Friday, March 25, 2011

Bittersweet Musing Moment

Last weekend I was at my friends' annual St. Patty's Day party. As usual, there was the best traditional Irish corned beef, cabbage and all the fixings. Yummy homemade desserts: mint chocolate brownies, green cream filled cream puffs and key lime pie. Of course the usual Irish martinis were served. Over the last few years, the party-goers have been a variety of people from work (ones who have become friends) and neighbors. I have know some of these people for many years and some are new to me and only know me through this annual event. Much good cheer and laughter filled the evening. At one point, I realize that I am the only "single" there; everyone else is a couple. It is a moment of sadness and I am struck by the presence of Jim's absence, as he had attended these parties in the past. As I listen to the conversations, I know that I have been excluded from some of the social events of the different combinations of the group. It's one of the things about which new widows are warned. I don't know what this phenomena is, but I am acutely aware of it in the moment. Somehow the "extra" is not included in the "couples" events. It feels strange and sad. There is much "let's get together for lunch soon" with the "girls". Almost never is there a dinner invitation, unless the "extra" initiates it, or you have dinner with another "extra" woman. Why is this? Deep seeded social norms? One widow had a theory that it was the fear; fear of the "extra" taking away another's husband. I don't buy that. But I really don't understand this phenomena. Do the even numbers make everyone feel more comfortable? The "extra" makes the "odd" number, which somehow makes the "evens" uncomfortable? Could it possibly just boil down to math and that human nature just makes us feel more comfortable with "evens"?

This is not the first time I have felt and experienced this and I certainly don't want my dear St. Patty's party friends to think they did something "wrong". After all, if I were brave enough, I'd say something. I just don't know how. My dear step-mother told me after my father died, "Let's face it; it's a couple's world." At the time, I thought that was true for her generation. Turns out its true for mine, too.

My grief counselor says that we have to teach people how to be with us, what to say to us. She's right. We sometimes practice how to word these thing in our group. I encourage others, but haven't figured out how to do it myself with my friends.

So "evens", what's the deal? Anybody out there have a reason for this phenomena? Are widows really that scary?


  1. Dear Konasuki,
    What an excellent post and point you make. Your counselor unfortunately is right, too often mourners are the ones who have to teach those around them how to behave and respond. People do feel fear, perhaps not in the first place that the widow(er) will take away another person's spouse, but more so that being in company of couples will make the other, the "extra" as you call her/him feel sadder than s/he already is. A similar thing happens with parents who have lost a child. Others think that being in the company of children will make them sad. As the mother of an only baby that died at birth I can attest to the fact that we CAN feel sadness after an event with children, because we miss our own daughter, but it doesn't mean we don't want to experience the community and company! In the Western, modern society the rules and rituals regarding the dead and the surviving members of a family or couple have got lost. We do need to speak up and share the news. In the past I've written about inviting the "extra" person to the holiday table, to allow them to pink away a tear, to allow them to perhaps take time-out from the table when emotions become too much, without making a big deal out of it. Loss is part of life and the bereaved deserve to be part of community events or outings. Let's tweet and shout, get the message out!

  2. Dear Judith,
    You are my soul sister! Yes, let's do get the message out!