How to NOT be a Stay at Home, Lonely Widow.

Friends are all getting together on Friday night.  You are recently a widow and not part of a couple anymore.  You were invited so the question is, should you stay or should you go now?

If you stay home, it is safe.  You can be sad and watch a T.V. show.  Start a new binge watching marathon.  You could eat and drink and stay in your pajamas and cuddle a pet or a pillow.  You could think about your dead spouse and do some crying.  Or maybe some screaming.

But what if you go…

I know a lot of newly widowed people feel guilty going out and enjoying themselves.  They think they should continue to be mourning all the time.  Maybe they are worried about what others will think of them? What if it looks like you are happy and having fun. People will get the wrong idea.

Maybe they thrive on the attention they get from people who feel sorry for them?

But eventually, the other people will not really be interested.  In fact, most of us think that other people are always thinking about us, but no one really is.  They are thinking about themselves, just like you are.

So, how do you transition from a mourning widow to a widow who is ready to embrace life again.

This step can be scary, especially if you have spent a long time with your spouse and did “everything” together.  You need to begin with

baby steps

Ridiculously enough, one of the hardest places for me to venture out to was the grocery store.  I did not know how to shop for just me.  I was overwhelmed with sadness. The first time out I felt like I was having a panic attack. I put a few things in the cart and checked out. But I did it.

The next step was to try to speak to the salesclerk or ask someone for assistance in the store.  Engaging in a brief conversation with a stranger is one way to start getting out there.

I found it easier to shop or have a meal out, by myself, if I am not in my home town. As a local school teacher I tend to run into people I know if I shop or go out near home.

I don’t always want to engage in conversation, especially about the death of my husband.  People ask

“how are you doing?”

Not sure what they expect to hear, but they can’t imagine how I am doing and I don’t want to go into it so I usually would say “I’m Ok” or “taking it one day at a time”.   Then I redirect the conversation to my kids or their kids if they have some.

Eating out someplace like the food court in a mall

is a great way to start doing things on your own. Another place where you won’t feel awkward eating alone is Starbucks or Panera.  You order something, then sit down to enjoy it in public.  Everyone is staring at their phones these days so bring one with you so you don’t feel left out.

Once I went out a few times it got easier. I decided to plan a trip for the anniversary of my husband’s death which would also have been close to our wedding anniversary. Only I would know how difficult this all was for me and I felt I needed a challenge and to get away from everyone.

I planned a trip to Thailand. Traveling solo was a bit scary, especially to the opposite side of the earth but I arranged to meet up with a tour group. I had no problem eating alone in restaurants in Thailand with my tablet or a book on the table.  I made it to Bangkok!

Say Yes to invitations

My friends were very sweet and I was invited to do things.  I said YES to everything.  If you don’t say yes, you will stop getting those invitations.  I had FOMO (fear of missing out) too. I was happier being out of my house, especially in the evenings and on weekends.  I worked during the week, so I guess I did not like being alone in my house much at all.

Maybe that is why I named my blog “Runawaywidow”, it was easier for me to runaway from reality in the beginning, than to deal with it.

When I was ready, I embraced my feelings. It took time, and honestly some therapy, but I did face my grief and trudged through the pain.

In addition to accepting invitations, I sought new encounters:

I visited the GROUPON website

and signed up for some YOGA classes.  The central idea of following your breath and focusing for the hour long class, as well as building strength and flexibility, really helped me get through some tough days.  It also gave me a reason to get out of my house and I didn’t have to talk to other people, just participate.

Several neighbors invited me to join them in Bridge lessons.  I did not know a thing about Bridge, but it was another social thing to do every Wednesday night and fun to learn something new. After that a few of us joined a program at the local library to learn how to play Mahjong.  I’m going to need a lot more lessons to get the hang of that game.

Get a Puppy

I did get a puppy.  Our dog had died the year before my husband died and my home was so quiet now. I love dogs and my son helped me pick out Harry, the happiest little Yorkie. He gets me up on the hard days because he needs to go out and have a walk. That definitely helped. Sometimes we talk to the neighbors so it can be the social event of the day. He makes me laugh so it’s hard to be sad when you are laughing and I am not lonely, because he sits on my lap or snuggles next to me when I sleep. Should you get a puppy after the death of a spouse?

Girlfriend Getaway

With my kids away at college I was able to participate in a few girlfriend weekend getaways.  It doesn’t matter if the women are widowed (very few of my friends are), divorced or married – Girl’s weekends are for the GIRLS!! A fun weekend could be with sisters or daughters or even your mom. Recruit someone to join you and check out my Widow’s Guide to the Girlfriend Getaway

We have had theme weekends like saying we were going to do YOGA. We did do yoga but had a lot of laughs and dancing was a highlight of that weekend. There was the music festival in Colorado and the Spa weekend in Montauk.  You can count on me to pack my overnight bag and bottle of wine and join the group for all the fun festivities we will create.

Try a Meet-Up

My grief therapist suggested I look into finding a “Meet up” in the area that does something I would be interested in. I downloaded the app and looked for outings in my area. The idea is that a group of about 20 strangers meet to do something together.  You can bring a friend or go alone.

My friend and I tried a Meet Up in New York City where we went on a scavenger hunt competition.  We had fun running around Manhattan taking pictures, but we didn’t meet anyone new that day. The second meet up I went on was to the Bronx Zoo.  I went by myself and enjoyed walking around the zoo with the group. I did speak to one woman who spent the whole time telling me how sad and lonely she was.  I would suggest chatting about other things with strangers.

So, after 2 years of visiting family, having fun with friends, working and traveling I was starting to have better days.  Mind you, there are still trigger moments and especially times of the year like his birthday and the day he died that I remember and miss Mike, but I try not to obsess about the negative anymore, and refocus my attention on some of the best moments that we shared together. I have five favorite memories that I purposely think about when I start to feel sad or mad or depressed. The happy memories make me smile and that is how I want to remember my life with Mike.

Online Dating

My late husband Mike and I loved going out to dinner or the movies and taking walks on the beach. I loved being married and was certainly curious, after two years, if there would ever be someone else to share my life with. The thought of dating someone was so foreign and in some ways I felt guilty. I had talked to some divorced friends who had tried online dating sites. They had all sorts of different experiences, but overall most were favorable. I couldn’t imagine actually dating, but I was curious. I decided to sign up for a site geared for people over 50 called “Our Time”.  In the beginning I thought I would just peek. 

It didn’t take long before I was Googling “How to make an online dating profile”. I chose some photos that I thought looked OK. I kept my wording short and sweet. Feeling a little shy, I didn’t interact much at first – I just wanted to look.  It’s like going to the ocean and maybe just getting your toes wet. Well, I always loved the ocean so I dove right in and started swiping. My criteria was that he should be taller than me and live nearby. I didn’t want a pen pal who lived far away. I started chatting with Pete who lived nearby and after a few conversations, mentioned that I get hungry around 7. He took the hint and we had a really nice dinner date. So we went on a few more dates.  He makes me smile just writing about him and a few years later Pete and I got married. You can read about that here: Kristin and Pete’s wedding.

I was in a very good marriage for 26 years.  I liked being married. It wasn’t always easy but we worked through the tough times and learned to love and appreciate each other more and more as the years went on.

My husband was my best friend.  He adored me and made me happy.  We looked forward to our evenings together even the simple times like eating dinner and watching TV.

We were happy with our sons and were looking forward to having more time together in retirement. I will always miss him, but I don’t want to be a sad and lonely widow.

So remember, baby steps.  The store.  Starbucks.  A restaurant.  Girl’s weekend.  A meet up.  Maybe a date. Or maybe a puppy. What will work for you?

For more ideas, check out my book HERE


82 Responses

  1. Kristin, it’s so lovely to read you have been on a few dates and enjoyed yourself. It doesn’t diminish the love you shared with your husband, that will always be there it simply means you are healing and it’s good to fill yourself up.
    Keep moving one step at a time.

      1. Lost my husband of 27 years to Covid. We both had it. 28 months and I feel so empty. We did everything together. I have a son who lives nearby. He asked us to adopt him after his birth parents died I go out to meals, shop, have friends over, etc. but life is so different and difficult. I’ll be 65 in October and can’t believe my Honey isn’t here for all the milestones, etc. I grieve for the life unlived…not retiring together, no more vacations, simple things…..having to do the work of two is physically demanding at times but always emotionally challenging. It feels so sad to not be loved. Growing old alone is daunting. I’ve tried grief groups, art classes, senior center etc. but nothing strikes my fancy.

      2. I am so sorry for your loss. Covid is just awful! Please keep taking baby steps forward and it will get easier. Hugs to you.

  2. I stayed at home or work for 2 years and then decided to move from the UK to the South of France. If I hadn’t I think I would still be following the same home/work pattern; I have a social life here now but still find it a real challenge to go out and try new things – I do it but it’s hard. 4 years on I still can’t think of dating; I wish I could as I miss feeling close to someone and I’m so happy for you that you’ve met someone and enjoyed their company. Lovely post x

    1. Thanks for reading. Takes a lot of courage to move and start fresh. Sounds like a beautiful place to live and I’m glad a social life has developed there for you.

  3. Thank you for such an honest post. My husband died three years ago and I want to embrace life and live a full life, but it is hard every single day. Thank you for helping me see the longer view.

  4. Baby steps are the truest form. I know that was something that I had to do when a relationship ended in my life and I really needed to pick myself up again

  5. I totally agree with this. I had a friend who was recently widowed and she felt guilty going out. Just shared this post with her.

    Also, I am happy to you are starting to embrace life again. Taking baby steps is the key.

    Thank you for writing this post.

  6. I think it’s great that your sharing your journey on this blog, I’ve never seen anyone else write about it. I can imagine taking those first steps to the grocery store, foor hall being incredibly challenging 💚

  7. I can’t even begin to understand what you’ve gone through. I can only imagine that it is a slow process and you just have to do what’s best and what works for you.

  8. What a great read and I’m sure you’re going to help and let them know they’re not alone! One day at a time

  9. I agree with baby steps. Just doing what’s comfortable in the moment even small can make a difference

  10. The worst thing is to stay at home and not to enjoy your life. That’s nice to read that you are having some fun and you know how to handle things. 🙂

  11. I think your husband would want you to enjoy life even though he may not be here on earth to enjoy it with you. I don’t think it’s wrong at all to enjoy yourself, even after our loved ones die. Just for me personally, I know that if I died, I still would want the loved ones that are here one earth to live passionately and joyfully–not for my sake, but for theirs.

  12. This was really heartwarming to read. I’m sure your husband would have wanted to see you happy and getting on with your life.

  13. I really enjoyed your blog. My husband passed June 23rd of 2018. Very encouraging. I tend to stay home unless visiting the grandkids and even that is very short.

    1. I’m glad you found my blog encouraging. Baby steps to just get out there, it will get easier – just keep going.

      1. My husband of 50+ years died July 1, 2018 and the past year+ has been really hard. I tend too to stay home too much, eat stupid meals and watch way too much TV…something I rarely used to do. This is the biggest challenge of my life. It just hurts.

      2. Wow. Congratulations on such a long marriage! It is so hard. It might help to join a local bereavement group. People in the same situation can be very supportive and it’s a way to make new friends and get out there.

    2. I enjoyed your Blog. My Husband of 40 yrs. Passed away on FEBRUARY 8th,2019. It has now been 4 months. I tend to sit n do nothing. I am now going to see our Grandkids play Softball n baseball .it is very hard at times but we did that together. I tend to stay home but it still so difficult Lonioness is Bad. I cry at Games .iThank You for Sharing this. I told myself ONE DAY AT A TIME NOW BABY STEPS. THANK YOU AGAIN FOR SHARING

      1. Thank you so much for reading. It really is such a hard time but I find putting 3 things on a to do list, even things like walk around block or call a friend really helps. One day at a time. Hugs

  14. My boyfriend and I were in a car accident this past March & he passed away. We’re only 17 so we weren’t married but I feel like I can really relate to this. Thank You for writing this !

  15. The thing about the idea that your friends are going to invite you places is so far off the mark for most widows. I hear it over and over again and it happened to me. Your married friends stop inviting you anywhere. They drop you colder than a iceberg. You are no longer part of a couple. You are a single woman and therefore not to be trusted. You might go after their husband or he might go after you.

    1. Yes. That is so unfair. Some people seem threatened by widows. It may be time to look for different friends. People who are more comfortable going out as friends. Lunches. Sign up for classes together. Yoga or some regular exercise class.

      1. I really like your Blog, I just lost my husband of 37 years totally unexpected on a cruise ship, he died in his Sleep Dec 5, 2019. I am trying to Cope, but it is very hard, and it goes in streaks. I am going to try and do some of your suggestions. Thanks for the great advice.

      2. Thank you for reading. I am so sorry for your loss. Take it minute by minute and just remember you need to be gentle with yourself now. It will get easier. Sending a hug.

  16. All I can say is its flippin’ difficult. Ive been widowed nearly 10 years. I was 57 when my husband died and plunged into ‘widow city’. This means your peers become almost exclusively older women – because before – nearly all my peers still had their partners. Its a very partnercentric world out there. You feel missed out of so many things.
    Couples do things with other couples.
    Widow city because you find that nearly every group you join is nearly always lots of women and no men. You can virtually guatantee this.
    I honestly thought I would meet someone quite quickly but you soon realise that any half way attractive man will already have a partner. Its so frustrating
    I hate it. Its such a lonely life not having someone close who can ‘be there for you’. Having to go to things on your own. Not having someone who you can just pop out to the pub or a restaurant with. You have to be the adult all the time and never the child. I dont know if theres anything I can do about this situation. Im 67 now and lost.

    1. Loved your honest and heartfelt response to your situation. I myself, am not looking for another partner and am embracing my independence. I lost my husband 4 years ago when I was 66. I knew I would never marry again and these are my reasons. A friend bluntly told me oldermen are looking for a nurse, a purse or both. That did not appeal to me so I went about establishing new friendships with some wonderful widow women. I continue to grieve over the loss of my husband and there are times that are truly difficult. These are less frequent for me now thanks to the wonderful support system of new female friends. Women are strong creatures, and nurturing as well. They are willing to share how they dealt with similar situations and I with them. They have become my second family. I hope you are able to embrace new friendships with any age of other widows. Deep down you yourself are a strong, resourceful woman. God bless you on your journey.

  17. I’m alittle over 5 months since my hubby John of 31 years passed. I’m getting through it and although I get a lot of flack I’m trying to move on little by little. Your article was really helpful. The best advice I can share is finding what truly makes you happy as for meci married young and trying online dating has had its ups and downs but that is really the only place to find a male companion and its very hard to tell if they are honest. So protect your heart but go for it. That’s the only way to see what the next chapter might look like

    1. I’m glad my blog was helpful. Yes, when you feel ready it is fine to get out there and meet new people. Good luck.

  18. As I read your post I felt like saying… yeah, exactly, that’s right… because I feel much like what you wrote. My best friend/husband passed away due to a massive mechanical failure in his work truck on July 15, 2019. One minute we were planning to go camping with his sister and brother in law… and booking our vacations and the next the police were in my yard having me identify my husband from his phone. It’s been 55 weeks… and it might as well be yesterday. I’ve replaced the roof myself, fixed the septic, rebuilt porches, fixed cars, trucks and the backhoe… turned all job into purple jobs… I run… it’s what I’m doing. It’s what I always do when things get tough… I keep moving until the tough isn’t so tough anymore. Unfortunately I don’t see this getting less tough. I do go out with a few friends.. usually to their home… or them to mine… small small groups… I can’t think about Alan… I’m surrounded by our plans… so many renovations we started and now I have to finish. His boots are at the door and they will probably always be there… the boys like having their dads stuff in certain places. It’s just normal to me so it’s good. People see me as strong, resilient… no one sees the real me. I am those things but they don’t know why… I don’t explain because unless you’ve been there, and I don’t wish this on anyone, you’ll never get it. It’s not the same as loosing your mom or dad or your cat or dog. Yes those are heartbreaking, of course, but loosing your person.. that one person who knows you better than anyone else… the one you don’t have to explain to because they know you that well… no one gets that unless they have been there. It’s hard to laugh and be happy… I manage to be those but only if I don’t think about Alan. I’ve been married since I was 19… 29 years… 30 together. For our 30th we’d already booked Hawaii… hardest thing was cancelling things we’d planned. I’ve never adulted alone… that’s the scariest thing ever. Best thing I ever did? I never put off till tomorrow what we could do today. We spent time together… loved each other… I have zero regrets for which I’ll always be grateful. Rumor has it I’ll get a new normal… no clue what that means.. and honestly I don’t want a new normal. Will I survive? It seems. Will I wallow in self pity for all we’ve lost? No, okay maybe a little, but mostly no because I have sons who need their mom. But do I grieve the loss of our dreams and how much we overcame to get here. And then I remember… I had 30 years… many don’t get that. I have to remember the good… so I run and remember the good. I’m sorry for your loss but I am glad to have read your post.

  19. I found your blog early 2020, a month or so after my husband Scott passed. He was 51, I was 50 and we met the first year of school at the age of 5. He was not just my husband but my best friend, we did everything together, my soul mate. I have been extremely lucky to have a wonderful support group in not just my family but lifelong friends and workmates. The first few months I did whatever I felt was best for me, go back to work, visit friends or just stay home with me two kitties and let my grief wash over me.

    I started doing things on my own, which was hard at first, but I am starting to be comfortable with my own company and I am amazed at the people I have met just being out and about. Whatever I was invited to, I said yes, but always drove myself so I could leave if/when I needed to.

    Your blog really helped in those early months and even now, 15 months later.

    1. This is such a nice comment. Thanks for sharing. That is amazing that you met your husband at the age of 5. It’s wonderful that you have taken steps to get out on your own. Thanks for reading my blog.

  20. So many of these stories are from widows who were married a really long time. I only had my husband 2 1/2 years. We were cheated out of the life we planned for our golden years (I’m 56). Can anyone relate to this?

    1. Yes. 2 1/2 years is so short. I think no matter how long, it always feels like not long enough.

  21. I am a widow of 3 yrs. I was married 16 yrs. I am turning 70 this year. My marriage was good and we had many common interests and great friends. Many told me I was a strong person as I cared for my husband with an incurable cancer over six years. I watched him go from an active capable man to bedridden and needing help with his daily activities such as bathing, eating and dressing.
    I hope people realize we were strong because we had no choice. I loved my husband and gave my all to help him. I say all this because this strength came from Christ. He brought us both through this valley of the shadow of death.
    I now am happy ,at peace and thankful for our time together. I dont live in the past, I’ve made
    new friends male and female and started writing short stories. I am beginning a widow support group. I see so many struggling with their new life. I see this time as a new beginning for myself . My hope is to guide and support other women to learn of the comfort of our Heavenly Father and the help of other widows and their coping skills.
    Thank you for your helpful words and printing the of others experiences. It is so needed. May God bless you. Carolyn Penuel

    1. Thank you for your note and encouragement. Yes. We had no choice but to muddle through it all. That is wonderful that you started a widows support group. A mind shift to accepting this as a new beginning takes time but is a great way to move forward. All the best to you.

    2. I am recently widowed. My husband died 7 months ago. He was 62 years old. The blogs I am reading talk of happy marriages and couples that were best friends. We were married 41 years. Our marriage was hard but we hung in there. I of course grieve the loss of my husband but I also am grieving the loss of missed opportunities to have had a closer relationship with my husband. Find joy in each other. Be quick to forgive.

  22. Lovely post. Your writing gave me an idea. The next time I speak to my brother-in-law (who is 1.5 years into his widowhood) I’m going to ask him if he wouldn’t mind telling me one of his favorite memories of his late wife. I’ll bet no one has asked him that, so thank you.

  23. Hi. I stumbled to your blog while browsing, thinking this is exactly what I need. I have been a widowed since late June 2022 of a sudden death as well. Thank you for writing the articles.

    1. Thanks Lili for reading and your comment. I’m sorry for your sudden loss. Taking baby steps to get out around people will really help.

  24. This was helpful. I just signed up for a set of yoga classes on Groupon. I tried Meetup once but didn’t like it – will try again. I’ve often thought about a solo trip but chickened out. Have to work on this. My husband was my only friend and now I’m alone. Being in my late 50s, have no idea how to make friends. Leaving my apartment is a struggle..thank goodness I start a new job soon that will get me outside. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Great. I found such comfort in yoga classes and I hope you do too. The new job sounds great too – thanks for reading and hugs to you. ❤️

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