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.

3/23/17

when anniversary reactions sneak up on you



We've all experienced them: things are going along okay when out of the blue you're suddenly feeling sad or depressed. You can't understand what's hit you. Everything seemed fine and these emotions just don't make sense. Or do they?

Stop and take a minute to ask yourself:

1. Is it the anniversary of a month, day or event that had significance for you or your spouse? While holidays are expected to be difficult, days that represent the "last time" or "our special experience" are just as emotionally loaded and often less obvious as sources of pain.

2.Have you recently revisited places that were special for you or your spouse? Even if it's a different time of year, locations can also trigger feelings of loss.

3. Is the anniversary date/revisit about to come up or just past? One reason these reactions catch us off-guard is because their timing is often unpredictable or unexpected.


We'll discuss ways to cope with anniversary reactions in our next post.

In the meantime, learn more about these experiences.

3/20/17

am I responsible for my spouse’s debts?




In addition to the trauma of your partner’s death, you may also face the burden of his or her financial debts.

Here is some advice from Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com and author of The Credit Card Guidebook:

When is a surviving spouse not responsible for credit card debt?

If a credit card is only in your spouse's name, the debt only belongs to your spouse (there are exceptions to this in community property states). Family members will not be responsible for the debt or forced to pay it. Even if you are a second cardholder on the account who has charging privileges, but it is not a joint account, you are not responsible for the remaining debt.

If the card is only in your spouse's name, the estate is responsible for paying off the balance. The executor of the estate will use the assets to pay off the debts. If the estate doesn't have the money to pay the bill, then credit card companies must write it off and the account is closed.

There are several instances when the surviving spouse is responsible for the credit card debt.If the card is a joint account, this means that your name is also listed on the account and the card is reported on your credit report. You will be responsible for the debt after your spouse dies.

In addition, if you live in a community property state, you could also be responsible for the debt. Assets that are gained together during marriage are classified as joint property in these states.

This can also apply to debt. Debt gained together during marriage is considered joint debt and the surviving spouse is responsible. Rules vary by state. States that use common property laws include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Sometimesthe surviving spouse will only have to pay the debts that he or she benefited from like food, utilities and health care. (read more)

3/16/17

reflections: irish words of wisdom


* May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you're going and the insight to know when you're going too far.


* May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.


* A friend's eye is a good mirror.


*Even a small thorn causes festering.


* When a twig grows hard it is difficult to twist it. Every beginning is weak.


* As you slide down the banisters of life may the splinters never point the wrong way.


* May your troubles be as few and as far apart as my Grandmothers teeth.

3/13/17

widowhood way back when: wakeful irish; part 2



With a nod to St. Patrick’s Day, here is part 1 of an excerpt from the book, Of Irish Ways by Mary Murray Delany. We discovered this on http://www.funeralwise.com/:


Mourning and Merrymaking

Wakes lasted through two or three nights. Food, tobacco, snuff, and liquor were plentiful. Out in the countryside, the liquor served consisted of whiskey or poteen, which is a very potent and illegal Irish homemade brew.

Laughter and singing as well as crying filled the air as mourners shared humorous stories involving the deceased. In addition to this seeming merriment, games were played.

While this may appear to have been disrespectful of the dead, it was not the intention. It is thought that the merrymaking aspects of these wake customs were influenced by the Irish pagan heritage as well as the need to stay awake for such a long period of time. The church frowned upon these activities and tried hard to discourage the people from indulging in them, mostly to no avail.

No emotion was left out of the mourning process. Between the extremes of tears and laughter, heartfelt poetical lamentations and boisterous songs, there were debates. As the mourners gathered round the kitchen table, poteen or whiskey laden tea in hand, it was inevitable that discussions would begin. Often these debates turned heated as one might expect given that the most common topics concerned religion, politics or economics.

Mourners Pay Final Respects

One last opportunity for friends and neighbors to pay respects to the deceased came on the morning of the funeral. The body was placed in a coffin and brought outside the house. There, the open coffin was laid across some chairs, where it remained until time to carry it to the graveyard. Mourners kiss the deceased prior to the lid being placed on the coffin.

The journey to the church and then onto the graveyard was a long and arduous trip. Four of the closest relatives carried the coffin at a quick pace. They would be relieved by four more along the way and so it went until they reached the church. After the service, the procession would continue, again on foot, until reaching the graveside. The coffin was lowered into the grave and the clay, the common soil in Ireland, was shoveled over it. The spade and shovel were laid on top of the new grave in the form of a cross. Prayers were said, bringing the wake and funeral to a close.

Who says funerals have to be dull?

3/9/17

widowhood way back when: wakeful irish; part 1



With a nod to St. Patrick’s Day, here is Part 1 of an excerpt from the book, Of Irish Ways by Mary Murray Delany. We discovered this on http://www.funeralwise.com/:


Part 1
Irish Wakes and Funeral Customs of Old

Until modern times, Irish wake customs ran the gamut from profound grieving to what appeared to be rollicking good fun. This was especially true if the deceased was elderly. This curious mixture borne of a cultural blend of paganism and Christianity survives today in a severely toned-down fashion.

Wakes of times gone by began with neighbor women washing the body of the deceased and preparing it to be laid out on a bed or a table, often in the largest room of the house. The body was covered in white linen adorned with black or white ribbons, flowers for the body of a child. Lighted candles were placed around the body. Clay pipes, tobacco and snuff were also placed in the room. Every male caller was expected to take at least a puff. The smoke kept evil spirits from finding the deceased. Usually, a pipe and tobacco were placed on a table next to the body. Occasionally, a pipe was laid on the chest of the deceased male. Clocks were stopped at the time of death. Mirrors were turned around or covered.

Watching Over the Deceased and Keening

Once the body was prepared, it was never left alone until after burial. Someone, usually a woman, sat in the same room until it was taken away. According to custom, crying couldn’t begin until after the body was prepared lest it attract evil spirits that would take the soul of the departed. However, once the body was properly prepared, the keening began. The Caointhe, the lead keener, was first to lament the deceased. Keeners, especially the Caointhe, recited poetry lamenting the loss of the loved one in addition to crying and wailing. All the women in the house joined in, especially as each new caller arrived to pay his or her respects.

Find out more in Part 2.

3/6/17

too much too soon; part 2

In Part 1, we talked about the period following your spouse/partner’s funeral, when all the attention from well-meaning friends and family can start to feel overwhelming.

When that occurs, try to remember the following tips:

Pace yourself. People will understand that under the circumstances, you need to gage your capabilities on a day-to-day basis.

If you feel the need for quiet or solitude, it’s okay to say so. Let others know you appreciate their company but recent events have left you depleted and you need to take time to retreat.

If others invite you out for a meal or other social occasion, you may be reluctant to decline due to fear of losing more connections in your life. People will understand if you explain that you aren’t sure from one day to the next how you’ll be feeling and will have to let them know closer to the event.

Keep in mind that during this difficult period, your needs and comfort are important! For now, it’s okay to make them your top priority.

Also remember it’s important to have others in your life and not to isolate yourself.

3/2/17

too much too soon; part 1




In the initial weeks following your spouse/partner’s death, you may find yourself swamped by well-meaning family, friends and others anxious to show their caring and support. Phone calls, e-mails and visits can provide a welcome cushion from the shock and pain of your loss.

There may be times however, when all the attention becomes overwhelming.

Keep in mind that others tend to feel helpless when a death occurs. The calls, visits and invitations help them feel less so. You might suggest they help with small chores such as marketing or helping sort paperwork.
Your comfort level, however, is what’s most important, however, so help others to really “be there” for you by gently setting some limits.

Look for tips on how to set limits with others in our next post.