We know from experience that one of the toughest parts of being single, especially after a long-term relationship or marriage, is coming home to an empty house. Empty rooms. Empty dinner table. Empty kitchen. Empty bed.
It’s lonely enough when you enter your house during the day and nobody’s there, but it’s far worse at night when it’s dark. It can be scary wondering if anybody got into your home and is hiding in a closet, under your bed or behind the curtain shower. Remember the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Psycho?
You open the door from the garage or the street and walk in to absolute dead silence. Nobody is there to greet you—unless you have a pet. And no one is there to exclaim, “Hi honey, welcome home,” or to hear you say cheerfully, “I’m home!”
You’ve got nobody to schmooze with, who cares it seems that you got home safely, wants to know how your day went, what you ate and whom you saw. You sit down, kick off your shoes and no one is there to ask if you’d like a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. Of course, you can drink by yourself, but it’s not the same as having someone to share it with and to toast.
When Barbara was first divorced and her two daughters were away at college, she deliberately planned a visit to a then-beau after her second daughter had left home. She was trying to put off arriving back home to eerie silence in her suburban home. Margaret couldn’t wait to move from the family home once her husband and her dog had died, though it took two years for her to figure out where to go. Both women had found going from the garage into the kitchen became a terrifying journey at night, though in each case it was only a matter of a few steps.
Two close friends of Barbara who recently lost their husbands have found this also to be the most difficult aspect of being suddenly single. “It’s so lonely when I open the door at night; I miss him so much,” one told her recently. The other echoes those same sentiments.
So, what can we recommend? All sorts of possible ways to make coming home a lot better.
- Though it sounds drastic—and it is—consider moving to a multifamily building where there are others about—service staff such as doormen and a manager or neighbors you see in the garage, elevator or lobby. Barbara found it easier to return home when she sold her house and temporarily lived in an apartment building. There was always someone there to greet her and say “hello,” even if they didn’t engage in long conversations. Margaret moved finally to a condo where she encounters similar friendly souls. She’s on the top floor of a secure building and feels safe when she gets home now.
- Turn on a low-voltage or LED light in the entry or kitchen—or wherever you usually enter your home, even if it means some additional electricity wattage. You can try to compensate in other ways. It’s worth it for peace of mind.
- Leave on a TV or radio for sound also to greet you; you might even find a comedy station and come home to some great jokes.
- Have a friend call you at designated times to ask how your day was. Barbara checks in almost daily with one of her recently widowed friends and tries to do so early in the morning to say, “Good morning and hi,” or in the evening to say, “How are you doing?” Her friend didn’t ask her to do so, but Barbara knew from her own experience, Margaret’s and others just how lonely even the loveliest of homes can be.
- Install an alarm system. It will offer a modicum of security when you’re gone and help ally your fear of someone lurking or trying to break into your home at night.
- Consider a pet.