Anxiety and Widowhood




Since George died, I’m much more anxious than I used to be. I’ve probably always had an anxiety disorder which, in the past, I’ve called “being anal retentive.”

When I was married, George took care of everything. And I liked it. Looking back, I‘d have liked to have had more friends and outside interests, but overall I was happy with our lives, from spending almost every evening together to the law degree I didn’t have to use because he supported me.

He was the one who calmed me down and told me things were going to be fine. And he was right, up until he started wasting away from cancer.

I’ve gotten better at a lot of stuff. I can do more things on my own and panic less when things go wrong. And yet…it doesn’t fix the anxiety (or loneliness) about the more solitary life I’ve landed in.

I’ve tried to work on gratitude. And the gratitude meter can be pretty high on a fresh new morning, but it swings to empty on evenings when I’m alone and anxious, wondering “is this my life now, how should I change it, what should I do?”

And maybe part of it is legitimate in that when we’re on our own, we have to do everything. So if the husband did home maintenance, now you get to do it all!  I’ve had days where I’ve dealt with house stuff and administrative stuff (Hello, Covered California!) and…now I’m tired…and anxious because I’m not getting much done… and I don’t like being alone at night and…etc.

But I’m also kind of ashamed of my anxiety.

I’m a privileged, middle-aged white chick living in suburbia. My late husband left me a house plus some financial resources. I should be fine and becoming more productive instead of becoming even more batshit crazy.

So, my fellow widows and divorced folk are you dealing with heightened anxiety on your own? How do you manage it?




  • Joyce says:

    Batshit crazy! That says it all. I do mindfulness and aerobics in and out of the pool to keep the anxiety at bay.

  • Dan says:

    I became a widower about the same time you became a widow…just over 3 years ago. I can imagine how one’s anxiety might be increased, though I have never felt anxious. I was the one who took care of things around the house and told my wife that everything was going to be fine. I still believe that, so anxiety is not something I have to deal with, thank goodness. I can, however, relate to your new experience of solitude.

    My biggest initial challenge was feeling lonely. My entire life had been lived with other people. First with my parents and siblings, then college roommates, then housemates, then my wife. Immediately after becoming a widower, I was occupied with supporting my two college and high school aged children who were reeling from the loss of their mother. When my youngest went off to college almost 2 years ago, I lived alone for the first time ever. That was initially scary. But over time I have come to love my alone time. My job is stressful, and I can’t wait to return home at the end of the day and walk into MY house and do exactly what I want, play whatever music I want, as loud as I want, eat whatever I want, exercise exactly how I want. I have spent my entire adult life taking care of other people. This is the first time ever that I have the luxury of taking care of myself. It feels liberating!

    Dating is different challenge. I think 50-somethings become more set in their ways and less willing to accommodate other people in their space. I hope my girlfriend and I can eventually find a way to live together, but both of us will have to change many things about how we want our space and activities to be configured.

    • Debbie says:

      Thanks for commenting Dan. I agree that older singles are set in our ways and less willing to accommodate changes. My boyfriend and I live about 15 minutes apart, but I can’t really imagine living with him unless we got a larger space together. And had agreements on quiet time, separate time etc.

      I do like having my house to myself sometimes. But I don’t work outside the home so that gives me a lot of alone time. I’m sort of still figuring out what I want to do now.

    • Betsy says:

      Dan, I agree with your post. At 63, I don’t want to be alone. I miss the company of a man. Dating is certainly a different challenge after 36 years of marriage. We were high school sweethearts. I find men of all ages still looking my way, which makes me wonder, how come I can not find one? I try to not think about it so much, but human contact is a basic need. It is so good to be at a point where I can express myself now.

      Thank you for your words Dan. Good luck to you.

  • Betsy says:

    I am alone for the first time as well. I am getting better at enjoying my time, my space. But it is also this alone time and space that reminds me all the time that I am alone in this time and space.

    As a widow for 5 years now, we had talked and both agreeded that I take as much time as I needed, but to get on with my life. I am at a point now where I want to get on with my life. I want to meet someone. I want to be with someone. I miss the companionship of another human being.

    Debbie, I am hooked on your writings. No, I was not a lawyer, but have many of the same things going on in my head.

    My grown daughters tell me to make the house my own. It took me a long time to realize what that was. I am a work in progress.

    I am glad I came across your posts. Thank you.

    • Debbie says:

      Thank you Betsy for letting you know you relate to my posts! I have done a lot to make my house my own, but it doesn’t fulfill the need for companionship. And that’s just hard to find especially when we get older. I have a boyfriend, and that involves a lot of compromises at times, which my be my next post. And I too am definitely a work in progress. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up (if ever).

  • Jacqui says:

    Hi Debbie,
    I am not so much anxious as pessimistic, though to me it just seems that is how life is, uncertain, precarious. I find it hard to make plans for the future. I expect things to go wrong. I took an enormous leap last September leaving a secure job that I really needed to get out of for a part time role in a charity that could end this coming September. I should be planning an alternative income but so far am ignoring the situation, hoping the charity will keep the money rolling in even though it is not looking good. This might sound like being stupidly optimistic, but it is really just paralysis born of the pessimism that says “you can’t make plans”. I don’t think my feelings are only because my husband died too young and only 4 months after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I think it is also to do with our struggle to have a family – after 4 goes at IVF and 7 miscarriages we had to give up. What I learnt was that you can’t plan the way your life is going to turn out, you can’t rely on it unfolding the way you expected it to unfold, you can’t reasonably expect it to be like the lives other people take for granted. It was a struggle for us as a couple for a while, but we got back to being happy.Then he died. Confirmation. I want to write, but am exhausted by work, grieving, trying to create a new relationship, finding time for my horse again, keeping the house going….
    I was discussing wills with my parents the other day – I have a financial interest in their property and they are about to move so we have things to sort out. In relation to this I said something about never knowing what would happen and reminded them that I could die before them, they looked at one another as if to say “Here she goes again..” and told me not to be “silly.” Seems pretty logical and obvious to me.
    In friendship,