9/28/17

widowhood way back when: manly mourning in victorian times

While widowers had it easier in some ways than widows in Victorian times, they were more strictly constrained in how they expressed their grief.

According to “Widower Etiquette & Social Conventions" by eHow contributor Rachel Levy Sarfin:

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, widowers were expected to adhere to certain social conventions. Widowers had to refrain from attending any entertainment events for a year.

At the same time, men were not expected to mourn deeply for their spouses. Shows of emotion were considered unmanly. Men threw themselves into their work to distract themselves.

Unlike women, men were expected to remarry quickly. A new wife would provide companionship and childcare, if necessary.

Widowers who had not remarried were considered in the same class as bachelors. An unmarried woman could not visit a widower unless one of his female relatives was present. A married woman could visit a widower, as long as she was accompanied by her husband or brother. Callers would leave behind condolence cards, as they would do for any bereaved individual. In return, the widower would send thank-you cards to his callers.

Widowers were also expected to dress in a certain manner. Black was the official color of mourning. While women were expected to buy a new wardrobe in this color, men were not expected to do this. Instead, etiquette dictated that men wear a black armband or hatband. White linen replaced colored linen for the duration of the mourning period. Men never wore crepe, which is a matte fabric traditionally worn by women in mourning.


Aside from having to repress feelings of grief and strong pressure to remarry whether one felt ready or not, being a Victorian widower was certainly easy on the clothes budget.











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.

9/7/17

getting back to work; part 2: your reactions




In Part 1 of this excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we discussed the various ways your coworkers may react to you once you return to work.

We now focus on your own reactions to being on the job following your loss.

- Be prepared for unexpected tears. During the first week at work, there may be moments when you find yourself tearful. This lessens with time, but for now, give yourself permission to retreat to the restroom or other secluded area for a good cry or to compose yourself. Many find giving themselves this release helps relieve the pressure of having to control feelings of grief while at work.

- Be prepared to experience some difficulty with memory and concentration. These are common but temporary grief reactions. While you may feel frustrated and anxious about this change, try to be patient with yourself. It helps to reread and/or go over information or tasks more than once.

- Your boss or coworkers may have unrealistic expectations. Assure them you’re doing your best, and that any slowdown on your part is temporary.

Despite how others may react, it’s important for you to recognize that what is going on is normal and temporary. With time and patience (especially your own), you will regain the capacity you used to have to do your job.

9/4/17

going back to work; part 1: coworkers' reactions



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

Returning to a job after a spouse’s death is a step that tends to be anticipated with eagerness, dread, or both, at different times.

The workplace can seem like a familiar well-ordered refuge where you find many hours of distraction away from your pain.

On the other hand, it can represent the ordeal of work pressures, coworkers’ reactions, and a boss’s unrealistic expectations.

Here are some ways to make it through a work day while you’re grieving:

- While your private world has been drastically changed, your workplace has gone along in its usual way. You may, therefore, initially feel out of sync with the rest of your coworkers.

- Coworkers will look to you for their cues. Others usually feel awkward about expressing feelings or knowing the “right thing” to say. How you respond to the first expressions of sympathy will convey a message to other coworkers about how and if you want to discuss the loss. Some possible responses include: “Thank you. It’s difficult to talk right now – maybe later.” Or “I appreciate your concern.” Remember, the choice is yours.

- Some coworkers may not mention the loss. This can feel hurtful and even insulting. Try to keep in mind that people are often afraid of “reminding” or upsetting a grieving person. Expressing sadness can seem especially threatening in a work setting, where personal distress is supposed to take a back seat to the demands of business.

In Part 2, learn tips for dealing with reactions of your own that may crop up at work