reflections by sandra pesmen: moving to the middle of the bed

Sleeping in the bed you shared with your late partner can be a very difficult step. In this post from opentohope.com, journalist Sandra Pesmen, shares her personal struggle.

Moving to the Middle of the Bed

Last night, I slept in the middle of our king-size bed. It took me two years to do that. For 55 years, I shared that bed with my husband.

He never walked on water. Sometimes we broke that cardinal rule and went to sleep angry. But far more often, we embraced that bed, and each other, with tremendous joy, grateful we found mates that showed love, kindness, consideration, and selflessness on an almost daily basis. How unusual is that?

So often people reach out their hand when they hear I’m a widow and say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “Thank you,” I answer, “but I only had two years of loss. I had 55 years of gain.”

I know that not everyone has my resiliency. I lead The Widows List.com Web site (http://www.widowslist.com/) as well as several widows clubs at local senior centers, and I give motivational talks to help people learn to “Strive and thrive alone.”

Too often, these people are so grief stricken they find it hard to concentrate on anything except their sorrow. Their sadness has become the focus of their lives, and everything and everyone else is on the periphery.

I try and help them understand that life is not a dress rehearsal. We don’t get to have a “do-over.”

Whatever time we do have left is meant to be spent enjoying, loving, helping and caring for ourselves as well as others.

No one can hurry your grief or mine. No one can tell anyone else when it’s time to pick up living and begin placing those loved ones who died into a beloved memory space. All day every day, I think about my husband, silently telling him funny incidents, and asking myself what he would decide when a problem arises. His photos are on his desk in the den, on our dresser in the bedroom, and in the living room. When I talk to our grown children and grandchildren, one of them usually says, “Oh, that’s just what Dad (or Papa) wouid say.”

He is with me always and last night, after two years spent sleeping on my side of the bed, my husband’s memory finally joined me in the middle.

(Sandra Pesmen, host of www.widowslist.com, also writes the weekly DR.JOB column syndicated by Career News Service.)

In our next post, we’ll talk more about coping with sleeping on your own.


last minute holiday support: part 2

In our last post, we reprised suggestions (from Part 1 of Best Ways to Get Through the Holidays),for the best ways to cope with the upcoming holiday season.

Here are more proven strategies from Part 2 of Best Ways to Get Through the Holidays:

1) Contact the host or hostess before the get-together and let him/her know that you aren’t feeling like your usual self and may need to leave early.

2) Give yourself the first 30 minutes after you arrive to adjust to a gathering where your spouse is no longer with you.

3) Take your own car or alert a friend who is driving that you may want to leave early.

4) If you start to feel overwhelmed, you can retreat to the bathroom or take a short walk for some private time.

5) If you choose to avoid the usual gatherings, consider volunteering to serve meals at shelters, visiting shut-ins, or spending the day at a movie or health spa.

Remember: You will get through this time. We’ve found that the anticipation is usually much worse than the actual events. Be sure to plan ahead and do only what is most comfortable for you.


year-round volunteer opportunities

In our post on volunteering for the holidays, we suggested some short term ways to help others, especially if the usual holiday celebrations are too difficult to face since the death of your spouse/partner.

If however, you want to volunteer on a more ongoing basis, we suggest checking into the following opportunities in your community:

1) Schools that need tutors or other types of volunteers
2) Libraries
3) Food banks for cancer/Aids patients
4) Hospitals or hospices
5) Medical organization sponsored thrift shops
6) Meals On Wheels
7) Senior Corps Programs (http://www.seniorcorps.org/), such as Foster Grandparent, Senior Companion, and R.S.V.P.
8) Museums that will train docents
9) Family Service agencies that will train volunteers for a variety of tasks
10) Houses of worship
11) Veterans organizations and troop support services

A great online resource for finding local volunteer opportunities is Volunteer Match (http://www.volunteermatch.org/). This site offers a wide range of places and causes you can assist as well as help you can provide online, if you aren’t up to getting out.

Keep in mind that an added benefit of becoming involved in volunteer work is the opportunity to create new friendships.

Discovered other opportunities to help?

Let us know.