The other night, I attended an incredible fundraising event called, "Fashionably Late." The event is held in memory of Gretchen Gotthart Skeldon, a woman who was, in fact, always late, but also who was known for giving so much of her time and talent to help other people. She lived by the motto, "Do all that you can." Unfortunately, Gretchen lost her battle to breast cancer four years ago. The event is a lot of fun and raises money for a fund that was established in Gretchen's name.
This year, I attended the event with a friend. We listened to bands, sipped some beverages, talked and laughed. It was fun.
Four years ago, I attended the same great event. It was very different, though. It wasn't the event that was so different. It was me. Four years ago, I was one year out ... one year into this new life as a widow. I was just one year into navigating life on my own.
That year, I attended the event with my dear friend, Sally. Since Sally serves on the committee to coordinate the Fashionably Late event, I knew there would be times during the event when I'd be on my own. But, that would be ok. Not a big deal.
While the band was playing and people were either dancing to the music or catching up with friends, I found myself almost walking aimlessly around the outdoor venue. I grabbed a drink and walked around to check out items for sale and booths set up highlighting the work of some of the charities Gretchen held close to her heart. There were hundreds of people at the event that first year. But, I couldn't have felt more alone. I couldn't help but feel like there was a huge spotlight focused on me ... a beacon pointing out that I was there by myself. The spotlight, although not visible to anyone else, was blinding. I remember texting my friend, Mark (who is now my fiance.) I hoped maybe connecting with him by text might help. It did help, but I was still there alone. Overwhelmed by the feeling of being so alone, I left.
I hadn't realized how difficult it would be to be in a big crowd. Regardless of whether I knew many people or just a few people at an event in the first year or so after Steve died, I couldn't handle the spotlight I felt.
At the event this year, I didn't feel the spotlight. Not at all. I thoroughly enjoyed myself the entire time.
When I was first widowed, no one handed me the playbook. Such a playbook doesn't exist. Since one person's grief can be so different from another person's experience with grief, you have to figure so much of it out for yourself. I didn't know how difficult it would be to be in a crowd of people. I couldn't have anticipated that spotlight.
The spotlight has faded as I move forward with my life. I am happy and looking toward the future. Grief still rears its ugly head at times and I absolutely feel Steve's absence. But, I continue to move forward. I've realized lately that when I'm by myself or with people I know, I don't feel so alone. I don't feel so different from everyone else.
Making progress as the journey continues.
Source: Wikimedia Commons