10/18/18

haunting symptoms; part 2: feeling your deceased partner’s presence


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

“Last night I suddenly woke up and was sure I could feel my husband lying there next to me, just like always. It was so reassuring that I was afraid to turn and look, in case it was all in my imagination.”

Many people report finding solace in having “conversations” with their deceased spouse/partner.

When you’ve lived with another person for a long time, their presence becomes a part of your physical landscape. Each room holds associations and memories of that person.

It’s not uncommon then, to experience a sense of your spouse/partner’s presence from time to time.

It can give you a comforting sense of connection to your partner in the early period after his or her death. It usually goes away with time.

Share your own experiences with us.

10/15/18

haunting symptoms; part 1: hallucinations




We’re not talking about the paranormal here.

We’re talking about the normal symptoms of hallucinations and/or a sense of your late partner’s presence that are a common reaction to losing a loved one.

Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, Parts 1 and 2 explain more about these sometimes comforting, sometimes worrying symptoms of the mourning process.

Hallucinations


“I was in the kitchen one day shortly after my wife died, when suddenly, I thought I smelled her perfume. There wasn’t a perfume bottle anywhere nearby, but the fragrance came to me very distinctly.”

Because bereavement is such an intense emotional experience, it’s normal for your senses to occasionally play tricks on you.

Many people report hearing, smelling, or even seeing their deceased spouse/partner. For most of you, this experience can be very comforting.

Sometimes, however, hallucinations continue to occur long after a loss or reflect images not related to your partner. Overmedication or drug interaction could be a possible cause. It’s important to check with your physician or mental health professional if hallucinations continue.

In Part 2, we’ll talk about experiencing your partner’s presence.

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.

9/27/18

being around people who still have partners: part 2


In Part 1, we looked at the difficult feelings that can surface when you see other people who still have his or her partner.

It’s natural to feel some envy, anger and resentment when you see other couples. These reactions represent the difficult emotional shift you’re making from having been part of a couple to now being single.

You may imagine that if you had a second chance at having your late partner with you again, you would do things differently.  In reality, even if you could do it all over again, there would always be some tensions and conflicts. That’s just a normal part of being together with anyone.

Give yourself permission to yearn for what others still have but remind yourself of some of the realities that you once struggled with during your relationship with your late partner.

9/24/18

being around people who still have partners: part 1


Having lost your own spouse/partner, you may find yourself noticing couples everywhere: holding hands, arguing, or just being able to share life’s experiences together.  As you grapple with adjusting to a sense of yourself without a partner, you may discover difficult feelings surfacing when you’re around couples.

“Why is my spouse gone, and they still have theirs?”

You might feel somewhat guilty about the envy you experience in these situations. Such a reaction is normal and very understandable.

“Look at that couple argue! Don’t they realize how short life is? They should appreciate every second they have together. If only…”

Many become angry and resentful when the pain of his or her loss is stirred up by seeing other couples’ fighting or bickering over what appears to be petty problems.

We’ll discuss more about this in Part 2.

9/17/18

a young widow's perspective on financial planning




This information is by Sandi Duffy, a widowed mom with young children. We’re impressed by the sound advice Sandi offers in Financial Planning for Widowed Moms.

According to Sandi,"Once the funeral is over, you are left to pick up the pieces of your life and your children's lives. How are you going to do this? Where do you even start?

It's a cold hard fact that you need money to live, pay the bills, feed your children, etc. The first and most important thing you can do for yourself and your children is to gather all your late husband's assets, bank accounts, retirement funds, life insurance, etc. and get yourself to a certified financial planner. I cannot emphasize enough the word Certified Financial Planner. Not a friend of a friend of a friend who claims to be good with money. I had a colleague at work tell me she is really good with finances and would do mine. Really? Would she be able to tell me how to invest my money, so that I can draw an income from it every month? Would she be able to project how much college will cost in 18 years and then advise me how to invest, so that I can fund my children's educations?

Go to a real certified financial planner, someone who is highly recommended by more than one person. If you are unsure, interview a few of them. I spoke to three before I chose the one I am currently using.

The next most important thing is to find a good lawyer who specializes in wills and trusts. Again, find one who specializes in wills and trusts. My husband and I used a real estate attorney to do our wills, living wills, and durable power of attorney (POA). Thankfully we didn't have to use the POA because when I went to a lawyer who specializes in this, he told me it was all wrong and never would have been honored.

This is critical if you have young children. I have a trust set up that in the event of my death, the children receive one quarter of my estate at 25, one quarter at 30 and the remaining balance at 35. It names who will become their guardians and who will control the money they inherit.

Also, the amount of paperwork dealing with your spouse's estate that has to be filed with the IRS is daunting. Let an attorney handle it all.

I know it seems cold, but you really need to take care of the financial part of your spouse's death. It's also a good distraction. I recommend two books that specifically deal with financial issues for women: David Bach's Smart Women Finish Rich and Suze Orman's Women and Money."

Sandi goes on to say," 'They' say not to make any big decisions for a year. That's probably a good idea. If financially you can keep your house, keep it. I couldn't even think about packing up my house, showing it to strangers, uprooting my kids, finding new childcare...the list is endless.

If you don't need to make more money, don't switch jobs. I remember calling my former boss for a letter of reference, thinking I needed to make more money for our family. She grudgingly wrote the letter, not because she had negative feelings towards me, but she didn't think it was a good idea for me to make a change so soon. I remember her telling me she would write it, but hoped I would be calling her in a few years to update it because I didn't use the first one. She was right. I kept my job.

Changing jobs, moving, and losing a spouse (through divorce or death) are the three biggest stressors. Try to deal with just one at a time."

Sandi Duffy was widowed in October 2007 when her 44-year-old husband succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer.

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 six useful tips for coping:

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) Also go to the Young Widow Bulletin Board (through YoungWidow.org), an online community for exchanging experiences, information, and support for young widowed of both genders.

4) 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.

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

6) 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.

9/6/18

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.

9/3/18

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

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.











8/27/18

reflections: remembering don spector on his birthday


Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday.

If, that is, he had lived more than a few weeks past his 49th birthday.

It took me a long time before I could picture Dad as the man he was before cancer so cruelly altered him and our lives.

I try to imagine him now as an elderly man with all the physical changes that come with advanced age.

Yet despite how he might now look if he’d been able to grow old, what comes through in my thoughts are the qualities about him that would have remained ageless;

His compassion.

His sense of humor.

His intelligence.

His insightfullness.

His love.

These are the realities of Dad that remain ageless. And always with me.

Laurie

8/23/18

can't stop crying




That might sound like title of a country western song, but it’s all too real an experience when your spouse/partner has died.

After my husband’s death, I felt like the tears would never stop.

I remember being at work, in social situations, or just driving and finding myself unexpectedly tearing up. Caught off-guard and often embarrassed, I’d head for the nearest private place (like a restroom or quiet street), to try to pull myself together.

I realize some people consider crying a form of self-pity.

But I’ve learned that tears are nature’s way of helping us release tension. The best way to do the mourning is to do the grieving. And that means every tear helps.

So trust yourself. Your mind does have a shut-off valve.

How have you handled these situations?

Ruth


8/20/18

When it's wise to stay home; part 2


In our last post, we explored some of the reasons you may feel tempted to accept an invitation to visit out-of-town family and friends in the weeks following your spouse/partner’s death.

By leaving town so soon after the death however, you may interrupt some critical aspects of your mourning process. Some of the problems that can come up include:

- Feeling disoriented when you arrive at your destination. Now that your whole world has been turned upside down by your loss, the new location will lack the comfort of familiar objects.

- Promises of being cushioned by loving attention from adult children or friends may not turn out to be what you expected. As a “houseguest”, you may find yourself left alone while others are at work or asked to baby-sit at a time when you aren’t up to that sort of responsibility.

- Once you return home, your local family and friends may assume you’ve “moved on” and no longer need them as you did before you left. Their intense support will no longer be there.

Although painful, the adjustment period right after your spouse/partner’s death is an extremely important one.

So give yourself plenty of time before taking out that suitcase.

8/16/18

when it's wise to stay home; part 1


If your spouse/partner has recently died, out-of-town family or friends may have urged, “Come stay with us. It’ll be good for you.”

In the early weeks following the death, this heartfelt invitation can seem like a welcome reprieve from painful daily reminders of your loss.

The lure of being with children, grandchildren or close friends who are otherwise far away is especially strong when you’re grieving. It can also be tempting at a time when you’re struggling to adjust to life without your spouse.

Don’t start making travel plans just yet.

Unless your current surroundings are fairly new or your local support sysytem is very limited, waiting a month or so can make an important difference because:

1) As the shock of the death itself (even when it was expected), wears off, the familiarity of your own home helps you adjust to the gradual realization of what has happened.

2) Emotional and physical support from local family and friends is greatest after the death itself. Support tends to decrease over time. as others assume you're adjusting to life without your spouse.

When you leave town, you interrupt these critical aspects of a healthy mourning process.

In our next post, we’ll look at some common problems that can arise from this interruption.

8/13/18

lost my partner to suicide; part 3: more tips for lifting the burden off yourself




In Part 2 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?, we suggested ways you could relieve yourself of some of the guilt you and your family may struggle with as a result of your partner’s suicide.

Here are additional important points to consider:

1) Children tend to blame themselves when a parent dies, even though they may not express it openly or be aware of it themselves. Recognizing this can be difficult, because, unlike most adults, children show they’re upset by their behavior, rather than by talking. A child may especially prone to self-blame, in the case of suicide. Children need to be given simple, truthful explanations of what has happened. It’s best to tell them how it happened, or they will fantasize about all sorts of frightening possibilities. Consider having your child/children work with a mental health professional to deal with this trauma.

2) Because it’s common for family members to blame the surviving spouse for either causing or not preventing the suicide, it’s helpful to talk about your feelings with supportive people outside your family. Join a specialized support group, if there is one available. The American Association of Suicidology (suicidology.org), provides information to survivors about support groups, books and specialists. Also check out Survivors of Suicide Loss (soslsd.org) for support options.

3) Despite the feelings of shame it may bring, it’s best to be truthful with yourself and others about how your spouse/partner died. Creating a face-saving “cover-up” will only complicate and further delay working through your mourning process.

4) As clergy, in general, have become more aware of and influenced by the field of psychology and suicidology, they’ve developed more sensitivity to the issue of suicide. If you’re otherwise comfortable talking with your religious advisor, you can turn to them despite an “official” doctrine about suicide.

5) Write your feelings in a journal or as a letter to your spouse.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: If you or someone you know is seriously thinking about taking his/her own life, tell someone immediately! Call the Operator to reach your local suicide hotline and/or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org to talk to a trained telephone counselor 24/7.

8/9/18

lost my partner to suicide; part 2: lifting some of the burden off yourself


In part 1 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we discussed many of the common reactions you, as a survivor, may have experienced due to your late partner’s suicide.

Here are ways to relieve yourself and your family of some guilt:

1) Your spouse/partner exercised a choice and ultimately was the only one to have the power to act on that choice. If there was anger at you or anyone else, there were more effective ways he/she could have chosen to communicate feelings.

2) You are not to blame for something as complex as another person’s act of suicide. A multitude of factors, such as personality, self-esteem, family history, and the ability to deal with life’s stresses all contributed to your partner’s behavior.

3) You may be turning the anger you feel about your spouse/partner’s abandonment inward onto yourself. This can take the form of guilt and self-blame at being helpless to stop a suicide. It is not disloyal to be angry at people we love when their actions cause us pain.

4) A suicide note reflects only what your spouse/partner happened to be feeling at the time it was written. Try not to view it as a generalization about your entire past relationship.

Look for more tips in Part 3.

8/6/18

lost my partner to suicide; part 1


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

Part 1

You as the Survivor

“She seemed okay. Why didn’t she tell me she was feeling so depressed?”

“He often said life wasn’t worthwhile, but I didn’t think he’d ever kill himself.”

The aftermath of suicide can be especially difficult to cope with because it can leave you, as a survivor, feeling:

- Confused, guilty and self-blaming about why this act was committed or that you may have been responsible.

- Believing that you weren’t valuable and/or powerful enough to prevent someone choosing to die.
- Shamed by the attitudes and questions of family, friends and the police.

- Concerned about your clergyperson’s reaction, as some religions regard suicide as a sin.

- Worried about what to tell your child/children about the circumstances.

Expect your mourning process to take somewhat longer, because of the added burden of all of the above.

In Parts 2 and 3, we’ll offer ways to cope with all of the above.

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.


7/26/18

pets as support


If you’re living alone since your spouse/partner’s death, getting a pet may help with the following:

1) The silence. Being alone in your home may be comforting at times, but at other times, the silence can feel uncomfortable.

2) Safety concerns. Even if your partner was ill, there was probably an illusion of protection just because they were around. Having a watchdog can be reassuring.

3) Companionship. In addition to providing unconditional love, a pet can be a great listener.

Research has shown that pets can help increase the health and quality of life of their owners. “Therapy Pets” are used to enhance the recovery process of patients and the disabled. Learn more.

If you’re new to pet ownership, ask a pet owner you know for advice and referrals to local veterinarians.

Before considering bringing any pet into your life, consider not only your needs, but also your physical capabilities. While a dog provides a greater sense of safety, they do require daily walks and exercise. Cats are generally lower maintenance.

Do some research into the characteristics of different breeds so you can choose a pet best suited to your own lifestyle.

Whatever you decide, also consider getting a rescue animal.

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.

7/2/18

widowhood way back when: revolutionary war pensions




With the Fourth of July here, we thought this information from Wikipedia was relevant:

The last surviving veteran of any particular war, upon his or her death, marks the end of a historic era. Exactly who is the last surviving veteran is often an issue of contention, especially with records from long-ago wars. The "last man standing" was often very young at the time of enlistment and in many cases had lied about his age to gain entry into the service, which confuses matters further.

There are several candidates for the claim of the last surviving veteran of the American Revolutionary War:

Lemuel Cook (1759–1866)

Samuel Downing (1764–1867)

John Gray (1764–1868)

Daniel F. Bakeman (1759–1869)

The last surviving veteran may have been Daniel F. Bakeman, who was placed on the pension rolls by an act of U.S. Congress and is listed as the last survivor of the military conflict by the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs.

According to a 1918 report in 1869 there were 887 widows of Revolutionary war Veterans on the pension list. On November 11, 1906 the last Revolutionary War widow Esther Sumner Damon of Plymouth, Vermont, died at age 96; reportedly, a few surviving daughters of American Revolutionary War Veterans were later pensioned by Special Acts of Congress.


Hope you have a Happy Fourth!

6/28/18

dad's worrisome reactions; part 2



This post for adult children is a continuation of excerpts from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?

“It’s only been a few months since Mom died and Dad is already talking about dating and going on singles’ cruises. He and Mom had a long, happy marriage, so I can’t understand why Dad is acting so disloyal to her memory. At his age, there’s a lot of single and widowed women out there hunting for a husband. I’m afraid Dad will do something rash.”

Often those who were happily married feel the loss of companionship and emotional security most acutely. Men, in particular, tend to jump into new relationships before they have allowed themselves to fully experience the painful but necessary mourning process.

Gently point out that while you understand how difficult and lonely it must be for him/her without their spouse, acting impulsively will backfire. Ask your parent to consider whether he/she really wants to sabotage a new relationship because of not having taken the necessary time to grieve the old one.

With any behavior that seems impulsive and/or potentially risky, try this approach:

“I realize a new (relationship, move, risky financial investment, etc.) feels exciting right now but I’m concerned about what will happen down the road. Let’s slow down, put our heads together and see if we can’t come up with some other ways to get you through this difficult time.”

REMEMBER: However your parent may react to the loss of their spouse, you also need to pay attention to your own needs. Try to take some time off from normal responsibilities to give yourself the time and space you need to grieve. Draw on the support of others and delegate caretaking for your mom or dad.

6/25/18

dad’s worrisome reactions: part 1




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

“My mother passed away just three months ago and my dad has already gotten rid of all her possessions and is planning to sell the house they lived in for almost 30 years. He says all the reminders are too painful and he wants to move to another city.”

Many people hurry to dispose of possessions and other reminders that stir up the pain of loss.

Like other forms of emotional pain, you can run but you can’t hide.

Gently point out to your parent that while you understand his/her actions make him/her feel better in the short run, he/she will still have to face them eventually. The more your parent tries to avoid the pain, the more likely it will strike at unexpected times.

More in Part 2.