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Widowed and empty nest. Now what?

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My wife died 9 months ago, suddenly and without warning. We were a few months shy of celebrating  our 25th anniversary.


The year before my father died. He lived a block away and we were close.


Today my oldest son and I drove my youngest son 500 miles away to college. He was very excited, and I am happy for him. But inside I was so torn up because his mother should have been there with us. She was so excited to see her boys grow into men.


My oldest son will be leaving home in 9 months when he graduates from college.


In 18 months I will have gone from a happy family of 4 to just me. I defined myself by my relationship with my wife. I miss her. I miss my son. And know the next nine months will go by quickly.


I am not even sure why I am posting this. I guess it is because this is what I would have talked to her about on the ride home and she is not here to share her wisdom. 

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Hi, Leadfeather,


I'd like to welcome you to our online community.  As we say, it is the club that nobody wants to join and the price of membership is way too high.


I don't have kids, but I am sure others can relate to your empty nest situation and coping with launching big kids out into the world.


Hang in there and vent away.



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Sympathies- I get the underlying sentiment, though not experiencing everything in as short a timeframe, and with one still at home. I'm sorry you find yourself here (as do we all), but welcome. While no one's experiences are identical, folks here "get it" unlike anyone who's not been through the loss of their mate.


Peace to you- seeing the fledglings leave the nest is hard enough; ending up experiencing it solo without your mate/their other parent is torture.

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Leadfeather  I'm a bit further out on this widowhood journey (4 years), I just dropped off my youngest at college last week and am now an empty nester.  The transition for me has been longer, but it's been difficult to go from our family of four to just me.  My husband would have been so very proud to see what his kids are doing, it's been bittersweet to experience these milestones with my children and not have him here. I can relate to what you're going through. Very best wishes to you on this process ~

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I don't have a now what answer. However I'm feeling the same , oldest lives here but college ,work, and gf I never see him. Youngest graduates in 2018 and wants to go away to college . I tease kids I'm going to have more kids .. yea no ...

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Thank you everyone. I know I will adjust over time to this new life but today it has been very quiet. My oldest is upstairs but there is no banter between him and his brother today. Hearing them laugh and joke together upstairs these past months has been one of the pleasant things in my life since my wife's death.


Guess I will just channel all the angst into more exercise time. Keep chasing the endorphins.


Working hard to not call my youngest today. Let him have some space and time to enjoy his first week at college, but damn I really want to hear how he is doing.

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I'm so sorry, Leadfeather.  It's so hard to go from a full life to being forced to reenvision your entire life and future.  Rebuilding is so long-term and gradual, at least it has been for me (6+ years out now).  I think my whole first two years were simply processing.  It was small decisions that led me to a new life and routine and identity.  I hope that over time along the way you can find things and people that will bring you comfort and even joy.  Thinking of you!

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I called him today. He was very happy and upbeat. Seems to be having a good time. And seems to be on top of what he needs to do this week with orientation. It was nice to hear the excitement in his voice.

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Your post resonates with me. When my nest emptied I was about 8 months past my LH's death and he died shortly before our 25th wedding anniversary.


I am here, not because I am recently widowed- I am approaching my 15 year mark and the girl who was about to graduate from high school and three months later go away to college is now 32 and just got married. I come here now and then to see if there is something to add, to read and reflect and also to share my thoughts about widowhood. When I come I try to read from every board and today I read your post (among others).


You ask Now What? and all I can do is tell you a bit about what happened for me.


At the time my husband got sick (cancer) I worked from home and lived in a rural area so when I tell you that there were weeks that went by when the only person I spoke to in person was my mailman I am not exaggerating at all. I tried not to burden my daughter with my misery as she was (like your son) off on her own for the first time and excited by all that was going on around her. She would call me when she was having an off day and I traveled to see her many times as I wasn't too far away. She rarely came home though, as she was not only going to school but also working about 30 hours a week (the only way we could afford college for her was for both of us to put our noses to grindstones and plug away at it) and she also had a boyfriend.


I can tell you that her first year of college was hellish for me...hellish until I had enough of being lonely...and took steps to add to my life and get myself out of my house. I took a lot of stabs and what I thought I was doing ended up not being what I expected but everything had benefits. For example, I love to swim and had  gotten pretty out of shape in the process of taking care of my husband and all of my worries about his health so I joined a health club in a town about 45 minutes away from where I lived (this was Texas and I was used to driving long to get to pretty much anything). What I imagined was that I would meet other people who enjoyed swimming and new friendships would be forged, coffee afterwards, movie invitations, LOL. I am laughing because when people swim their face is in the water. Nobody communicates, they swim. I smiled at other women in the locker room but for the most part the only relationship I created was a nod and a smile and one older gent asked me how many laps I did each day. He was there everyday too and he noticed I lost a lot of weight and got myself into really good shape.


So, there is the benefit. My health improved and I no longer had that nagging, worrying fear that I wasn't in terrific health and needed to do better for myself and for my daughter.


The second thing I did was take a class. I took a community education class on writing because I have always enjoyed writing and dabbled with writing fiction. I imagined spirited discussions in a room filled with diverse students, a fascinating instructor, and coffee afterwards. Movie invitations. LOL again only louder. There were three other people in my class. One was a young woman in a wheel chair whose mother sat in the back of the class. The mother and daughter were hoping the daughter would gain a writing career from this community ed. class...so, so very sad I couldn't quite bring myself to talk to her other than to compliment her on her writing which exhibited a very, very low level skill. Jeez...


The other two ladies were friends with each other. One was there to support the other as the other liked to write. They admitted they were there to get away from their husbands for an evening. Somehow that just didn't sit too well with me...wonder why...


But I started working on a novel and finished it (never shared this with my class because our teacher was one of the most negative people I've ever met). Through this class I found out, from the negative teacher that there was a writer's guild that was active in another close by town and that became my Saturday morning ritual. Wow, a reason to get out of bed on a weekend morning.


AFter that things started to steamroll into more and more and better and better. I got active with other widows through the old YWBB and started a get together group with others from my part of the state- and made such good friends that we fairly close by. Eventually someone I used to message with at YWBB (not close by) suggested that we get to know each other better. We took a few trips to meet each other, took a few vacations together. We have been married now for 4 years now (together for 12 years).


So, to answer your now what? That is all up to you and will happen when you are ready. I found I needed to push myself and often it was really outside of my comfort zone. I am not a super social person. I am content to spend a lot of time alone but ALL THE TIME was damaging to me. I felt myself going a little bit crazy. I needed more and I made myself do more. When my choices seemed stupid instead of stopping I added more.


You can't do this until you are ready. Please don't think that because I ended up in a new relationship that this was what I was after. I was looking for a life. My life had so much been my husband and me and our daughter. When that was ripped away I was so very lost. It took me a while to realize that when my husband died I didn't die too because it really felt that way. I decided that the best way to honor his life cut short was to endure, to thrive, to find myself again and go for it.


Allow yourself to grieve in your own time and your own way. When you feel up to it, start with something you enjoy or even something you used to enjoy. It's ok to reinvent yourself too. Or to do things you never imagined. Or to do stuff you talked about doing with your wife. I know folks who have taken each of these approaches.


So very sorry for your loss and I hope there is something in my rambling post that might be of value to you.




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Thank you Judy, I needed this today even after 4 yrs out! 


Leadfeather, Judy is so right about pushing ourselves when we're ready. I have recently taken up swimming again after many years of not going and I was quickly reminded of how good it made me feel.  Keep at it in your own good time and you will eventually get there.


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