12/13/18

getting through get-togethers; part 2: tips for feeling in control


In Part 1, we talked about taking some steps to be emotionally prepared before you attend a get-together.

Our excerpt from Lost My Partner continues:

 You can gain a greater sense of control in these (party) situations by:

1) Giving yourself the first 30 minutes after you arrive to adjust to the circumstances. Remember that without your spouse/partner, this is a new situation. Expect some brief uneasiness. Many discover that once they’ve made it past the first half hour, they’re more relaxed.

2) Contacting the host or hostess ahead of time to explain that you aren’t your usual self and may wish to leave early.

3) Taking your own car or alerting a friend who’s driving you about the possibility of making an early exit.

4) Giving yourself a ‘time-out’ in the event of feeling overwhelmed, so you can retreat to the privacy of a bathroom or bedroom, or take a walk, and have a brief cry. Most people will understand.

In Part 3, we’ll cover how to break the ice about your loved one when others are uncertain about mentioning the loss.

12/10/18

getting through get-togethers; part 1: first things first






Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, here are some proven strategies for making it through festive gatherings, even when you aren’t feeling in the holiday spirit.

In our previous post, Best Ways to Get Through the Holidays (Part 1), we suggest “To lessen the chance of emotional ‘sneak attacks’, make some time to grieve, either on the holiday or just before it.”

In Lost My Partner, we add, “Even when you’ve prepared yourself by making time to grieve beforehand, you may feel anxious about becoming uncomfortable in a festive gathering. There’s often a sense of being “out of it”, as you watch others having a good time.

However, just going, even if you need to leave early, is a sign of progress.”

In Part 2, learn the best ways to gain a greater sense of control in these situations.

12/6/18

help yourself through the holidays by helping others



Is the prospect of any holiday celebrating just too much to consider this year?

If you recently lost your partner, you may be feeling very “bah, humbug!” about all the customary activities and rituals of the season.

While you may chose to modify some of your usual tasks (see our post about surviving the holidays), you might be thinking about ignoring the day completely.

Keep in mind that at some point, either on the holiday or before, the pain of your loss with catch up with you (learn more about preventing “sneak attacks”).

So in addition to grieving, what can you do if you want to skip the usual holiday activities?

This time of year, there are numerous opportunities for volunteering in your community.

Consider participating with a friend and/or your children or grandchildren.

In addition to helping you stay busy during this difficult period, you’ll gain the warm feelings that come with brightening the days for those you help.

Here are some good ideas we found on factoidz.com:

Nursing Homes
Nursing homes need all kinds of volunteers. You could help decorate for their Christmas and Thanksgiving parties. They usually have a need for gift wrappers as well, and for volunteers to help the elderly make arts and crafts Christmas gifts. Volunteering for the elderly can be a year round project.

Women’s Shelters
These shelters would love to have help decorating trees, babysitting, and maybe even transporting women to do their holiday shopping. Also consider doing things like answering phones and data entry.

Homeless Shelters
There is always a need for help in these shelters, and these days our shelters are overflowing with people who need your services. Go there to help with fundraising, food preparation, clothing drives; the list is endless.

Food Kitchens
Thanksgiving is a great time to help prepare and serve a hot meal to the needy. Shelters are listed in the phone book and on the Internet.

Children’s Shelters
Help the kids get the toys they want for Christmas. Call your local childrens’ shelter and find out what toys they need and drop them off. Remember Toys for Tots, it’s sponsored by the United States Marine Corps, and all you have to do is buy a toy and drop it off at one of many selected drop off points.

Your local place of worship
Ask your religious advisor what you can do to help those in your community, maybe even those at your place of worship need help. This type of volunteering is one of the easiest ways to help our neighbors.

Online Volunteering
Contribute your skills to organizations all around the world, and help them grow. You can make a difference through your translation skills, research, writing and editing….the possibilities are almost endless.

Any other suggestions for holiday volunteering?

Please let us know.

12/3/18

holiday greetings dilemmas






Here's useful tips on handling an uncomfortable holiday dilemma.


1) Those Who Don't Know About Your Loss

You may receive some holiday greetings that still include your spouse/partner in the address (learn more about the whole issue of being caught off guard by people who don’t know about the loss in our earlier post, Encounters of the Awkward Kind; When Others Haven't Heard About Your Loss).

If there are some friends or business associates who haven’t yet heard about your spouse/partner’s death, you may be wondering about notifying them during the holidays.

It’s okay to do what feels most comfortable. While some people prefer to wait until the stress of the holidays is over, others choose to include a separate notification along with their customary holiday cards or messages.

Not sure how to break the news?

In the notification itself, you can give a brief description about what happened.

Then add a short update about how you and the family are coping.


2) To Send or Not to Send Holiday Greetings

If you usually send out seasonal cards or messages, you may feel uncertain about doing so this year. For many, this annual ritual is an important part of the holidays, and some may even feel guilty about not sending cards.

It's important to keep in mind however, that under the circumstances it's okay to skip this or any other holiday ritual you don't feel up to because you're mourning.

Others will understand.    

11/29/18

reflections from lost my partner: 5 words of wisdom



Here are some collected "words of wisdom" excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition (learn more).

These gentle reassurances can be printed out and carried with you for those moments when you need a little boost of support.

- It does get better. The pain will soften with time.

- Every tear helps. The best way to get through mourning is to do the grieving.

- You will mourn in your own way and in your own time.- For now, not normal is normal.

- Most of your whole world has been turned upside down. Be gentle with yourself.

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

11/22/18

widowhood way back when: how pilgrims progressed through loss





If you’re facing a Thanksgiving dinner that might be hindered by a bad case of heartburn or having to cope with troublesome relatives, consider what the original Pilgrims had to cope with. Especially the widowed survivors.

For a look back, we discovered the informative article, Pilgrim Burials on the site http://www.lovetoknow.com/.

According to this excerpt from authors J.C. Redmond and MaryBeth Adomaitis, “Pilgrim burials were relatively simple affairs. The occupants of the Mayflower were buried in unmarked graves because it is thought that they didn't want the Native Americans living in the area to know how small of a population they were.”

The authors go on to describe later Pilgrim burials, “When Pilgrims died, headstones were not erected at the burial site. No artisans skilled in carving stone had come over with the first group of settlers. In addition, there was no stone available in the area where the Pilgrims settled from which to fashion a monument to the dead. Their first priority was to concentrate on the tasks necessary for survival; even if the stone carvers had come on the trip, there wasn't any time to carve headstones.

A family wanting to erect a headstone in memory of a loved one would have to go to the expense of having one brought over from England.”

Redmond and Adomaitis describe burial rituals, “In the early years after the arrival of the Pilgrims in North America, funerals were a very simple matter. No funeral ceremony was conducted and no special sermon was given. The grieving family did not wear mourning clothes for a certain time after the death.

Embalming of the body of the deceased was not done. On occasion, graves were opened and reused. The bodies of a family or a small community may share the same grave.”

So enjoy the food and be grateful that as difficult as some relatives can be, at least you aren’t stuck with them for all eternity.

11/19/18

5 things you don't have to worry about while grieving


With all the changes and stress you have to cope with because your spouse/partner has died, we thought it might help relieve some pressure to know what does not require your immediate attention.

1) Responding to sympathy cards and/or other forms of condolence.

2) Staying on a diet (unless your health is at great risk), or any other non-critical lifestyle change.

3) Taking care of others feelings about the loss (except immediate family).

4) Keeping any social obligations.

5) Making major decisions about your home, finances, etc.

Remember that you’re going through a major loss and others don’t expect you to function the way you normally do.

So be realistic about your expectations for yourself and trust that others will understand.

Be kind to yourself.

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?

11/12/18

bereavement counseling for surviving families of veterans

With Veteran's Day being observed this week, you might want to check out the opportunities for bereavement counseling if your loved one was a veteran.

The Veterans Affairs website was updated last year and is loaded with information about survivor benefits of all kinds. 

According to the website: The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers bereavement counseling to parents, spouses and children of Armed Forces personnel who died in the service of their country. Also eligible are family members of reservists and National Guardsmen who die while on duty. VA's bereavement counseling is provided at community-based Vet Centers located near the families. There is no cost for VA bereavement counseling. S

Services are obtained by contacting Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS) at 202-273-9116 or via electronic mail at vet.center@hq.med.va.gov both of which are specific to this specialized service.

RCS staff will assist families in contacting the nearest Vet Center. For further information, please visit http://www.vba.va.gov/EFIF/dependents.htm#deceased and/or http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/Bereavement_Counseling.asp

Even if you yourself aren't a surviving family member, you may discover some important resources that can help a friend or relative who has lost a serviceman/woman.

Our thanks and best wishes go out to all veterans and their families!

11/8/18

best ways to get through the holidays; part 2


In our last post, we suggested the best ways to cope with the upcoming holiday season.

Here are more proven strategies:

1) Contact the host or hostess before the get-together and let them know that you aren’t feeling like your usual self and may need to leave early.

2) Give yourself the first 30 minutes after you arrive to adjust to a gathering where your spouse is no longer with you.

3) Take your own car or alert a friend who is driving that you may want to leave early.

4) If you start to feel overwhelmed, you can retreat to the bathroom or take a short walk for some private time.

5) If you choose to avoid the usual gatherings, consider volunteering to serve meals at shelters, visiting shut-ins, or spending the day at a movie or health spa.

Remember: You will get through this time. We’ve found that the anticipation is usually much worse than the actual events. Be sure to plan ahead and do only what is most comfortable for you.

11/5/18

best ways to get through the holidays; part 1


Dreading the upcoming holidays?

If you’ve recently lost your spouse, the coming festivities can feel as unwelcome as Marley’s Ghost.

Here are some tried and true strategies for facing the holiday season:

1) Think ahead and try to anticipate how you’ll feel on each holiday.

2) Even if you don’t join in the festivities, don’t remain alone all day. Spend some time with a friend.

3) Considering your loss, don’t expect yourself to be as upbeat as usual. Expect some sadness as you take part in the festivities.

4) To lessen the chance of emotional sneak attacks, make some time to grieve, either on the holiday or just before it.

5) If you do choose to join in holiday activities, make some changes as to how much you do or become involved in.

Look for more tips in our next post.

11/1/18

reflections: quotes to help you cope with fear

1) Listen to what you know instead of what you fear. 
- Richard Bach

2) Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
- Marie Curie

3) Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears. 
- Rudyard Kipling

4) I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do... 
- Eleanor Roosevelt

5) You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
- Eric Hoffer

10/29/18

widowhood way back when: being a widow in salem


In honor of Halloween, we look back at the challenges of being widowed during the 1690’s witch trials in Salem, MA.

According to an excerpt from a paper by Mark Price about accused witch Margaret Scott:

“Another factor about Margaret Scott's character that made her vulnerable to accusations was her status as a widow for twenty-one years. Being a widow did not in itself expose a woman to suspicion.

However, Scott suffered from the economic and social effects of being a widow for a prolonged period. The most dangerous aspect of being a widow was the lack of a husband for legal support and influence.

Also, Scott, 56 at the time of her husband's death, was forced to live off her husband's small estate for twenty-one years. Often widows who were over fifty and not wealthy, were unable to find a new spouse and thus were reduced to poverty and begging. By begging, Margaret would expose herself to witchcraft suspicions according to what historian Robin Briggs calls the 'refusal guilt syndrome'. This phenomenon occurred when a beggar's needs were refused causing feelings of guilt and aggression on the refuser's part. The refuser projected this aggression on the beggar and grew suspicious of her.”

Broomsticks, anyone?


Happy Halloween!

10/25/18

beware the ghouls and goblins that prey on the widowed: part 2



In Part 1, we gave tips on how to identify and protect yourself from the ghouls and goblins, (AKA well-meaning friends and family) that prey on the vulnerability of the newly widowed.

Here are two more creatures you should be aware of.

3) Demolition Demons


Spot them: These creatures love to pressure you with sincere but unwelcome advice aimed at dismantling reminders of your former life. Under the guise of “it’s for your own good”, they urge you to give away your spouse’s belongings, sell your car, home, or other valuables, move to another city, or make other important changes…quickly.

Ward them off by: Keeping in mind that making hasty decisions while you’re grieving usually results in later regrets. Tell DD’s,“ I need more time before I make any important decisions. I’ll consider taking these steps when I’m in a better frame of mind.” If this doesn’t stop them, a simple, “Not now!” may work.

4) Creepy Crawlers


Spot them: Often a family friend or neighbor, these predators exploit your trust at a time when you’re most vulnerable. When these creeps offer a sympathetic “shoulder to cry on”, that’s not the only part of their bodies they want to share with you.


Ward them off by: Letting them know how insulted you feel and what a betrayal of trust their offers have caused. Or you might say, “You’ve obviously misread me/the situation. I’m not interested!”

The grieving process can be scary enough without these creatures. With a little caution and some assertiveness, you can send them scurrying back into the darkness.

10/22/18

beware the ghouls and goblins that prey on the widowed: part 1



In the days and weeks following your spouse’s death, shock and exhaustion can leave you vulnerable to certain people who are difficult to avoid. Usually disguised as well-meaning family and friends, these creatures often unknowingly say or do upsetting things.

Here are some tips for identifying them and protecting yourself:

1. Platitude Ghouls


Spot them : Though well-intentioned, these creatures don’t think before spewing out insensitive remarks such as, “It’s all for the best”, “Aren’t you over it yet?”, “Don’t worry – you’ll find someone else” or “ I went through exactly the same thing during my divorce.”

Ward them off by: Changing the subject.


2. Gruesome Grabbers

Spot them: Usually adult children/step-children, cousins, or other relatives, these creatures swoop in while you’re still off-balance and start nosing around for “remembrances” of your late spouse. Can often be found burrowing through closets and drawers while you’re in another part of the house.

Ward them off by: Telling them, “I’m just not ready to deal with this yet. I’ll let you know when I’m up to it.” Then be sure to keep an eye on them.


There’s more in Part 2.

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 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.

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.