and stabbing at my heart – now lies a bit further away, like background music  that I hear faintly as I live my life. Finally, the noise has been turned down enough to let other things in besides pain. Things like laughter that feels real again, taste-buds that crave foods again, and eyes that see the fall colors again. Now that the pain isn’t pushing its way into every available crevice, there is room for me to feel my husband. To feel and know that he is with me, even though he can’t be with me.

So back to that riddle. What is more sad? Going to the movies alone, or going to the movies with a group of friends who barely speak to each other or acknowledge each other’s existence?

Well, the answer is a matter of opinion, so I will leave that one up to you. But the question itself is not really valid, because it’s a trick question. I went to that movie alone, but I was never really alone. None of us are. Not really. Not entirely. Not truly.

For when I close my eyes really tightly, and I push away the hurt and the fear and the death, I find that there is just enough space leftover, to let one more thing inside.


Come sit next to me now. For I am alone. I am with you.

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27 thoughts on “I Am Alone. I Am With You.

  1. Beautiful Kelley, and I am so happy for you – that your grief and pain are receding just enough to let you feel your Boo’s presence.

    I’ve had sort of the opposite experience – right after C died I could feel him near me – at his funeral I left a space for him next to me b/c I could feel his presence so clearly. The same when I was driving from my old house to my new place – I could feel him sitting in the passenger seat. Over the past 18 mos that has receded. I no longer feel his presence, although sometimes I think I get little hellos from him.

    At any rate, I’ll take you up on your offer of company – I’m going to see Gravity tomorrow – want to see it again? :-)

  2. I have been on several trips since Jim died (4 years next month) and there has always been some sort of sign that he was with me. These haven’t been things I have looked for but occurrences that were so unique to something he did or liked that I can’t ignore them and say coincidence. It’s hurtful and comforting all in one…I get so mad that he’s not there with me where I can touch him or feel his physical touch but I will take what I can get. I listen to people talk about their husbands and when they complain about them I just want to smack them and tell them how lucky they are to still have them. I worry about future generations losing all human contact with one another and only being able to text or relate in some video game…the human touch is so powerful. Once again, I want to tell you what a difference I see in your writing since I first started reading your posts. We will never get over this loss but we will learn to live again…

  3. This is beautiful! It gives me hope because I never feel Marc with me ever! :( maybe one day! Glad you were comforted watching the movie and flet Din with u!

  4. This was something that I truly enjoyed reading.. I can actually relate and it gives “younger” widows hope that they will breathe easier again, smile and laugh loudly again, sing to the radio, etc. Thank you for this Kelley.

  5. This was so beautiful and made me feel so hopeful that you are coming out of the “fog” little by little in the most positive way..Yes, Don was with you in that movie and will be with you in some ways all the rest of your life. This was one of the most beautifully written pieces yet…I was so moved by your words….”carry on”.

  6. Beautiful post again, and I am glad he is with you now, but sad that he is not with you as I always thought he would be, as you always thought he would be, and as he always thought he would be. Thank you for sharing, I know your journey has to help all those other people who are involuntarily, like you, sharing the same one.

  7. YES! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your ability to put some of this to words. I’m at a little over 4 years and some of it is clearing and yes there are moments now that I feel him or at least can feel what he would have enjoyed and not crumble because of it. I’ve not master going to a movie on my own, but I’ve gone to a symphony concert that I know he would have been disappointed in me had I not gone and it was a great experience.

  8. The answer to the question is not seeing the movie at all. Because if we do that, then we are not living at all. When we lose someone we love dearly it’s best – if we can – not to crawl into the corner or live our life like the un-dead, even though at times that seems easier. My goal has become finding value in life and being grateful for what I do have and what I am able to do. And that includes going to the movies…even though I can no longer have great discussions about them with my son. Hang in there, Michelle

  9. I would say you are definitely making progress. So much so you are already better than me at 4 1/2 years. Now my mom went into hospice today so the pain is going to be fresh again…not that it ever went fully away. Does it ever stop? Don would be proud of you.

  10. Kelley,I often feel you have CCTV into my own life. However it’s not intrusive but always reassuring. Thank you for being our voice in the widow wilderness!

  11. I am a newbie to this group not only I am a widow since December19,1999… I was left with 3 children , 2 of them were with me when we found Larry dead! We had lost 2 children Ashley in July 13,1994 age 19 months and 2 years later a baby boy that was born at 5 months! August 16,1996! Then my father in May 4,2008 and brother May 4, 2010! I fully understand where you are coming from about feeling so alone!!! One of my friends told me I needed to see Gravity!!! Now I know why she wanted me yo see this. Movie!!

  12. This section, the way you spoke it out, says something that needs to be said, overtly, in order to promote strength and healing.

    >> You said: “But here is something that the “non-widowed” world doesn’t quite understand. Going to the movies – or anywhere – by yourself, because you feel like it and because it’s a choice while married or partnered up – is completely different than going places alone because your husband is dead, and everyone else is coupled up, or has plans, or doesn’t want to – and so you have to. The first one is a decision you make within the luxury of a relationship. The second one often results in severe loneliness, intense sadness, guilt, anger, annoyance, and the kind of soul-crushing isolation that not many people comprehend.” <<

    Thank you for verbalising the covert, and bringing it out into the overt. Which always promotes healing, at least for me.

    One time I had to go to a conference, the memorial photo of Eddie has a strand of Daisies on his head. And daisies have become important, since. Anyway I was at Parkway Railway Station, having just parked and locked up my bicycle, and I went to sit down to tie my shoe. And what was there on the bench awaiting me? A freshly picked Daisy. From God, and Edward, to comfort me.

    Last week the funniest thing happened… I'd let out the cats, and they had been out for quite a long time. So I went to the back door (in the pitch black) to call for them. And there was an upside down, dead-looking, large brown animal at the door! I was startled, and used my toe to kick it (in case it was still alive and may bite me), and it was… funnily enough … a stuffed toy hedgehog! The cats had brought Mummy (me) a hedgehog – me being the furless, pathetic hunter I am, they thought to bring me some "food". Anyway it was hilarious! God sending me some humour when I certainly still don't feel like laughing. And I could just well imagine Eddie laughing with me.

    Bless you Kelly,

  13. Im so happy you have been able to feel Don’s presence. Your right, it is a shitty substitute, but its all we have. Becoming a widow is like being thrown into the middle of a blizzard, You have no direction, you stumble around lost in your grief, unable to move in any real way, because youve lost your center. My Mike has been gone a little over 2 years now and I still struggle everyday to smile, to see some good in this living. The world that I knew for 24 years doesnt exist anymore and I hate this alien place I have found myself in.Its hard to admit this to anyone that hasnt walked where we walk, because we are told that we should move on. My silent question to them has always been ” Move on to what?”.I would give all the life I have left to spend 5 minutes back in my old life with him. But God doesnt make deals and time does not heal . The only thing time has done has made me miss his physical presence more. But I knew early on that he was still with me, just in a different way. And I hope your Don continues to help you find some peace in all of this .

  14. Oh Kelly, I lost my beloved soulmate and husband just 3 months ago. I can’t wait to get where you are. Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. This is absolutely beautiful, Kelley. Your thoughts are so moving and I relate to so much of what you are saying even though I believe my soulmate is still with me. You are a brilliant writer and I will be first on line to buy your book when it’s published…and it will be published because there is gem after gem of thoughtful realization we all can learn from.

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your pain and truth. It is helping me heal from my own substantial losses this past year.

  16. I so relate to this. I spent the last 3 weeks trying to trade in two cars for one. We had shopped for cars together over the last 48 years. He was sooooo with me in this endeavor!. The car in my garage now was more his choice than mine, but I clearly saw his reasoning and accepted that the choice was “ours”.

  17. Today marks 2 years and 2 months since I was thrown into this horrible reality. I have been following you for, oh awhile, and you’ve always helped me feel “normal” in this messed up situation. Usually, everything you write about, is what I’m going through. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. After all, we’re only separated by one month, but this blog just taught me something. To accept what has happened, to feel it down to my toes and fingertips, so I can let him back in. I spend so much time running and trying to start over, I’m forgetting to grieve. I ignore so much of what happened, our life before, that I realized I’m ignoring him. If I want to feel him again, then I need to stop ignoring. It hurts like hell, but each day becomes a pinch easier. While my guts still churn thinking about that day, I can not NOT feel everything. I can’t ignore him anymore.

    • Oh Beth, Im so happy you were able to take that away from reading this. That lesson was not something that I consciously learned, it was something that I was forced to learn, because for the longest time, I felt ONLY PAIN. It was only very recently that I started to make the connection that a large part of the reason I wasnt able to “feel” him more while awake (because I did have dreams, but rarely felt his presence while awake), was because the pain was just too much and too overwhelming to let anything else in. So, if you let yourself FEEL the pain, eventually (and it takes AWHILE, so you need to try to be patient), the pain will not be as strong or as harsh-hitting or pounding, and there will be room for the love. The reason most people dont feel the pain and sit inside of it, is because IT SUCKS AND IT HURTS MORE THAN ANYTHING so most times, you just dont want to go there. But you have to, if you want to start to feel it less. Trying to make it go away doesnt work. This is why they call grief “hard work.” Because it is. Its really really freakin hard. Just last night I found out someone I used to be very close with got engaged. I didnt even know because we are no longer friends. He is part of my “life with Don” life. I found out by reading something about it, and I got so incredibly sad thinking about how much I miss the life I had, the friends I had, the couple nights and dinner parties and marriage and all of it. Inside, I thougth “Oh I dont wanna DO THIS tonight, I dont feel like having a breakdown”, but then I stopped and just consciously let myself feel it, and I cried and felt it, and it wasnt nearly as terrible as it would have been had I have FOUGHT against those feelings. I love you Beth and am so happy we met each other as part of this new weird life we have.

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