My husband passed away two years ago, and at that stage I could never have imagined sitting down to write something like this. He’d always been the life and soul of the party, the raconteur, a story for all occasions. I’m no shrinking violet but it’s true that with hindsight I’d been happy to play second fiddle, following him, perhaps even happy in his shadow.
When that sort of personality is no longer around it leaves a void – one that I was unable or perhaps unwilling to attempt to fill myself. I realised with his passing that my friends had all been ‘our’ friends. That’s not to say that these people vanished overnight, on the contrary, most of them have been unbelievably generous with their time and affection.
But it made me think, when did this happen? When did I neglect my friends? I started to name people in my mind that I used to know socially that I was no longer in touch with. The list was long. Friendships are something you take for granted but like most living things, they require support and nurture or they fade away or die.
Slowly I started to reach out to old friends. Slowly because I was worried they’d see me as a desperate widow simply needing some company. In hindsight I did them a disservice. As a consequence, thanks to social media – yes, it does work even at our age – I’m now back in touch with friends of many years ago and regularly meet them for drinks or dinner.
I knew though that this reaching backwards wasn’t enough. It’s easy to drown in your own time and thoughts when you lose someone close to you, and I knew that I had to keep busy. To make matters worse my husband and I had moved to a new area only a few months before he died. My local social circle was small, and those that did exist were really acquaintances rather than friendships.
I decided that I would pursue interests first and hope that friendships followed. I’m pleased to say that I think it’s working. You can’t be passive in this venture. You have to approach it with a zeal and determination even though this may seem unnatural. While I’m not shy, I’m no extrovert either, so to reach out to new groups was unnerving, but it’s what I did nonetheless.
I started walking with a local group that go out over nearby hills each week. I joined a book club and I volunteered to help at the local community centre. I’ve always been active, loved to read and had a desire to help locally so the activities fitted my interests.
They were a challenge to start with, but as someone said to me on the walk, “we all came for a first time once”. We end our walks at a pub for lunch and now I’ve been invited to dinners on a few occasions. My book club meets monthly, though I’ve made new friends with two or three people there who meet up at least weekly for coffee and a chat. The community centre has increased my self-esteem, given something back to those in need and I have great fun helping out.
My isolation came through loss but for others it can just happen over time. The good news is that it can, with a little help and effort, be reversed. Don’t be lonely, try it yourself.