5/29/17

another great website for the military widowed



While we continue to recommend T.A.P.S. ( Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors; taps.org) , we also want to tell you about another site that offers support to the military widowed and their families.

American Widow Project (http://www.americanwidowproject.org/), was started by Taryn Davis, a young military widow, following her husband’s death.

According to the site, “The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to the new generation of those who have lost the heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow, with an emphasis on healing through sharing stories, tears and laughter...Military Widow to Military Widow.”

In addition to a subscription newsletter, the site offers a hotline staffed by other military widows as well as various scheduled “get-aways” and events.

There are also a blog and a resources page.

Check the site out and let us know what you think.

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.


5/18/17

now that i'm sick, where are you? part 2


In our previous post, we looked at how feelings of abandonment, anger, depression and anxiety can arise when you find yourself struggling through an illness without your spouse/partner being there for you.

The best ways to cope with these situations include:

a) Recognizing what is actually triggering these emotions.

b) Calling on family, friends or neighbors to stop by (just having someone in the house can be comforting), or run errands for you.

c) Reminding yourself, if you’re uncomfortable asking for help, that you would help others if they were in a similar situation.

d) Contacting the medical social services department at your local hospital for assistance in finding resources, such as support groups, home health aides, or other services.
Remember: you’ve developed coping skills during and after your spouse’s death and can now draw on them to make it through this period.

NOTE: Because your spouse’s death has left you more physically vulnerable, it’s important to let your doctor know about your loss. Some pre-existing medical conditions may be affected by the stress of recent circumstances.

5/15/17

now that i'm sick, where are you? part 1


The first couple of years following the death of your spouse/partner are, statistically speaking, likely to leave you more vulnerable to illness.

When illness does strike, whether it’s a common cold or something more serious, it can stir up an emotional reaction as well. Whatever comfort and support your partner once offered is no longer available to you.

You may find yourself saying:

“Why aren’t you here when I need you?” or “I took care of you but you’re not here to take care of me!”
It’s normal to feel abandoned, angry, depressed and/or anxious under the circumstances.

In our next post, we’ll give you the best ways to cope with these situations.

5/11/17

widowhood way back when: whistler’s mom






Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother, famous under its colloquial name Whistler's Mother, is an 1871 oil-on-canvas painting by American-born painter James McNeill Whistler. Now owned by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, it occasionally tours worldwide.

Anna McNeill Whistler posed for the painting while living in London with her son. Several unverifiable stories surround the making of the painting itself; one is that Anna Whistler acted as a replacement for another model who couldn't make the appointment. Another is that Whistler originally envisioned painting the model standing up, but that his mother was too uncomfortable to pose standing for an extended period.

The work was shown at the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art in London (1872), but first came within a hair's breadth of rejection by the Academy. This episode worsened the rift between Whistler and the British art world; Arrangement would be the last painting he would submit for the Academy's approval.

The sensibilities of a Victorian era viewing audience would not accept what was apparently a portrait being exhibited as a mere "arrangement"; thus the explanatory title "Portrait of the Artist's Mother" was appended. It was from this that the work acquired its
popular name.

Whistler would eventually pawn the painting, which was acquired in 1891 by Paris' Musée du Luxembourg. As a proponent of "art for art’s sake", Whistler professed to be perplexed and annoyed by the insistence of others upon viewing his work as a "portrait."

In his 1890 book The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, he writes: "Take the picture of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an 'Arrangement in Grey and Black.' Now that is what it is. To me it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public to care about the identity of the portrait?"

Given this outlook, whatever the level of affection Whistler may have felt for his own mother, one finds an even more divergent use of the image in the Victorian era and later, especially in the United States, as an icon for motherhood, affection for parents, and "family values" in general.

For example, in 1934 the U.S. Post office issued a stamp engraved with a stylized image of "Whistler's Mother," accompanied by the slogan "In Memory and In Honor of the Mothers of America."

Later the public's interpretation of the symbolism of the painting went even farther afield, and it appeared in a myriad of commercial advertisements and parodies, such as doctored images of the subject watching a television, sometimes accompanied by slogans such as "Whistler's Mother is Off Her Rocker."


Now, is that any way to talk about a mother?

5/8/17

making it through mother's day - this year



Holidays like Mother’s Day can be difficult, especially during the first year after your loss. Gift items and cards are advertised everywhere, bittersweet reminders of happier family times.

Mother’s Day may stir up the pain of loss for you, your children and/or grandchildren. If you’ve lost your spouse/partner, it may also remind you of your own deceased parent(s).

Children in particular can feel left out and troubled while others around them celebrate the occasion.

Here are some tips for helping your family cope:

a. Acknowledge your own feelings of loss by talking about how you miss your spouse/partner or parent. When children see you sad or tearful it lets them know their own feelings are normal.

b. Have younger children create “remembering” cards, with photos or drawings of special memories about their parent or grandparent.

c. You may find it comforting to visit the cemetery or other place of remembrance.

d. If there is a family gathering, make some time to share fond or funny memories of your loved one.

The feelings Mother’s Day stirs up won’t just go away. It’s best to acknowledge the occasions, even briefly, especially with children. Otherwise, these emotions will come up another time.

5/4/17

your mom's worrisome reactions: part 2


(Part 2 is a continued excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition)


“We’re really worried about Mom. She keeps telling us she’s fine, that she’s always been the 'independent type' and doesn’t need any help. But we can all see how the strain is affecting her. It’s so frustrating the way she keeps rejecting our help.”

Many people who normally pride themselves on their self-sufficiency find it especially hard to let others help, even under these circumstances.

Try suggesting specific tasks you’d like to help with, citing your own interest in or skills with the problem. It’s okay to say, “We know you can handle that, but for now, we find it comforting to take care of it (the task) instead.”



“It’s been almost two years since Dad died, and Mom just can’t seem to pull herself together. She almost never leaves the house anymore and refuses to join any family activities.”

Keeping in mind that each person grieves in his or her own way and at their own speed, your parent may be experiencing major depression as well as going through bereavement. Suggest he/she talk to a trusted doctor or clergyperson, who can, if needed, refer your parent to a mental health professional.

5/1/17

your mom’s worrisome reactions; part 1




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

“Since Dad died, Mom has acted like she could care less. She hardly shows any sadness and is going to all her usual activities. I don’t understand this. My folks were married a long time. I thought she loved my dad. What’s going on?”

The lack of obvious emotion in a surviving parent can be upsetting and confusing.

Some people, especially men, don’t show sadness or tears because of family and/or cultural pressures to “be strong” and hide these emotions.

Also, while it may look like mom or dad is indifferent to what has occurred, keep in mind that all marriages have conflicts and issues that children, even when adults, are not aware of. In cases where a marriage was conflicted, one partner felt oppressed by the other, or there was a lengthy, difficult disease, the survivor often feels relief or liberated when death occurs.

While your parent may seem disloyal, remember that you don’t know all the facts.

More in Part 2.