11/30/17

reflections: by darcie sims



With the holidays here, we thought we’d post this inspiring article by Darcie Sims from The Grief Blog.com. Although it’s about a military family, the issue is one that we all deal with at holiday times.

The Empty Chair
There’s an empty chair in our house and I am not sure what to do with it. It’s been empty a long time and although we’ve moved more than a few times since it became empty, we still haul it around with us. It’s not a particularly classic chair or even a very pretty one, and it is empty…all the time.

I never really know which room to put it in whenever we do move, but once it has found its place, I’ve noticed that it simply stays there. No one moves it, no one suggests putting it away.


No one sits in it. It’s just an empty chair.

As a military family, for many generations, we are used to having members of the family off in faraway places for long periods of time. My father would be gone for up to a year or even two. His chair was often empty at the table. My husband’s military career took him away for many months at a time, and his chair was often empty. And then, when our daughter was commissioned in the military, we knew her chair would also be empty sometimes. So empty chairs at our house are not an uncommon thing, but this chair…this chair should never have been empty.

As the holidays approach, I am always faced with the task of deciding what to do with our empty chair. Should we put it away for the season? Should we decorate it? Or should we just ignore it?

One holiday season, we did decide to put it away. Even though it was an empty chair, it left an even bigger empty space when we did move. How can that be? How can something that is empty leave a bigger empty space when it’s gone?!

We’ve tried to ignore it, but its emptiness is very loud and it is hard to miss an empty chair in a room filled with people sitting in all the other chairs. And even when we could manage to ignore it, others could not and they always commented on it. An empty chair is not invisible.

Then, one year, we decided to simply include it in our holiday decorating scheme; that was the cause of some interesting discussions. Should we put a special holiday pillow in it? What about tossing a colorful quilt or afghan over the back? Should we put something in the chair? But nothing we tried could fill the emptiness of that chair. It just sat silent like a sentinel, waiting for something…or someone.

It took us many years of living with that empty chair, day in and day out, to finally figure out what to do with it. Our empty chair is pulled up to the table and a single rose is placed on the plate, a symbol of everlasting love. The empty chair represents all of those who are not with us for this occasion, but who live within our hearts forever. It is not a sad sight because we know that empty chair represents a love we have known and shared and with that gift, our family is forever blessed.

We join hands in thanksgiving, completing the circle with the empty chair within our family circle, for even though death may have come, love never goes away.

So, if your holiday table will have an empty chair this year, remember that it is not truly an empty space. That place is still occupied by the love and joy of the one(s) who sat in it. Don’t hide that chair away. You may not wish to bring it to the table as we do, but take time this holiday season to remember the laughter, the joy, the love, the light of those who are no longer within hug’s reach, but whose love still fills us with gratitude.

Join hands around your table, however small, and say a prayer of thanksgiving…for the love you have known and still hold deep within your heart. You are rich beyond measure for having had a chair filled. Don’t let death rob you of the heart space that love keeps.

Our little empty chair…no one has sat in it for 25 years…until this season. The empty chair at our house has been filled with the tiny spirit of a new life as she found that chair to be just the “right size.”

We are a family circle, some chairs filled and others not, broken by death, but mended by love.


Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CGC, CHT


Reach Darcie Sims at http://www.griefinc.com/.

11/27/17

how you and your pets can help each other




How can you and your pet(s) help each other through the mourning process?

It’s important to recognize that pets also feel grief and express it in their own ways.

To better understand how animals mourn, read our post, Is Your Pet Also Grieving?

There’s also an informative post on Psychology Today’s blog by Marc Bekoff that looks at scientific data about animals and grief.

Declaring “Grief in animals: It's arrogant to think we're the only animals who mourn”, the author goes on to say, “There is no doubt that many animals experience rich and deep emotions. It's not a matter of if emotions have evolved in animals but why they have evolved as they have. We must never forget that our emotions are the gifts of our ancestors, our animal kin. We have feelings and so do other animals.

Among the different emotions that animals display clearly and unambiguously is grief. Many animals display profound grief at the loss or absence of a close friend or loved one.” (Read More)

Our pets can also provide invaluable emotional support for us in our bereavement. For more about this, read our post Pets As Support, where we discuss the various studies that reveal the ways animals are able to show empathy and affection to bereaved owners.

We’d appreciate hearing about your own experiences with your pets.

11/20/17

5 tips for staying healthy while you're mourning




Research has shown that you’re more vulnerable to physical problems following the death of a spouse/partner. This doesn’t mean that you will get sick, only that it’s important to take care of your health during this stressful period.

The 5 best ways to safeguard yourself include:

1) Informing your doctor(s) that your spouse/partner has died. Pre-existing medical conditions can be affected by the stress of coping with loss and you may need an adjustment in medication dosages or other treatment changes.

2) Making sure you’re getting adequate nutrition. Appetite loss is a common symptom of grief and can create health problems over time. Rather than forcing yourself to polish off three full meals a day, try to eating several small snacks throughout the day, including fruits, vegetables and lean meats or other sources of protein.

3) Considering vitamin and/or meal supplements. Ask your doctor about taking vitamins and/or one of the liquid meal supplements like Ensure.

4) Taking short naps to compensate for the lack of sleep at night. Sleep disturbance is a very common symptom of grief. A word of caution: Some doctors will want to prescribe sleep medications. Although this type of medication can be helpful in the days following the death, continued use can interfere with the normal mourning process.

5) Keeping moving. If at all possible, try to get at least 20 to 30 minutes a day of light exercise, like taking a walk. Mild exercise has been proven to help overall health and well-being.

Remember: grief puts you under a lot of stress both emotionally and physically. So try to take the best possible care of yourself during this vulnerable time in your life.

11/16/17

staying connected with adult step-children; part 2


In our last post, we looked at some of the causes of tension between you and your adult step-children.

Here are some strategies for defusing that tension and improving communication.

1) Give everyone a psychological “time-out” from making any decisions. Postpone any discussions about who gets what for a few months and tell the family, “I’m just not ready to focus on such important questions yet.”

2) Look to other family members and friends for your emotional support. Your spouse/partner’s children may or may be there to lean on right away.

3) Don’t put your stepchildren in the middle of any unfinished business you have with your late spouse/partner or his or her ex. Vent your anger at the appropriate target, even if it means talking to a photo of your spouse/partner.

4) After a few months (trust your instincts about the timing), suggest a get-together. Assure your stepchildren that they remain important to you and you’d like to work out ways to maintain your connection.

5) Remember that when it comes it financial issues, conflicts can easily arise. Protect yourself by consulting with your own experts.

Keep in mind that if your prior relationship with a step-child was close, he or she will be anxious not to lose it. A strong foundation can help any relationship weather some temporary storms.

11/13/17

staying connected with adult step-children; part 1: understanding the issues


You’ve just lost your spouse/partner.

Now you may face more losses.

If your spouse/partner had adult children, how can you be certain those relationships won’t either slip away or be destroyed by conflict?

To better understand what is happening, keep in mind the following:

-Your step-children are grieving too. Their reactions will reflect their own relationships with their deceased parent. If there was conflict, there may be hidden guilt or remorse behind how they act.

-Your connection with your step-children depends on how you have been in their lives and what kind of relationship you shared. If there was any initial tension around the circumstances of your marriage, this can surface.

-Is your spouse’s ex alive? Your step-children may distance themselves from you. Keep in mind that what appears to be a shift in loyalties may just be a temporary reaction to the loss.

-Consider your connection prior to the death. Were you close to your step-children? What stresses did the circumstances prior to the death (prolonged illness, a sudden accident), put on the relationship?


Hopefully these questions can shed some light on what lies beneath any tensions or confusion you may have experienced with your stepchildren.

In our next post, we’ll offer some strategies for strengthening these important relationships during this difficult time.

10/30/17

reflections: quotes to get you through the days; part 9





1) Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.
– John Wayne

2) There is no grief which time does not lessen and soften.
– Cicero

3) I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.
– Laura Ingalls Wilder

4) A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.
– Lao-Tzu

5) Don’t let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.
–Richard L. Evans

10/19/17

i'm not the typical partner: part 2

(Excerpted from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition)


In our last post, we discussed ways in which the loss of a non-traditional partner can differ from that of a traditional spouse.


Here are some suggestions for how to cope:

1)      Are any of your partner’s family more accepting of you? It can be a comfort to share your pain with those who were close to your partner. Reach out to approachable family members or friends.

2)      If you’ve been barred from attending the funeral, you might consider creating your own memorial gathering.

3)      Let those close to you know what you’re going through. Check for community support groups or online resources.

4)      Consult an attorney or contact your local bar association and the Social Security Administration about your legal rights and survivor benefits. While each state has different laws, some do make provisions for non-traditional partners. Even once divorced, if your marriage lasted 10 years or more, you may be entitled to your ex-spouse’s social security benefits. Don’t assume you have no rights – investigate!

Remember: it’s not important how others judge your relationship or your grief. What matters most is what your attachment meant to you and your partner. Recall what was special and cherish the bonds that brought you together. Respect your own needs and treat yourself kindly.

10/16/17

i'm not the typical partner: part 1



(This post is excerpted from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?, Revised and Expanded Edition)



Grief for the death of a long-term partner in a same-sex or opposite sex relationship is as deep and meaningful as the grief felt in the loss of a spouse. Even the death of an en-spouse can be a painful loss.

While you, the survivor, may experience the same grief reactions as traditional partners, there are different issues that affect your mourning process and may not be publicly acknowledged or supported, such as:

·    Whether your relationship was accepted or rejected by family members.

·     Access to your partner during the final illness or circumstances of the death and/or inclusion in funeral/memorial arrangements.

·    Legal and financial complications involving property ownership, child custody or survivor benefits.

·    Emotional unfinished business, especially any conflict as an aftermath of divorce or lack of access to your partner around the time of death.

·     Lack of traditional community support systems.

Any, or all of the above can prolong or complicate a normal mourning process.

In our next post, we offer some suggestions for coping.




10/9/17

widowhood way back when: what inspired the widowed columbus

In honor of Columbus Day, here’s some interesting information about Christopher Columbus’s personal life we found on answers.com.

After several local voyages, Columbus found himself in Portugal, “…where he married Felipa Perestrelo e Monis, daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrelo, deceased proprietor of the island of Porto Santo.

The couple lived first in Lisbon, where Perestrelo's widow (aka Columbus’s mother-in-law), showed documents her husband had written or collected regarding possible western lands in the Atlantic, and these probably started Columbus thinking of a voyage of investigation.

Later they moved to Porto Santo, where his wife died soon after the birth of Diego, the discoverer's only legitimate child.

After his wife's death, Columbus turned wholly to discovery plans and theories, among them the hope to discover a westward route to Asia.”

The post goes on to say that while waiting in Spain for royal permission to discover the New World, “…the widowed Columbus had an affair with young Beatriz Enriquez de Harana of Cordova, who in 1488 bore his other son, Ferdinand, out of wedlock. He never married her, though he provided for her in his will and legitimatized the boy, as Castilian law permitted.”

Widowed or not – never underestimate the influence of in-laws!

10/5/17

when should i stop wearing my wedding ring and other timeline questions about widowhood; part 2


Continued from Part 1, here are more answers to your important questions:


*When Will I Stop Thinking About What Happened?

In the days following the death of your spouse/partner, you probably find yourself pre-occupied with what has happened.

Often the details of those final days, the death itself, worries about arrangements/financial concerns, and/or thoughts and images about your loss can seem to occupy every waking moment.

In the aftermath of any shock (even when a death is anticipated), it’s normal to be preoccupied with these thoughts and images as your mind struggles to absorb the reality of the loss.

Added to this are the other adjustments and tasks you’re forced to deal with as a consequence of the loss itself.

Keep in mind that with time, you’ll be able to focus on other aspects of your life.
Many people feel guilty when this happens, fearful that pulling away emotionally means they no longer love or remember their partner.

What it actually means is that you’ve begun to find a new, different place inside you for your loved one. A place that is no less cherished for demanding your constant attention.

If, after about a year, you find yourself still preoccupied with the death, you may have conflicts or unfinished business that is complicating your ability to mourn. Consider getting counseling from a mental health professional or trusted clergyperson to help you sort through troublesome concerns.

*When will I stop crying?

(Excerpted from Lost My Partner – What’ll I do?)
Crying is a healthy expression of your pain. Some of you, however, may consider tears a form of “self-pity” and become critical of yourself when you feel the need to cry.

Remind yourself that as you go through the mourning process, crying for any reason is normal and appropriate and Nature’s way of releasing emotional tension.

Whether you’re at work or at home, it can be difficult to find the privacy to “let go” and shed some tears. Crying is a necessary release of pain and tension.

Sometimes though, the tears just blindside you. It helps to have some places in mind that you can easily retreat to. (read more)


Look for more valuable answers in Part 3.

10/2/17

when should i stop wearing my wedding ring and other timeline questions about widowhood; part 1




After your partner’s death, it’s difficult to know when the appropriate time is to let go of various symbols of your union. Often friends and family will urge you to take a step you may not feel ready to take. Despite the pressure from others, however, it’s important to listen to your own sense of what feels right for you.


* When should I stop wearing my wedding ring?

After your spouse/partner dies, you may have mixed feelings about when to remove your wedding ring.

Because there are no firm rules about if and when to take this emotionally loaded step, it’s really up to you to decide when to stop wearing your ring.

You might practice removing it for short periods and see how you feel. Or try a more gradual change by shifting the ring to another finger, different hand, or a chain you wear around your neck.

However you proceed, take the time you need to the make the decision that’s right for you.


* When should I get rid of my spouse/partner’s possessions?


How do you know when the time is right to clear out your spouse's belongings? This important decision has few clear guidelines. Well-meaning family and friends may pressure you to "get rid of" cherished possessions you don't feel ready to let go of. Or you yourself may feel anxious to "get rid of" painful reminders of your loss. But what's the rush?
We urge you not to "get rid of" anything before you first consider these tips:

1. Trust your own instincts about the right time to tackle this difficult process. Take your time and don't rush. The hasty decision you make today may become tomorrow's regret.

2. Ask a trusted family member or friend for help in packing things up and/or making arrangements.

3. Set a realistic timetable for completing this process. Make allowances for how grief is affecting you. Assume there will be times when, despite your best intentions, you won't feel up to dealing with this. (read more)

9/25/17

reflections by deb edwards: filling the "hole"

Back in '09, Contributor Deb Edwards shared her reflections in this insightful post.

Filling the “Hole”

Anyone who has lost their partner knows what I am referring to in some way. It is how you feel when you are the only one in the room that is not half of a couple, It is the way you feel at the end of the day when you are alone. It is the way you feel the first time you fill out a form and circle the “W” instead of the “M”. It is the way you feel when you realize they are never coming back.

Since my husband died a little over a year ago, I have felt a physical and emotional “hole” where he used to be. It is bigger on some days and smaller on others, but it never goes away completely.

I have known people that have used the “hole” to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Eating too much, drinking too much, self-medicating, spending too much, but at the end of the day, the “hole” is still there. I tried to fill the “hole” with cookies, but trust me - it didn’t help. The “hole” was still there - and I had a stomach ache!

So what do you do? You do the best you can to fill the “hole”. Meet new people, find new interests, and develop a good support system. Re-invent yourself - take risks-step outside your comfort zone. I am fortunate to have a job that I love, I spend time with my grandkids, I rescued a cat and I have been doing volunteer work. Don’t hesitate to get professional help if you feel like you have fallen in the “hole” and get can’t pull yourself out.

The “hole” is a normal part of the grieving process and nothing can ever replace the one you lost. It is ever-present, but what I have learned during the past year is that it is how you fill the “hole” that is important. You have a choice every hour of every day on how you want to live your life. So choose well, but don’t beat yourself up. We are human, and some days we do better than others.

And as always - breathe!
Deb Edwards

a widow by any other name

  Struggling with being referred to as a “widow”?

According to our post, I Hate the Word Widow! going through the death of a spouse/partner is difficult enough. As soon as the death occurs though, you’re suddenly labeled by everyone as a “widow”.

As we discussed in Your New Identity, it’s difficult enough just adjusting to no longer being part of a couple, without the pain and stigma of being referred to as a widow.

Unfortunately, there have always been negative stereotypes of what it means to be widowed. Take for instance, this example from literature:

From the novel Middlemarch by George Eliot: "My dear Celia," said Lady Chettam, "a widow must wear her mourning at least a year.”

In order to save face in society, a widow was compelled to announce her loss to the world by her apparel.


9/21/17

the dilemma of honoring last wishes; part 2



In our previous post, we talked about dealing with conflicting feelings that can arise about carrying out your spouse/partner’s last wishes.

If you’re facing this dilemma, or already have, consider the following:

1) At the time these requests were made, he or she couldn’t have anticipated the realities of how you would feel when the time came to carry out these wishes.

2) Discuss with family members the possibility of compromise. If, for example, your spouse/partner wanted no service or memorial but you and the family feel the need to get together to share the loss, you might arrange a “gathering” to which family and friends can bring photos and mementoes of your spouse.

3) The important thing is that you honor(ed) your partner’s life in the best way possible for all concerned

Keep in mind that your needs are as important to respect as your late partner’s were.

9/18/17

the dilemma of honoring last wishes; part 1


Few requests carry a more powerful sense of obligation than those of a dying spouse/partner.

These can include anything from funeral/memorial arrangements to where and how the remains are to be dealt with.

Sometimes, though, your partner’s wishes may conflict with your own needs.

What seemed the right choice at the time the requests were made can, as the realities of death are actually faced, feel uncomfortable or inappropriate to the survivor. The decision to change or ignore your partner’s wishes, however, may leave you struggling with feelings of guilt and/or resentment.

In our next post, we’ll suggest ways to cope with this dilemma.

9/14/17

back to school after the loss; part 2: teenagers


(Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?)

In Part 1 of these excerpts, we suggested ways to ease your school-age child’s return to the classroom. There are, however, some important differences to be aware of with teens.

Because it’s not uncommon for teenagers to react to the death of a parent with behavioral problems at school such as poor performance or truancy, it’s important to:

a) Talk to your teen about what’s happened and how it’s affected them.

b) Listen to his/her fears and concerns and be reassuring but truthful in your response.

c) Ask your teenager if he/she would like you to inform the school or any teacher about the death. This is to ensure that the teacher will be understanding of the change in behavior and school work.

d) Let your teen tell classmates and friends in his/her own way, if they prefer to do so.

Remember that no matter how much they pull away from you because they’re adolescents, there are still times they need to depend on you.

9/11/17

back to school after the loss; part 1: children


(Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition)

Following the death of your partner, your child is probably anxious to return to their daily world, which provides a much needed source of support for them during this time. In addition to the stability it provides, school is where friends and teachers can offer an ear for feelings your child may hesitate to share with you.

1) Before your child returns to school, contact his/her teacher and the school counselor. Discuss how they can tell your child’s classmates about the death prior to your child’s return. It’s important the teacher be aware that your child’s loss may stir up fears in other children about losing a parent. The teacher might also explore with your child and his/her classmates how to respond supportively when your child becomes sad or tearful.

2) Prepare your child for how to react to people at school. Rehearse simple ways for him/her to respond to other children’s questions, behavior, etc.

3) If being at school becomes too overwhelming for your child, arrange ahead of time for you or another adult to come pick him/her up during the day.


In Part 2, we’ll discuss ways to support your teenager in returning to school.

8/31/17

is your pet also grieving?






If you have a pet(s), you may have noticed changes in their behavior since your spouse/partner has died.

We came across the following post by on the Animal Friends site and found it interesting.

According to When Pets Grieve, "We all find it hard to say goodbye. Our pets are just like us in many ways. Many of us can clearly understand their moods and emotions by the way they look at us or the way they wag their tail.

Our pets display emotions every day, but do they experience a complex emotion like grief? Grief is a reaction to the sudden absence of something or someone who brought comfort and satisfaction—and many pet owners will attest that their pets grieve when they lose a loved one."

It continues, "Research now confirms that our pets experience symptoms of grief when they lose a beloved human or animal companion. Grief has even been observed in wild species. Elephants have been seen caressing the body of a deceased companion. There are published reports of pets who constantly search for a deceased loved one and animals who no longer want to play or eat when a companion dies."

The author goes on, "Many grieving dogs often act as if they’re searching for something. They become restless or lethargic, lose their appetite, have accidents in the house, cry and don’t want to play. Dogs are certainly not alone; many cat and rabbit owners report similar experiences with their grieving pets."

The author suggests, "Just as you’d comfort a grieving friend, you can help your pet cope with grief. First and foremost, keep your pet’s routine as normal as possible. This may be difficult if a pet’s primary caregiver has passed away, but it is essential to maintain as normal a routine as possible. Second, don’t reinforce any behavioral changes. If your pet stops eating, don’t change the food, and don’t increase the amount of attention you give your pet. It may lead to new problems, like separation anxiety."

And goes on to advise, "If you find that nothing helps your pet, speak with your veterinarian. Your vet can help you decide whether prescription medicine will be effective to help calm and relax your pet."

The post later concludes, "Both humans and animals find it hard to say goodbye, but with love and understanding, we can work to help our animal friends cope with loss."


What are your thoughts?

8/24/17

widowhood way back when: the 19th century mourning timetable



“Victorian mourning fashion,” according to Kyshah Hell, in her article Victorian Mourning Garb, “Was aimed mainly at women, widows in particular. The fashion had a way of isolating a widow in her time of need just as the Queen had done. For the first year, a woman who was in mourning was not allowed to exit her home without full black attire and a weeping veil. Her activities were initially restricted to church services.”



She goes on to describe the required stages of mourning for women:

“Full mourning, a period of a year and one day, was represented with dull black clothing without ornament. The most recognizable portion of this stage was the weeping veil of black crepe. If a woman had no means of income and small children to support, marriage was allowed after this period. There are cases of women returning to black clothing on the day after marrying again.”



“Second mourning, a period of nine months,” the author continues, “Allowed for minor ornamentation by implementing fabric trim and mourning jewelry. The main dress was still made from a lusterless cloth. The veil was lifted and worn back over the head. Elderly widows frequently remained in mourning for the rest of their lives.



Half mourning lasted from three to six months and was represented by more elaborate fabrics used as trim. Gradually easing back into color was expected coming out of half mourning. All manner of jewelry could be worn.”



“The standard mourning time for a widower, “ the author points out, “Was two years but it was up to his discretion when to end his single stage. Men could go about their daily lives and continue to work. Typically young unmarried men stayed in mourning for as long as the women in the household did. “

8/21/17

how to ease into those zzzs; part 2






In our previous post, we looked at how your normal sleep is disrupted by the stress of losing your spouse/partner.

Now for our 7 most useful tips on dealing with that long stretch before your alarm goes off.

1) Use your bed for sleep only. If you have to get up, go into another room to read, watch or listen to something boring. Avoid mentally stimulating content.
2) Don’t look at the clock. Noticing how long it’s taking you to fall asleep can become another pressure.
3) If you’re too tense to fall asleep, get up and perform some mindless, repetitive housework, like vacuuming.
4) Write down any persistent thoughts or worries.
5) Listen to music or an audio book/podcast at such a low volume that the effort to hear will distract you from worrying thoughts.
6) Listen to a relaxation audio while still in bed.
7) Get some mild exercise, like walking, earlier in the day. If you have health issues, be sure to check with your doctor before attempting any activity.

If you find that some nights you just can’t relax enough for sleep, don't try to medicate yourself with alcohol. Instead, talk to you doctor about prescribing some medication on a temporary basis only!

If certain problems persist in affecting your sleep, consider talking them over with a trusted clergyperson or a licensed mental health professional.

8/17/17

how to ease into those zzz's;part 1


Since your spouse/partner’s death, do you feel exhausted during the day because when you try sleep at night, you:

a) toss and turn all night, unable to shut down your thoughts?

b) fall asleep, only to wake up a few hours later, unable to get back to sleep?

Keep in mind that some disturbances in your normal sleep pattern are to be expected. With all the changes, stresses and mental/physical overload you’re dealing with, it’s no wonder you can’t rest.

With time, these typical symptoms of grief will subside.

In the meantime, remind yourself that everything seems worse at night. Once morning arrives, the problem or memory that kept you tossing and turning will probably seem more manageable.


In our next post, we’ll give you our 7 best ways to make it through those endless nights

7/27/17

cooking for one; part 1: how do i cook for myself?




If you’re used to preparing meals for two, cooking for one can feel like an uncomfortable adjustment to make.

Or, if your late spouse/partner used to handle most or all of the cooking in your relationship, you may be at a loss as to how to manage meals for yourself.

In either case, we encourage you to acquire new skills.

While many people, especially men, resort to unhealthy snack foods, frozen dinners and/or meals out, learning some basic cooking skills can be a healthier, cheaper and ultimately confidence building alternative.

Here are some suggestions:

1) Purchase books or go online to learn about basic cooking skills or recipes designed for one.

2) Consider taking a class at a local culinary school and/or adult extension courses.

3) Ask a trusted relative or neighbor to show you how to prepare some basic recipes.

4) Have a friend or neighbor take you grocery shopping to familiarize yourself with neighborhood stores and how to select produce and meats.


Please share any suggestions or experiences you’d had in dealing with these kitchen dilemmas.

In Part 2, we’ll offer reading suggestions and useful online sites .

7/13/17

when adults lose a parent; part 3: more ways to cope



In part 2 of our excerpt from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do?, we discussed how losing a parent can affect your relationship with your surviving parent. We offered some suggestions for understanding and coping with
this situation.

MORE WAYS TO COPE

Here are some additional tips:

- Inheritance issues can open a nasty can of worms. In some families money equates love, so possessions can symbolize to members how your late parent felt about them. Try to enlist a neutral person to mediate any family discussions about this emotional subject.

- If possible, talk with your sibling(s) and evaluate what each of you can realistically do. If one of you lives far away, that person may still be able to pay for household help or other services and stay in touch on a regular basis with your parent.

- Have a frank discussion with mom or dad about how you can help. Keep expectations realistic and try to focus on specific tasks, such as helping with paperwork, shopping or home maintenance chores. Reach out to other trusted family members (such as cousins or older grandchildren), neighbors and family friends for assistance with chores. Others appreciate the opportunity to provide support in specific ways.

Have you discovered other strategies that help? Please share them with us.

7/10/17

when adults lose a parent; part 2: ways to cope




In Part 1, we discussed your reactions to losing a parent.

Our excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? continues.

Ways to Cope
As you attempt to cope with your own feelings, you may find that your relationship with your surviving parent changes in other ways.

In addition to helping with funeral arrangements, you may be called on to assist your already overwhelmed parent deal with health and/or financial problems. Under these circumstances, your mom or dad can seem uncharacteristically dependent and clinging. They may also have expectations of you that can feel burdensome or inappropriate.

Trying to manage all of the above in addition to your own family and work demands can stir of flashes of anger and resentment, which you may feel guilty about.

Take a deep breath and keep in mind the following:

- Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time. Each member of your family had a unique relationship and history with your late parent and their reactions to the loss will often reflect this.

- Respect the fact that the mourning process (yours as well as your parent’s) is difficult and takes time.

- Although mom or dad appears overwhelmed and not their usual self, this is temporary. She/he is an adult and still your parent. While some assistance is appreciated, mom or dad does not want to be treated like a child. Most surviving parents worry about becoming burdens to their children even under these temporary circumstances and don’t wish to relinquish their customary role in your life as providers of love and support.

Learn more ways to cope in Part 3.

7/6/17

when adults lose a parent; part 1: your reactions





This week’s posts are excerpts from Chapter 23, "I Lost My Parent", from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition.

Your Reactions


Losing a parent, indeed, both parents, is to be expected in life. When this happens though, it can shake your world in ways you never anticipated.

While you’re feeling abandoned (no matter how old you are) by your late parent, it’s natural to turn to your surviving parent for comfort and reassurance.

You may discover, however, that he/she is unable to provide support because of his/her own grief. Their preoccupation and withdrawal can feel like one more abandonment.

You may react by:

a) Becoming excessively anxious about your surviving parent’s health and/or safety.

b) Trying to assume the role of your late parent by taking over many of their tasks and responsibilities.

c) Pressuring your mom or dad to quickly dispose of “painful reminders” or sell their home right away and move closer to you.

d) Becoming impatient, annoyed or angry with the way your parent is coping with the loss.

e) Expecting your own spouse or partner to always be supportive and understanding of your situation.

f) Quarreling with your sibling(s) over who does what or who gets what.

g) Withdrawing.

In addition, you may struggle with guilt, remorse or other emotional unfinished business from your late parent’s final illness or circumstances of death.

In Part 2, we’ll help you understand changes in your relationship with your surviving parent.

6/29/17

handling household repairs; part 2: resources


As we discussed in Part 1, it’s a good idea, whether you choose to tackle household repairs and maintenance yourself, or hire someone, to become as informed as possible about the problem.

Here are some websites you might find helpful:

http://www.hometime.com/: based on the PBS TV series Hometime, this site offers a video library as well as an archive of how-to-articles from experts.

http://www.diynetwork.com/: based on the TV cable channel DIY Network, this site also provides advice from experts on various home improvement and maintenance projects.

http://www.ehow.com/: Go to their How-To/Home & Garden/ Home Repair & Maintenance page for tips on how to fix household problems.

You might also look at these reference books at your local library or bookstore:

Readers’ Digest 1001 Do-It-Yourself Hints and Tips by Readers’ Digest

Black & Decker The Complete Photo Guide to Homeowner Basics by Jodie Carter & Matthew Palmer


Discovered more sites and/or books? Please let us know!

6/26/17

handling household repairs; part 1: dealing with fixing things around the house


If your late partner used to handle household repairs, you may feel clueless about coping with these situations.

You may choose to learn new skills yourself or get assistance such as:

1) Asking a trusted relative, friend or neighbor for referrals.

2) Joining an online referral service like Angie’s List.

CAUTION: Hiring anyone who leaves flyers or is just a listing in local newspapers or a supermarket bulletin board can be risky. With any worker or service person you don’t know, insist on references BEFORE allowing the person into your home. Be certain to contact the references and if possible, check online reviews such as Yelp.com.

If you do decide to tackle a minor replacement or repair, consider the following:

1) If possible, always bring the part that is broken into the hardware store or service center. This saves time spent trying to otherwise explain the problem to the clerk.

2) There are many helpful online sites that will take you step-by-step through repair processes. Your local library is another good resource of “how to” books.

3) Look into taking a “how to” class at your local home and garden center or community center. Even if you decide to hire someone to do the actual repair, you’ll be a more informed customer, which will help protect against unnecessary and/or costly work.

Remember to take your time and try to be patient with yourself. Think of a skill you already have. How much trial and error occurred before you mastered that one?

In Part 2, we’ll offer some resources to help you acquire new repair skills.

6/8/17

surviving space-outs; part 2




In our previous post, we looked at the frustrating, but normal symptoms of forgetfulness and disorientation that follow experiencing the death of a spouse/partner.

Here are 7 useful tips for dealing with these symptoms:

1) Give yourself permission to not be your usual self for the time being.

2) If you find you’ve lost track of something, stop, take three deep breaths and mentally (or physically) retrace your steps.

3) Write down or note on your smartphone anything you need to remember, especially appointments, as soon as possible.

4) Set up various “information centers” in highly visible places, such as your computer or the refrigerator, where you can place reminders to yourself.

5) Put reminders or important information on color-coded sticky notes that you leave on your information centers. Remove them when each task is completed.

6) Keep extra sets of keys at your information centers.

7) When first scheduling an appointment, request a telephone or electronic reminder.

Keep in mind that these symptoms are temporary and even the most conscientious people become forget and disoriented after suffering a major loss.

So be patient with yourself.

And give it time.

6/5/17

surviving space-outs; part 1


This post is about…uh…wait a minute, it’ll come to me…I had it right on the tip of my…oh, yeah - how to survive those times when you can’t remember where you left something or where you intended to go or when you last ate something.

No, this post isn’t about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s about some of the normal symptoms that occur if your spouse/partner has recently died.

Whether it’s misplacing your keys.

Or suddenly realizing you’ve driven to some place you never intended to go.

Being forgetful, absentminded and disoriented are common reactions to the intensity of experiencing a major loss. Even with an expected loss, there’s always some shock to your system, because nobody can really predict how they’ll be affected by a death.

With most deaths, especially unexpected ones, your whole world is often thrown into chaos. In addition to the assault on your thoughts and emotions, there’s also the disruptions in your usual sleeping and eating habits as well as your ability to concentrate.

Try not to panic. Assure yourself and others that memory and concentration problems are temporary symptoms of having lost your partner.

In our next post, we’ll offer some practical techniques for surviving this period.

5/25/17

what widowers experience: part 3





The article by Dr. Michael S. Caserta continues.

Mental health issues.

According to Dr. Caserta,“Bereavement… is more depressing for many widowers because they, quite simply, have more to lose than widows. This is based on the assumption that a man's spouse is often his primary source of social support.

Consequently, although a widower may have been more apt to express his thoughts and feelings to his wife when she was alive, he may be equally unlikely to be so open to others. Widows more frequently use alternative sources of support that can protect them more effectively from potentially adverse effects of the loss and other stressors.”

The author goes on to say, “Many, however, are not drawn to what they believe to be counseling interventions because they often perceive them as services designed primarily for women. Widowers are typically uncomfortable with environments where the open expression of emotion is encouraged because it is not consistent with their preferred way to grieve.

Instead, researchers and practitioners suggest that bereaved men are more suited to active coping mechanisms that may include being engaged in meaningful activities. Programs that primarily feature such activities could have more appeal to widowers. Group walks and outings, for example, can be just as beneficial as traditional support groups because men who participate are able to interact and support one another in these situations and can do so more comfortably. Because the focus is on activity, however, as opposed to support or counseling itself, it is more consistent with many widowers' coping styles and is consequently less threatening. Because widowers use strategies that tend to be more cognitive than emotional in nature, they do well with books and other educational resources that help them help themselves.

Because of the unique problems widowers have assuming new responsibilities, they can benefit from programs that focus on skill-building and self-care education to help them successfully manage those tasks of daily living important to health, functioning, and independence. Issues of greater concern for widowers might include meal planning and preparation, housekeeping, and doing laundry. These programs can focus as well on more general health promotion topics like stress management, health screenings, immunizations, medication management, and physical activity, to name a few, that are equally relevant to widows and widowers but often go ignored or neglected by them given their new situation.”

Read part 1 and part 2.

5/23/17

what widowers experience; part 2



The article by Dr. Micheal S. Caserta continues:


Emotional response

Similar to widows, bereaved husbands experience an array of emotions, such as anger, shock (especially if the death is unexpected), numbness, denial, and profound sadness. Unlike widows, however, grieving men tend to control their emotions (with the possible exception of anger), for instance, by holding back and crying less openly.

Widowers, more often than not, will channel their energy into active coping and problem-solving strategies like work, physical activity, or addressing disruptions in the household. At other times they may prefer to be alone with their thoughts, whether thinking about the circumstances surrounding their wife's death or reflecting on ways to cope with their new situation.

Widowers who experience the same emotions as widows but were raised with the belief that emotional control is a sign of strength often find themselves confronting an inner conflict about how to respond to a loss. The situation may instinctively call for a response that is emotional but the widower may not be socialized to express himself in that way. Adding to this confusion on the part of the widower is an assumption that there is only one way to grieve.

Men usually express their feelings of grief in solitary ways, but this should not be construed as being any less intense than a widow's grief. At the same time, to a varying degree, some widowers express their emotions more openly than others, suggesting that while some responses may be more typical, any one widower's experience can be somewhat unique as well.

Read more in Part 3.

5/22/17

what widowers experience: part 1




This week’s posts are excerpted from an excellent article by Michael S. Caserta, Ph.D. posted on http://www.deathreference.com/.


What Widowers Experience


While women who lose their husbands often speak of feeling abandoned or deserted, widowers tend to express the loss as one of "dismemberment," as if they had lost something that kept them organized and whole.

The Harvard Bereavement Study, a landmark investigation of spousal loss that took place in the Boston area during the late 1960s, reported that widowers often equated the death of their wives with the loss of their primary source of protection, support, and comfort. This went to the very core of their overall sense of well-being. It has been described as "being lost without a compass," usually due to their profound loneliness but also because widowers often depended on their wives for many things like managing the household, caring for their children, and being their only true confidant.

This sense of being lost is more profound when widowers need help but have difficulty obtaining or even asking for it. They also can experience ambiguity about the emotions they are feeling and the uncertainty of how to express them.

Learn more in Part 2.


4/27/17

protect your late partner's identity; part 2


"Protecting the Dead From Identity Theft" by Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam Proof Your Life, continues:
 Ghosting can still cause plenty of angst. So protect yourself by taking these steps after a loved one's death:

In obituaries, list the age but don't include birth date, mother's maiden name or other personal identifiers that could be useful to ID thieves. Omitting the person's address also reduces the likelihood of a home burglary during the funeral (sadly, this does happen).

·  Using certified mail with "return receipt," send copies of the death certificate to each credit-reporting bureau — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — asking them to place a "deceased alert" on the credit report. Mail certificates to banks, insurers, brokerages and credit card and mortgage companies where the deceased held accounts. If you're closing an individual account, make sure the institution lists "Closed: Account Holder Is Deceased" as the reason. For joint accounts, remove the deceased's name.

·  Report the death to Social Security by calling 800-772-1213.

·  Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel the deceased's driver's license, to prevent duplicates from being issued to fraudsters.

·  A few weeks later, check the credit report of the person at annualcreditreport.com to see if there's been any suspicious activity. Several months later, go to the same site to get another free report from a different credit-reporting bureau.

·  For more tips, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center and type "deceased" in the search box.

 Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP Books/Sterling). He writes the Scam Alert column for AARP.

4/24/17

protect your late partner from identity theft; part 1





 
We came across this important article by Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam Proof Your Life, in the AARP Bulletin:

Protecting the Dead From Identity Theft

Identity thieves are sinking to new lows — specifically, six feet under.
Each year they use the identities of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans to fraudulently open credit card accounts, apply for loans and get cellphone or other services, according to fraud prevention firm ID Analytics.

Nearly 800,000 of those deceased are deliberately targeted — roughly 2,200 a day. The identities of the others are used by chance: Crooks make up a Social Security number that happens to match that of someone who has died.

 It's called "ghosting," and because it can take six months for financial institutions, credit-reporting bureaus and the Social Security Administration to receive, share or register death records, the crooks have ample time to rack up charges. Plus, of course, the dead don't monitor their credit — and often, neither do their grieving survivors.

Sometimes, crooks glean personal information from hospitals or funeral homes. More often, the crime begins with thieves trolling through obituaries. With a name, address and birth date in hand, they can illicitly purchase the person's Social Security number on the Internet for as little as $10.

This time of year, criminals may file tax returns under the identities of the dead, collecting refunds (they totaled $5.2 billion in 2011) from the IRS.

 The only good news here is that surviving family members are ultimately not responsible for such charges (or for legitimate debts of the dead if their names are not on the accounts).


Learn what you can do to combat these scams in Part 2

4/6/17

grieving for an ex: part 2

In Part 1 of these modified excerpts from Lost My Partner, we pointed out ways that a normal mourning process can become prolonged or complicated if your former spouse/partner has died.

Here are some suggestions for coping with this difficult and isolating situation:

Are any of your partner’s family or friends more accepting of you? It can be a comfort to share your pain with those who were close to your partner. Reach out to approachable family members or friends.

If you’ve been barred from attending the funeral, consider creating your own memorial gathering.

Let those close to you know what you’re going through. Check for community support groups or online resources.

Consult an attorney or contact your local bar association and the Social Security Administration about your legal rights and survivor benefits. Even once divorced, if your marriage lasted 10 years or more, you may be entitled to your ex-spouse’s social security benefits. Don’t assume you have no rights – investigate!


Remember: it’s not important how others judge your relationship or your grief. What matters most is what your attachment meant to you and your partner. Recall what was special and cherish the bonds that brought you together. Respect your own needs and treat yourself kindly.

4/3/17

grieving for an ex: part 1


In this modified excerpt from our book, Lost My Partner-What’ll I Do? we offer some tips for coping if you are estranged or divorced from your deceased partner.

Despite whatever conflicts occurred, the death of a spouse/partner can be painful.

There are different issues that can affect your mourning process and may not be publicly acknowledged or supported such as:

• How family members reacted to the circumstances of your situation.

• Whether you had access to your partner during the final illness or the circumstances of the death and/or inclusion in funeral/memorial arrangements.

• Legal and financial complications involving property ownership, child custody or survivor benefits.

• Emotional unfinished business, especially any conflict as an aftermath of estrangement/divorce or lack of access to your partner around the time of the death.

• Lack of usual support from former family and/or friends.


In Part 2, we’ll give you ways to cope.

3/30/17

i hate the word "widow"!


As if going through the death of a spouse/partner wasn’t difficult enough, you’re suddenly labeled by everyone as a “widow” as soon as the death occurs.

Unfortunately, there have always been negative stereotypes about what it means to be widowed.

Take these examples from literature:

In order to save face in society, a widow was compelled to announce her loss to the world by her apparel. From Middlemarch by George Eliot: "My dear Celia," said Lady Chettam, "a widow must wear her mourning at least a year.”

Here’s an example of the stereotype of a widowed woman as vulnerable sexual prey from Fantastic-Fables by Ambrose Bierce: ‘A widow weeping on her husband's grave was approached by an Engaging Gentleman who, in a respectful manner, assured her that he had long entertained for her the most tender feelings.’

Until recently (in some cases, it’s still a reality), a widow was left financially destitute by her husband’s death. From the novel, Robin Hood by Walker J. McSpadden: ‘Toward the close of the same day, Rob paused hungry and weary at the cottage of a poor widow who dwelt upon the outskirts of the forest.’

Keep in mind that many of these old stereotypes probably continue to influence how you and others see your changed status. Like all aspects of a new identity, it takes time and baby steps to increase your sense of who you now are and how you want to define yourself.













3/27/17

take the "surprise!" out of anniversary reactions




In our last post, we looked at how to recognize when you’re being ambushed by unexpected anniversary reactions following the death of your spouse/partner.

Now let’s talk about how to cope with these situations.

Anniversary reactions have a way of “sneaking up” and blindsiding us despite our best efforts to avoid them. Even the most subtle sights, sounds, smells, or other reminders can suddenly trigger powerful and often baffling reactions of loss.

Here are some ways to disarm those “sneak attacks”:

A) Take the time to identify what’s touched off your reaction (see our previous post).

B) Give yourself permission to feel the sadness associated with the event you’re remembering.

C) Assure yourself that now that you’re aware of a particular emotional trigger, you can better anticipate it in the future. This will give you greater control in dealing with the situation.

D) Allowing yourself to experience the feelings of loss means you’re taking another step forward in your mourning process.

Keep in mind that although there are always these emotional triggers out there, the pain you feel will become less intense over time.

We’d love to hear about ways you’ve found to cope with anniversary reactions, especially the “sneaky” types.