Editor’s Note: This guest commentary is from one of my students at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, NJ.
For many of us, the “holiday season” begins with Rosh Hashanah, and moves on thru Yom Kippur, Thanksgiving, Chanukkah, Christmas, and finally New Year.
If we are fortunate, we have friends who are sensitive to our “family-less” situation, and invite us to be part of their celebrations and rituals. I am always grateful for these invitations and enjoy being part of what are often boisterous, fun, memory filled days. But there is a part of me that recognizes that I am different – an outsider looking in. Without spouse or partner, children or grandchildren, I lack common ground. And often, I return home with feelings of sadness and loneliness – that awful isolation that makes my apartment feel so empty.
Much is written about this. But what about the rest of the year? How does living alone and without family affect day to day living?
There are so many challenges and most of them seem to go unrecognized. Perhaps it is too painful to discuss, embarrassing to admit or difficult to solve.
Going any place alone, where partners or families are prevalent, is frequently uncomfortable and often disheartening. Many of us choose to stay home. Try going to services at synagogue alone. Watch as husbands and wives give a tender touch or children laugh with parents.
And oh! Those myriad seminars and classes that discuss financial planning and health issues. Important topics to be sure, but almost always assume family.
All legal planning takes on an extra layer of complication. Writing a will – what do I leave and to whom? Who will care for my beloved pets? Who can be my health advocate? And end of life planning? My anxiety level rises to new heights each time I contemplate or try to find solutions to something I never thought about until recently. Dying alone? A really scary thought.
Now that I am 70, health problems, fewer friends due to death or incapacity, and a somewhat less adventurous attitude have given me pause. A real shock to my very being!
And I think about my legacy. Without family – what will it be?