Touched by loss. Empowered through community.

Upside Down

Monday, April 27, 2015
Posted By: 
Diana Gumushian

When I was young, I loved to stand on my head and look at the world upside down. It was a different perspective. The rush of blood to the head, the strangeness of things being where they did not usually reside, the off-balance feeling of being this close to falling. I could only stay that way for so long before I felt dizzy, my head started to hurt, and I had to right myself and stand with my head upright. That’s how widowed life sometimes feels. Take everything you know, turn it completely around, so up is down, left is right, zig is zag. Turn the W upside down, and you suddenly go from “We” to “Me.”

Lately I’ve been feeling really upside down. Or maybe it’s more like the cheese stands alone? The third wheel? The unmatched sock in the pile of laundry? The odd man out? My son is graduating 8th grade in four weeks. There are a barrage of graduation activities in the next few weeks, and I will be attending with my son as a solo me, and not a coupled we. After nearly 7 years, I still cringe when I see something addressed to “the parent of xxxx” and notice the “s” missing. But it’s equally as cringe worthy when I receive something addressed to “the parents of xxxx” and I wonder how, after all this time, can they use parents when they all know his dad died while he was in 1st grade. In the last 7 years I have faced dozen of school related functions where I was the solo parent and felt very much out of place, but for some reason, all the flurry of graduation related functions is ripping at me, making me intensely aware of my “me” status. All the insecurities of solo parenting seem to hit me harder when I’m sitting at a table of parents and students, and there is an empty chair caused by the uneven number of people. I feel discomfort when the spouses lean in to talk to one another, are discussing couple-centric concerns, beam about their recent romantic vacation, ponder plans for the future, and in general, speak of other “we” minded topics. They converse about juggling the balance of work, school, homework, kid-related sports and activities, and their own private time. I do it all, alone. I have no one sitting next to me to turn my me to we. I feel like an intruder. Like a foreigner. Like my “me” status makes me different. I’m upside down in a room full of upright couples.

I know that much of my discomfort is self-imposed. It’s not that they are intentionally doing something to make me feel this way. But the nuclear family is still the standard in the majority of school families, and I just never feel like I belong. My upside down Me is outnumbered by the upright coupled We. I participate, volunteer, support my children, sometimes much more thoroughly than coupled parents, and yet I always feel like I am out of place. Let’s face it…I am.

The most significant role I play at this time of my life is mom. That can be the most unbalanced role of all. Doing it alone means that I have to be able to view life from many vantage points. I try to hide my feelings from my son, but I know that he sometimes feels the same way. I strive to focus on the reason I am here, which is my children. I’m proud of my son, of how well he is doing, of the person he is, and his potential to be so much more as he matures into himself as a young man. He sometimes surprises me with his ability to know just when I need a hug. Even though most of the time, he is busy being a clueless teenaged boy, once in a while, when that odd man out feeling is washing over me, he can say something so profoundly supportive and emotional, it brings me to tears (the good kind). When the off-balance feeling makes me feel like I’m going to fall, focusing on being his mom helps me remember that I can turn myself upright and re-adjust my view. Although the worlds of parenting and being widowed collide, I’m trying to land on my feet more often than on my head. I can only be on my head for so long.


Wow you really hit the nail on the head for me in this one. My husband died also when one son was in the first grade and another in PK4. I remember those exact feelings at 8th grade graduation and now the same ones are creeping up as I approach high school graduation for the oldest. I distinctly remember standing next to Phils coffin and leaning to my mom to am I going to do this? How am I going to get them to college? And here I am 11+ later about to graduate the oldest and send him off to college with the 2nd not far behind. I/we did it!

Diana, wonderful blog - well said and very easy to relate to...

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