11/26/18

important contacts after your partner’s death




In the overwhelming aftermath of your partner’s death, you may not be aware of some of the many financial and legal institutions that need to be notified. We came across this useful list compiled by Sheri and Bob Stritof on About.com Guide:

Here are some of the places and individuals you need to notify after the death of your spouse. There is no order in who to contact first.

Don't forget notifying extended and distant family members and friends, too. If you are feeling very overwhelmed, you can avoid hurting others' feelings by asking someone else to do this for you.

· Social Security Administration - 1-800-772-1213. Do not cash any checks received for the month in which your spouse died or thereafter. They need to be returned to the SSA. If Social Security benefits were received via direct deposit, you will need to notify your bank also. You also need to check on survivor benefits for both yourself and your children.

· Dept of Veteran Affairs if spouse was in the military for burial and memorial benefits.

· Automobile registration and insurance

· Work related associates

· Insurance policies

· Banks and Credit Unions

· Utility bills

· Credit cards and Loan Companies

· Organization and Church Memberships

· Landlord or Mortgage Company

· Telephone Company if you want your listing changed

11/15/18

widowhood way back when: revolutionary war veteran's benefits






If you were the widow of a revolutionary war veteran, you had better stick around a long, long time if you hoped to collect on your husband’s government pension.

According to the site lineages.com, we discovered the following about those early benefits:


July 24, 1836: Widows were authorized the pension that would have been available to their veteran husbands when they were living, so long as they had married before he left service.

July 7, 1838: Widows who had married Revolutionary War veterans prior to January 1, 1794 were authorized a five-year pension.

July 29, 1848: Widows were authorized a pension for life if they could prove they had married the veteran prior to January 2, 1800.

February 3, 1853: All widows of Revolutionary War veterans, regardless of their date of marriage, were made eligible for a pension.

March 9, 1878: The final Revolutionary War pension act authorized pensions for widows of veterans who had served at least fourteen days or had participated in any engagement.


Imagine being one of the widows who was finally able to collect benefits almost 100 years after the Revolutionary War!

Gives new meaning to the term "May-December Romance", doesn't it?

10/8/18

making sense of anger: part 3: outside targets

In Part 2 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we covered the potentially self-destructive results of turning anger inward.
Here are some common ways that anger about your loss can be focused outward.


“How could God let this happen?”

Some may undergo a religious crisis when their anger is directed at God. In questioning how God could allow your loved one to die, you experience this as a spiritual abandonment.

For more on this, read our posts, Spiritual Comfort, Parts 1 and 2.

Another common target for anger following a death is the medical establishment (doctors, nurses, hospital personnel). While there are certainly situations where anger toward a medical professional is justified, there are times when the real source of upset is the helplessness and frustration that comes with not being able to stop the inevitable from occurring.

In Part 4, we’ll offer tips for coping with anger in constructive ways.

10/4/18

making sense of anger; part 2: when anger turns inward




In Part 1 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we looked at some of the underlying reasons for feeling anger.



It’s important to recognize the some of the ways anger can be misdirected.

“I wish everybody would stop fussing and just leave me alone. What’s the use of going on, if my husband isn’t here?”

When anger is turned inward it can take the form of depression or even suicidal feelings.

If this is happening to you, talk over your feelings with your doctor, religious advisor or a mental health professional right away. If you are seriously thinking about taking your own life, tell someone immediately!

Call the Operator to reach your local suicide hotline or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org).

Remember: You are important! Get the help you need.



In Part 3, we’ll talk about ways your anger may be directed toward outside sources.

10/1/18

making sense of anger ; part 1: facing this reaction

 

When a spouse/partner dies, it’s common to feel some anger. You may not recognize it, but it’s usually there. Anger, however, may feel especially uncomfortable when it occurs around a death. Many people feel guilty or uneasy about acknowledging the anger.

“How can you be angry with someone for dying? After all, it’s not like my partner wanted to die.”

Although anger is a natural reaction to having lost your spouse, it may be easier to deal with it, if you give yourself permission to be angry that the loss happened. For example,

“It’s so unfair that this had to happen to us!”

Sometimes anger can cover up other, more difficult feelings, such as:

- ABANDONMENT: “Why did she have to die and leave me? I always thought I’d be the first to go.” Or “Where are you when I need you?”

- HELPLESSNESS: “I took such good care of her, but she died anyway.” Or “I begged him to stop smoking/lose weight, but he just wouldn’t listen!”

These reactions are understandable, if you keep in mind that death creates the ultimate experience of abandonment and helplessness.


More in Part 2.

9/13/18

young, widowed and isolated; part 2



In Part 1 of this topic, we looked at how isolated and different you can feel by not having anyone your own age who can truly understand your bereavement experience.

Here are some useful tips for coping:

- Although your friends may not be able to relate emotionally to what you’re going through, they can help in other ways. Try suggesting some specific tasks or chores they can assist with.

- Check out online resources, such as GriefNet.org, for specialized support groups for young widowed (GriefNet’s online groups are monitored by a clinical psychologist). The Dougy Centers (dougy.org), while offering groups for children, also provide or can refer you to groups for the young widowed.

- Be sure to look for “widowed” groups, which are specifically for those who have lost a spouse/partner. “Bereavement” groups usually include those who have suffered other types of loss, such as a parent or child.

- Don’t reject a widowed group with older people. Even with age differences, members can have some useful perspectives to offer.

- Check your local newspaper community listings for widowed groups in your area. Or contact the Social Services Department of your local hospital/hospices for referrals.

REMEMBER: Give yourself lots of time to process everything that’s hit you.

9/10/18

young, widowed and isolated: part 1



You’re still young and your spouse/partner has died.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Not so soon.

Not when your dreams and plans for the future were based on the assumption there would be many more years ahead.

Suddenly you have to juggle financial issues.

And, if you’re a parent, your children’s emotional and physical needs.

On top of all that, being widowed young can leave you feeling isolated and different.

That’s because:

a) Odds are, none of your friends or most people your age can relate to what you’re now going through. Those who have been divorced may tell you they can understand the pain and anxiety you’re experiencing, but they don’t realize there’s a big difference between losing a partner to divorce and having a partner die. Death is final. Their former partner is still alive somewhere.

b) There’s the expectation from others (and maybe yourself), that because your loss has occurred early in life, you can bounce back more quickly than an older survivor. This may result in well-meaning family and friends urging you to “get on with your life” and pressure you about dating before you’re ready.

In Part 2, we’ll offer six proven tips for handling the problem of isolation.

8/30/18

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.











8/2/18

are support groups the right step for you?




A widowed support group can be a wonderful place to meet others who are in the same boat and experiencing feelings similar to yours. Through listening to others you can feel less alone. A support group is also a safe place to talk about those things that would feel like a burden if shared with family or friends.

You may, however, be hesitant to join a group. Like many people, you may be wondering:

How can I listen to other people’s problems when I have enough of my own?

I’m not sure I can talk about such personal feelings in front of strangers.

Won’t everyone be crying all the time?

What if I break down and start crying in front of everyone?

Keep in mind the following:

1) After hearing others share their experiences, you’ll probably become more comfortable talking about your own.

2) Any well-run group observes confidentiality rules that ask all members not to reveal what is said in the group to outsiders. If this is not the case, be sure to suggest it.

3) As hard as it is to believe, there are usually more moments of mutual laughter than tears in a widowed group.

4) Many people are either embarrassed if they cry or worry about how it will look if they don’t. Once you’ve had time to get comfortable in a group, you’ll be reassured by the understanding and compassion of other group members.

It’s important to hold off joining a support group until you’re able to share and listen to others without becoming too distressed or overwhelmed.

In our next post, we’ll look at how to select a support group that’s right for you.

7/30/18

patience: easier said than done


It’s difficult to “be patient” while the pain of your loss feels so intense. But the saying, “time heals” is actually true.


We live in a culture of instant gratification, where we’ve come to expect results literally within moments. Unfortunately, this makes it even more difficult to tolerate the natural process of mourning. Keep in mind that historically and in nearly all cultures, the death of a partner has been recognized as a lengthy (usually a year) period in which to give the survivor the necessary time to go through a range of normal and necessary reactions.

It can also be hard to tolerate the unpredictability of the experience.

As we discuss in Part 1 of our 3 posts, When Will This Be Over?:

“The mourning process is often described as feeling as though you’re stuck on a roller-coaster.

Nobody chooses this ride, but once it starts, you have to hold on tight and trust you’ll eventually be back on solid ground. The first few dips can be unsettling, and just when the track straightens out and you think you can finally relax, there may be a few more dips before you get to the finish.” 
(Read more)

It helps to remind yourself how far you’ve come since the beginning. Give yourself a pat on the back for the progress you have made.

Please share with us your own tips for coping with impatience.


7/23/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 3








In Part 2, we covered many of the feelings your child or teen may not be able to express in words.

In this continuing excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, we go on to discuss the impact of the loss on your child:

It’s important to realize that since your spouse/partner’s death, your child’s world has been impacted in a number of ways:

a) Children and teens expect their parents to always be there.

b) Due to your own grieving, you’re often emotionally unavailable to them.

c) Your child may be afraid of showing distress out of fear of further distressing you.

d) Children and teens often feel that their peers and some adults treat them differently because of the death. Others can, in fact, be uncertain how to react to grieving children and teens under these circumstances.

Your child needs you to help find the words to express the pain.

Make the time to ask your child his or her views about what has happened.

Listen to his or her thoughts about death. Correct false thinking but be sure to listen and give them an opportunity to ask questions. It’s important to give clear, truthful answers about what happened.

Trusted family and neighbors can be invaluable at a time when you’re so overwhelmed by taking on some of your childcare responsibilities.


IMPORTANT: Do not create the expectation that your child or teen has to take the place of your spouse in any way. This is especially important with older children and teens, who are often able to assume chores like cooking, housework, or driving.

Check out our post, Online Support for Grieving Kids and Teens for helpful resources.

7/19/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 2





In the first part of three excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, we talked about how children and teens demonstrate their grief differently than adults do.

Keep in mind that like you, children and teens mourn in their own unique ways. Some of the feelings he/or she may be experiencing but are unable to put into words include:

1) Fear of abandonment (“Who’s going to take care of me now that Mommy’s not here?”)

2) Guilt and/or remorse (“It’s my fault Dad’s dead. We had a really horrible fight the night before and he got so stressed it killed him.”)

3) Anger (“Why me? Why did I have to be the one to lose my mom? All of my friends still have their moms!”)

4) Anxiety (“I’m scared in my room, Mommy. Can’t I sleep in your bed?”)

5) Depression (“I don’t feel like playing with anybody. I’m too sad.”)

6) Longing for the deceased parent. This reflects the unreal aspect of death for children (“Who just called on the phone? I’ll bet it was Mommy calling to tell us she’s coming back!”)

7) A sense of feeling “crazy” (“Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna just freak out and start screaming at the whole world.”)

8) A sense of shame (“I’m different now and not like the other kids.”)

9) Feelings of helplessness (“Now that Dad’s gone, how will I ever learn to drive?”)

In Part 3, we’ll look at how loss has impacted your child’s world and the best ways to be supportive.

7/16/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 1



Excerpted from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition (McCormick Press, 2008), this is the first in a three part series on understanding your child’s reactions to your spouse/partner’s death.


“As far as I can tell, my daughter’s handling things pretty well since her father died. Apart from some tears and a few questions, she seems to be her usual happy-go-lucky self. I have noticed she’s wetting the bed again, though, but don’t all kids do that sort of thing sometimes? Anyway, with everything else going on, I’m just too overwhelmed to pay much attention to that sort of thing right now.”

“My son spends most of his time holed up alone in his room with earphones on while he sits glued to his computer. I’ve tried a few times to talk to him about the loss, but he just ignores me. I’m ready to give up.”

Children and teenagers don’t necessarily express grief in the same ways adults do. They may act as if nothing has happened and yet be deeply affected. While you’re caught up in the pain and upheaval of your own grief, it may be harder to understand or have patience for your child’s reactions.

For you, the mourning process is at first very intense with the loss being felt almost constantly. For your child or teen, mourning tends to come and go. This can create the impression that your child is either over the loss quickly or perhaps feels it less strongly than you do.

That isn’t true.

Remember that while adults can tell others what they’re feeling, children and teens usually chow their reactions in their behavior. Any changes or different behavior may be his or her way of expressing feelings of loss.

In Part 2, we look at some of the common reactions that your child or teen may be experiencing but is unable to put into words.

7/12/18

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 2



In Part 2 of this excerpt from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, we provide some ways to cope with the often conflicting emotions that can arise when your late partner has died due to his or her decisions.


It's important to keep in mind that your partner exercised a choice and ultimately was the only one to have the power to act on that choice.

Because it’s common for family members to blame the surviving partner for either contributing to or not preventing the death, it’s helpful to talk through your reactions with supportive people outside your family.

Due to some of the above issues, your mourning experience may be more complicated. Try to trust your own instincts about what is right for you and seek supportive counseling to help sort through possibly conflicting and confusing feelings about your loss.

7/9/18

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 1





“No matter how many times the doctor warned him, and I begged, threatened, and tried to help, he still ignored us.”


If your partner’s death occurred as an apparent result of not following medical advice and/or complying with treatment or by substance abuse, it can seem that he/she chose to die. While the term “suicide” is generally applied to a sudden act that results in death, these situations can seem like a form of slow suicide.

After what may have been years of frustration as you tried your best to control your partner’s self-destructive behavior, he/she died anyway. As a consequence, you may see yourself as not having been valuable or powerful enough to stop your partner’s downward spiral.

You may also feel “relieved” that a painful and oppressive relationship has ended, but guilty about expressing this, especially around family and friends, who may see your reactions as “disloyal” towards your late partner.

In Part 2, we'll offer tips on how to cope with these concerns.

7/5/18

how to cope with the usual at an unusual time



Daily life is full of things that go wrong or break down.

The refrigerator goes on the blink.

The car needs new brakes.

Or the plumbing creates a disaster.

Some of these problems may have been neglected during your late spouse/partner’s illness, but now demand your attention. Having to deal with these headaches while you’re grieving can feel overwhelming. Before you give up in despair, try these strategies:

1)Prioritize. Which tasks are most urgent? What can wait a while?
2)Get support. Although you may be very capable under normal circumstances, this is not a “normal” time for you. For now, it’s okay to ask family, friends and neighbors for assistance.
3)Give yourself permission to make a mistake. If you later find that you didn’t make the best decision to solve a problem, be kind to yourself.

Remind yourself that you’re going through one of life’s most stressful experiences. At least you did something to handle a problem.

Remember: For now, your usual coping abilities are not working as they used to. This is only temporary! You will get better.

6/14/18

making it through father's day


Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day can be difficult, especially during the first year after your loss.

But Father’s Day can stir up the pain of your loss even once you’ve made it through that first year. In addition to the memories of your late spouse/partner, the occasion may also remind you of your own deceased parent(s). Children and grandchildren may also ask about your spouse/partner and have difficulty understanding why he’s not here to celebrate.

Rather than ignore the occasion and/or brushing off children’s questions, consider:

a) Acknowledging your loss by talking about your spouse with other family members. This gives others, especially children, the cue that it’s okay to remember and share feelings of sadness about a loved one.

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

c) Visiting the cemetery or other places of remembrance on or close to Father’s Day.

d) If there is a family gathering, make some time to share fond or funny memories of your spouse/partner.

The feelings this holiday stirs up won’t just go away. It’s best to acknowledge the occasion, even briefly, especially with children. Otherwise, the emotions you try to push down and avoid will just come up another time. Probably when you least expect them.

6/11/18

how past losses can kick in now; part 2


In our previous post, we looked at some of ways that old losses can complicate how you mourn the death of your spouse/partner.

To become more aware of the confusing, hidden influence of past losses, ask yourself the following:

1) What other significant losses have I experienced in my life? Your relationship to that loved one is what counts here. Not whether you were “related” or not.

2) How did my family react to major losses? Were we able to talk about what had happened and express feelings of loss or was the whole thing “hushed up”?

3) Do I want to mourn in a way that’s different from what I learned in my family?

4) Have I truly allowed myself sufficient time to mourn past losses? If not, is there some emotional “unfinished business” I still need to address when I’m feeling up to it?

5) Are there aspects of my current loss that stir up similar reactions to my prior loss/es?

By considering how past losses influence your current mourning, you may be able to better understand and defuse some of the distress you’re currently experiencing.

Keep in mind that the more you do the “work” of mourning, the more quickly you’ll truly be able to move forward.

And don’t forget that every tear counts.

6/7/18

how past losses can kick in now; part 1



As you struggle through the recent death of your spouse/partner, there may be other losses hovering in the background, influencing your current mourning process. Former losses can include the death of a parent/s or anyone else significant in your life.

So what? you may ask. That loss is over and done with. Why should I think about it now?

Because those past losses can now affect you in the following ways:

- The length of time it takes you to mourn his or her death.

- Your experience of puzzling or frightening reactions that don’t seem connected to your current loss.

- How complicated the mourning process for your partner becomes.

Why does this happen?

Previous deaths shape and influence how you now mourn because:

1) The ways you’ve observed family members mourn a past death has given you (rightly or wrongly), a blueprint of how to grieve. Was it important in your family and/or culture to appear “strong” and unemotional?

2) How did you yourself mourn those earlier losses? Was your grieving process cut short by circumstances or your own attempts to “get over it” too quickly?

3) If a prior death occurred recently, you may feel too overwhelmed by the additional trauma of your current loss to adequately mourn either death.

By becoming aware of these hidden issues, you'll gain more confidence over some of the puzzling reactions that may be complicating your ability to mourn for your partner.

In our next post, we’ll look at some important questions you should ask yourself to better understand the impact of past losses on the here and now.

5/31/18

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.

5/28/18

resources for military survivors




Some years years ago, I was privileged to spend Memorial Day Weekend attend an annual TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp for kids. TAPS stands for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a fantastic support and resource organization founded in 1994 by Bonnie Carroll, who was herself in the military.

I was tremendously impressed by the humility and courage of the widowed spouses/partners and families of our troops and the struggles they encountered dealing with their losses. Visit the TAPS website, taps.org, which offers 24/7 support and information for military survivors and their families. There's both peer and professional support for adults, teens and children.

Also be sure to check out GriefNet.org, which offers specialized online support for military spouse/partners and their families. The site also offers a wide range of other specialized online support groups.

Ruth and I send caring thoughts and our best wishes to all military families, whether they've lost a loved one, have a family member in active duty, or have a veteran in the family.




5/24/18

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.

5/17/18

supportive sites for widowed moms



With Mother’s Day being celebrated this month, we want to remind you of some supportive sites for moms and their kids.

Here are some great online sources of emotional support for grieving children and teens. Be sure to check these out before suggesting them to your child.

The Dougy Center for Grieving Children & Families (www.dougy.org): Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, this excellent organization offers special online activity and advice pages for all ages. The knowledgeable staff can also help you find local support groups for everyone in the family. They also offer books and dvds on how to help children and teens cope with loss.

(Phone toll free: 1-866-775-5683 )

KIDSAID (www.kidsaid.com): An offspring of one of our favorite sites, GriefNet.org, this site offers kids-to-kids e-mail support groups where they can share stories and artwork with each other.

Once you give your permission, these groups (one for under age 12 and one for ages 13-18) are available to your child and monitored by a clinical psychologist. There are also Q&A pages for kids and adults.

Consider also checking online for family bereavement services in your community. You might also contact the social services department at your local hospital for local resources. 

4/19/18

coping with the loss of closeness when your spouse/partner dies



We came across this post on the Open to Hope Foundation Network’s site for the death of a spouse. This personal account by thegriefblog.com contributing author Beverly McManus has good suggestions about being kind to yourself at a time when you’re feeling deprived.


“I Need a Hug” – Coping with Loss of Intimacy After the Death of Your Spouse


Yes, I missed Steve’s voice, his laugh, his footsteps on the stairs, and even his snoring. But after he died, I was unprepared for the depth of how much I missed his physical intimacy — the simple human touches we shared almost unconsciously through 20 years of marriage:

…casually brushing against each other as we passed each other in our home.

…the little pats that said, “I hear you.”

…friendly nudges and teasing light pinches.

…ongoing hugs.

…running my fingers through his hair, and vice versa.

…dancing around the kitchen as we cooked together.

…the short good morning kisses, and the longer kisses we shared when we greeted each other after an absence.

…and, oh, yes, the more private intimacy between husband and wife.

These were all now a thing of the past. With one daughter away at college and the other totally involved in her final years of high school, it seemed like sometimes many weeks would pass between me touching someone or having them touch me.

In my pain and initial numbness, I didn’t even know how much I missed this very human need until I was at my hairdresser’s. As Ilya gently shampooed my hair, and tenderly rinsed out the suds, tears came to my eyes as I realized it was the first time anyone had really touched me since Steve died. I realized how shattered I’d been feeling, and how good and human it felt to be touched in a personal way.

New in bereavement, I was of course no where close to developing a new relationship in which the physical touch I’d once shared with Steve would be shared with another. At that point, six years ago, I couldn’t even imagine ever being with anyone else, let along wanting the physical closeness and intimacy that is part of a healthy relationship.

But my experience at the hairdresser’s told me that I not only wanted, but actually needed, to build in some opportunities for sharing human touch. I began to consider some options, and discussed this topic with friends, one of whom jokingly suggested getting a paid escort! Of course, for me that was out of the question, but it did make me realize that there is an entire profession devoted to therapeutic human touch: professional massage therapists.

One of my friends actually treated me to my first session with a lovely massage therapist who seemed to have magic hands, and along with them, a tender, compassionate heart. After the first session, I realized that this was incredibly beneficial and should not be viewed as a luxury, but rather, as a really good way to take care of myself, just as I viewed my regular visits to the hairdresser or dentist.

As she massaged my tense and overworked body, Laura really seemed to help me free up some of the energy I’d been holding, that had been causing knee pain and neck aches. She also very gently encouraged me to open up some of the feelings I’d been holding so tightly, and each week I felt myself getting stronger and more hopeful. I continued my weekly appointments for more than three years, and treated our time together as a sacred “Sorry, this is an important appointment I can’t reschedule” occasion, because otherwise work pressures would have made me miss many of the sessions.

As she worked with my muscles and physical body, Laura also tended to my broken heart and soul, listening with care as over the weeks I explored who I was in my new life without Steve. She helped me process the empty nest I was facing with the high school graduation and departure for college of my youngest daughter. She held me as I grieved the illness and death of my dear aunt, and then shortly thereafter, the loss of my sweet mother. The massages and intense physical touch each week gave me energy and made me feel like a human being again.

What I’ve discovered:
I realized that I didn’t need to limit myself to weekly massages in order to meet my needs for human touch. I consciously began to become a “hugger,” you know, those friends who hug you every time you see them. I found that as I gave a hug, more often than not, I’d receive one too. Ahhhhhh… Heaven. To be held and hugged!

I’m now famous for my hugs - and as often as I can, I encourage others to reach out and hug someone nearby. I was thrilled to see an international hugging movement, in which volunteers stood on street corners holding signs offering “Free Hugs”. What a marvelous gift to give others, one that doesn’t require gift wrap, or to be dusted or stored!

And after my three-plus years under Laura’s tender ministrations ended, I discovered that I could visit local organic grocery stores for impromptu chair massages, where for a very reasonable fee, a massage therapist would iron out the kinks in my back and neck for 20 or so minutes, leaving me feeling refreshed, and yes, touched.

At this point, six years since Steve’s death, I’m gradually yet surely transitioning from the label as “widow” into one as “strong woman who is looking forward to being in a relationship again, at some point in the future.” Yes, for the first time in 26 years, I’m beginning to feel “single” again.

What the future holds is uncertain, yet I am enthusiastically embracing the possibility that once again, I will at some point share my life — and my physical touch — with someone I love, and who loves me.
How have you coped with the loss of physical touch and intimacy after the death of your spouse? What challenges have you faced? What solutions can you share with others? We’d love to hear about your experiences.


Beverly Chantalle McManus lives in Northern California with her two daughters, who have each now graduated from college. She is a bereavement facilitator and core team member of the Stepping Stones on your Grief Journey Workshops, and a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of loss and grief. In addition to grief support, she is also a marketing executive for professional services firms.

4/5/18

reluctant to visit the gravesite?


Have you found yourself reluctant to visit your late spouse/partner’s grave since the funeral?

If so, do you find you just can’t bring yourself to go? Even when family and friends offer to accompany you?

Is there guilt because this ritual is one a widowed partner is "supposed to observe"?

Actually, there are no rules about this. Although some faiths mark the end of the first year of mourning by observing a memorial for the deceased, visiting the gravesite is otherwise a very personal choice.

While some people find regular visits comforting, others find it too upsetting and choose not to visit. Some visit only on special occasions or holidays.

As with all other aspects of mourning, you should trust your own sense of what feels right for you.

What are your thoughts about this?

3/22/18

grave matters

The decision about when to visit your late spouse/partner’s gravesite can be a difficult one.

Many widowed hesitate to take this step. Some of the reasons may include:

• a wish to avoid additional pain.

• ambivalent feelings about the relationship with the deceased.

• the possibility of other losses being stirred up (other loved ones may be buried nearby).


If you are feeling uncertain about visiting the cemetery, consider the following from our post Reluctant to Visit the Gravesite?:

Have you visited your late spouse/partner’s grave since the funeral?

If not, do you find you just can’t bring yourself to go? Even when family and friends offer to accompany you?

Is there guilt because this ritual is one a widowed partner is “supposed to observe”?


Actually, there are no rules about this. Although some faiths mark the end of the first year of mourning by observing a memorial for the deceased, visiting the gravesite is otherwise a very personal choice.

(Read more)

3/19/18

lost your appetite since losing your spouse/partner?



Feel like nothing will ever taste good again?

Wish people would stop nagging you to eat when you just don't feel hungry?

If your spouse/partner has recently died, you probably haven't felt much like eating. It's not uncommon to feel a loss of appetite in the first month or so after a death, when your body as well as your mind is in a state of shock. Keep in mind that your appetite should slowly begin to return with time. In any case, always make sure your doctor knows about your recent loss and any prolonged problems you have with your appetite.

We came across the following article (excerpted here) and a slideshow on WebMD. Though not specifically about bereavement, they offer helpful information about coping with appetite loss due to depression and general stress:

Dietary changes can bring about changes in your brain structure, both chemically and physiologically. Those changes can improve mood and mental outlook. Here are 10 tips for eating if you or a loved one is recovering from clinical depression.


1. Eat a diet high in nutrients
Nutrients in foods support the body's repair, growth, and wellness. Nutrients we all need include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and even a small amount of fat. A deficiency in any of these nutrients lead to our bodies not working at full capacity – and can even cause illness.

2. Fill your plate with essential antioxidants
Damaging molecules called free radicals are produced in our bodies during normal body functions – and these free radicals contribute to aging and dysfunction. Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E combat the effects of free radicals. Antioxidants have been shown to tie up these free radicals and take away their destructive power.

Studies show that the brain is particularly at risk for free radical damage. Although there’s no way to stop free radicals completely, we can reduce their destructive effect on the body by eating foods high in powerful antioxidants, including:

Sources of beta-carotene: apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato.
Sources of vitamin C: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato.
Sources of vitamin E: margarine, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, wheat germ.

3. Eat “smart” carbs for a calming effect
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is linked to the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin. We know that eating foods high in carbohydrates (breads, cereal, pasta) raises the level of serotonin in the brain. When serotonin levels rise, we feel a calming effect with less anxiety.
So don’t shun carbs – just make smart choices. Limit sugary foods and opt for smart carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, which all contribute healthy carbs as well as fiber.

4. Eat protein-rich foods to boost alertness
Foods rich in protein, like turkey, tuna, or chicken, are rich in an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine boosts levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. This boost helps you feel alert and makes it easier to concentrate. Try to include a protein source in your diet several times a day, especially when you need to clear your mind and boost your energy.

Good sources of protein foods that boost alertness: beans and peas, lean beef, low-fat cheese, fish, milk, poultry, soy products, yogurt.

5. Eat a Mediterranean-type diet
The Mediterranean diet is a balanced, healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and fish. All of these are important sources of nutrients linked to preventing depression.

A recent Spanish study, using data from 4,211 men and 5,459 women, found that rates of depression tended to increase in men -- especially smokers -- as folate intake decreased. The same increase occurred for women -- especially those who smoked or were physically active -- but with a decreased intake of another B-vitamin: B12. This wasn't the first study to discover an association between these two vitamins and depression. Researchers wonder whether poor nutrient intake leads to depression or whether depression leads people to eat a poor diet.

Folate is found in Mediterranean diet staples like legumes, nuts, many fruits, and particularly dark green vegetables. B12 can be found in all lean and low-fat animal products, such as fish and low-fat dairy products.

6. Get plenty of vitamin D
Vitamin D increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Researchers, though, are unsure how much vitamin D is ideal. There are individual differences based on where you live, the time of year, your skin type, and your level of sun exposure. Researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who were suffering from depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to improve as their levels of vitamin D in the body increased over the normal course of a year. The recommendation is to try to get about 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day from food if possible.

7. Select selenium-rich foods
Selenium is a mineral that is essential to good health. In a small study from Texas Tech University, supplementation of 200 micrograms a day for seven weeks improved mild and moderate depression in 16 elderly participants. Other studies have also reported an association between low selenium intakes and poorer moods.

It is possible to take in too much selenium so that it becomes toxic. But this is unlikely if you're getting it from foods rather than supplements, and it can't hurt to make sure you're eating foods that help you meet the recommended intake for selenium, which is 55 micrograms a day. The good news is that foods rich in selenium are foods we should be eating anyway. They include:

Beans and legumes
Lean meat (lean pork and beef, skinless chicken and turkey)
Low-fat dairy products
Nuts and seeds (particularly brazil nuts)
Seafood (oysters, clams, sardines, crab, saltwater fish, and freshwater fish)
Whole grains (whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)

8. Include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet
We know that omega-3 fatty acids have innumerable health benefits. Recently, scientists have revealed that a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with depression. In one study, researchers determined that societies that eat a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids have a higher prevalence of major depressive disorder than societies that get ample omega-3 fatty acids. Other epidemiological studies show that people who infrequently eat fish, which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, are more likely to suffer from depression.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids: fatty fish (anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shad, and tuna), flaxseed, and nuts. Sources alpha-linolenic acid (another type of omega-3 fatty acid): flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.