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.

8/2/18

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.

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.




5/17/18

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. 

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.