Last week was Homecoming week for our school district. The week was filled with fun themed dress-up days, school spirit and other activities. The week ended with a pancake supper and the Homecoming football game. I promised the kids we would go.
I was caught off guard by how that environment made me feel. We were in a festive, school spirit-filled room with hundreds of families from our community. Families. Moms AND Dads with kids, all of them excited for the big game.
I felt so alone. So isolated. Incomplete. Sometimes our family doesn’t feel like a family anymore. I saw several neighbors and friends and greeted them with fake enthusiasm. I put on a fake smile and phony excitment for the kids, because thankfully, they didn’t seem to feel the same emptiness. I have been in public in the last six months, but I guess I haven’t found myself in big crowds of families. And I hated it.
It was so strange to be in a crowded, happy environment and feel more alone than ever. It felt like there was a neon sign above me alerting everyone to how my identity has changed. Surely it must be flashing above my head – WIDOW! WIDOW! WIDOW! My heart is still married to Mark, but by all social standards, I’m not a wife anymore. I’m a single Mom now. A widow. And I can’t wrap my mind around it quite yet. I don’t want to wrap my mind around it.
We didn’t stay for the football game. I couldn’t. My kids were mad at me. They were sad about this decision, but I just couldn’t. Sometimes I can do what I need to do for them, but other times I have to do what I need to do for ME. This was one of those occasions. I just wanted to go home.
We will try again tonight. Lolo’s middle school band will be playing the school song with the high school marching band. I need to plan my strategy for the evening. I’ll either fake confidence sitting alone in what feels like a sea of intact blissful families or plan to be someone’s third wheel. Neither option sounds very appealing, but I’ll do it. I have to do it. I’ll be braver. This week I’ll resist the urge to run home.
Even though I feel so alone, I know I’m not. I know God is with me through this. I know he cares about my hurt. I also know there will be others sitting in that crowd feeling alone. There will be people mourning other losses in their lives – divorce, death, job loss, illness, etc. They will look like shiny, happy people on the outside, but alone and hurting on the inside. I’ll be thinking about them and praying for them to get me through Friday Night Football. No matter how alone the crowds make us feel, I know we are surrounded by others yearning for the wholeness they once felt too. We are not alone.
Whatever it is you wish you could avoid this week, I encourage you to face it. Let’s be brave together. We can do this – one uncomfortable, happy, family-filled event at a time.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11: 28-30
photo credit: drburtoni University of Oregon Ducks spring football game. Eugene, OR 2016 via photopin (license)