6/21/18

vacationing without your spouse/partner




One of the most difficult steps after losing your spouse/partner is planning your first vacation without him or her. You probably aren’t feeling like your usual self, so it can be hard to summon the happy anticipation that “getting away” used to bring. Visiting familiar places can bring back the pain of the loss.

Before you start making reservations, consider the following:

a. Team up with a family member or friend who is compatible. If you’re uncertain how you’ll get along, try going away for a weekend together before committing to a longer trip.

b. New places can offer new experiences and a chance to create new memories.

c. Keep in mind that feelings of loss may come up unexpectedly. Give yourself permission to grieve even though you’re supposed to be “getting away” from things.

d. If you find yourself traveling constantly the first year after the death, it may be a way of avoiding the mourning process. Grief has a way of catching up when not attended to.

e. Don’t be surprised if, when you return home, there’s a moment when you expect to be greeted by your spouse/partner.

Despite some discomforts, taking a vacation on your own can also be filled with pleasurable new discoveries and opportunities for gaining self-confidence.

6/18/18

widowhood way back when: widowed tv dads



If you’re a baby boomer or beyond, this post by Guy Belleranti from www.loti.com (Rewind the Fifties) should bring back memories.

If only being a widower with kids was as easy as it looked way back then.

Widowed Fathers in TV Programs of the 1950’s and 1960’s

There were a number of television programs in the 1950’s and 1960’s which revolved around a widowed father and his child or children. Several, but not all, were sitcoms.

One of the most famous has to be The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968). Andy Taylor (Griffith) is the sheriff of the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina. He has the added responsibility of raising his son Opie (Ron “Ronny” Howard). Andy gets help in the matter from Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). There were many wonderful aspects to this classic series, but one of the best had to be those moments of father-son discussions.

My Three Sons, starring actor Fred MacMurray, was another sitcom where a father had mother-less sons. In this case, the father, Steve Douglas (MacMurray) had not one son, but three. Mike (Tim Considine) was the eldest, Robbie (Don Grady) the middle and Chip (Stanley Livingston) the youngest. From 1960 to 1965 Steve had help from Bub O’Casey (William Frawley). After that, until the program’s end in 1972, he had help from Uncle Charley (William Demerest). When Tim Considine left the show, his eldest son Mike character was written out. However, the Douglas family gained a third son by having Chip’s former best friend, Ernie (Barry Livingston, Stanley Livingston’s real life brother), lose his parents and then become adopted into the family.

Danny Thomas’ Danny Williams character became a widower in 1956 on Make Room for Daddy when Jean Hagen (his series’ wife, Margaret, since the program’s start in 1953) left the program. For the 1956 season Danny had to raise his son Rusty (Rusty (Hamer) and daughter Terry (Sherry Jackson) solo. He did have a housekeeper, Louise, however, to help out when needed.
Then in 1957, the program’s title changed to The Danny Thomas Show and Danny had a new TV wife, Kathy (Marjorie Lord). He also had a new daughter, Kathy’s daughter Linda (Angela Cartwright), as well.

The sitcom The Courtship of Eddie’s Father in 1969 featured Bill Bixby as Tom Corbett, widowed father of a son, Eddie (Brandon Cruz). Like the title implies, Eddie was forever trying to get his father remarried.

The family drama Flipper also featured a widowed father. Brian Kelly played Porter Ricks, a Park Ranger in South Florida. Ricks had two sons: Sandy (Luke Halpin) and Bud (Tommy Norden). He also had help from a dolphin named Flipper.

Finally, there were a couple famous television westerns where fathers were single parents. One was The Rifleman. Chuck Connors played Lucas McCain, a New Mexico rancher. His son Mark (Johnny Crawford) featured heavily in most episodes. Lucas taught Mark both by the “Good Book” and by example.

Bonanza featured widowed rancher Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his three sons. Ben apparently had lots of bad luck in marriage, with three wives dying. However, each wife did leave him a son. The sons that we, the viewer, see on Bonanza are all grown men. Adam (Pernell Roberts) is the eldest, Hoss (Dan Blocker) is in the middle and Little Joe (Michael Landon) is the youngest.

Interestingly, a glance back at all of these programs reveals that only one featured a widowed father with a daughter. And this program, Make Room for Daddy, only had the father a widower for one year.

6/14/18

making it through father's day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6/11/18

how past losses can kick in now; part 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And don’t forget that every tear counts.

6/7/18

how past losses can kick in now; part 1



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

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

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

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

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

- How complicated the mourning process for your partner becomes.

Why does this happen?

Previous deaths shape and influence how you now mourn because:

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

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

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

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

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

6/4/18

reflections: quotes about appreciating friends

Holidays aren't the only time to reflect on family and friends who continue to support us every day of the year.

Here are some quotes that we really like:

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.
- Maya Angelou

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.
- Ulysses S. Grant

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.
- Helen Keller


Please send us your own favorite quotes.

5/31/18

another great website for the military widowed



While we continue to recommend T.A.P.S. ( Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors; taps.org) , we also want to tell you about another site that offers support to the military widowed and their families.

American Widow Project (http://www.americanwidowproject.org/), was started by Taryn Davis, a young military widow, following her husband’s death.

According to the site, “The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to the new generation of those who have lost the heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow, with an emphasis on healing through sharing stories, tears and laughter...Military Widow to Military Widow.”

In addition to a subscription newsletter, the site offers a hotline staffed by other military widows as well as various scheduled “get-aways” and events.

There are also a blog and a resources page.

Check the site out and let us know what you think.

5/28/18

resources for military survivors




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

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

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

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




5/24/18

now that i'm sick, where are you? part 2


In our previous post, we looked at how feelings of abandonment, anger, depression and anxiety can arise when you find yourself struggling through an illness without your spouse/partner being there for you.

The best ways to cope with these situations include:

a) Recognizing what is actually triggering these emotions.

b) Calling on family, friends or neighbors to stop by (just having someone in the house can be comforting), or run errands for you.

c) Reminding yourself, if you’re uncomfortable asking for help, that you would help others if they were in a similar situation.

d) Contacting the medical social services department at your local hospital for assistance in finding resources, such as support groups, home health aides, or other services.
Remember: you’ve developed coping skills during and after your spouse’s death and can now draw on them to make it through this period.

NOTE: Because your spouse’s death has left you more physically vulnerable, it’s important to let your doctor know about your loss. Some pre-existing medical conditions may be affected by the stress of recent circumstances.

5/17/18

supportive sites for widowed moms



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/14/18

widowhood way back when: whistler’s mom






Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother, famous under its colloquial name Whistler's Mother, is an 1871 oil-on-canvas painting by American-born painter James McNeill Whistler. Now owned by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, it occasionally tours worldwide.

Anna McNeill Whistler posed for the painting while living in London with her son. Several unverifiable stories surround the making of the painting itself; one is that Anna Whistler acted as a replacement for another model who couldn't make the appointment. Another is that Whistler originally envisioned painting the model standing up, but that his mother was too uncomfortable to pose standing for an extended period.

The work was shown at the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art in London (1872), but first came within a hair's breadth of rejection by the Academy. This episode worsened the rift between Whistler and the British art world; Arrangement would be the last painting he would submit for the Academy's approval.

The sensibilities of a Victorian era viewing audience would not accept what was apparently a portrait being exhibited as a mere "arrangement"; thus the explanatory title "Portrait of the Artist's Mother" was appended. It was from this that the work acquired its
popular name.

Whistler would eventually pawn the painting, which was acquired in 1891 by Paris' Musée du Luxembourg. As a proponent of "art for art’s sake", Whistler professed to be perplexed and annoyed by the insistence of others upon viewing his work as a "portrait."

In his 1890 book The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, he writes: "Take the picture of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an 'Arrangement in Grey and Black.' Now that is what it is. To me it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public to care about the identity of the portrait?"

Given this outlook, whatever the level of affection Whistler may have felt for his own mother, one finds an even more divergent use of the image in the Victorian era and later, especially in the United States, as an icon for motherhood, affection for parents, and "family values" in general.

For example, in 1934 the U.S. Post office issued a stamp engraved with a stylized image of "Whistler's Mother," accompanied by the slogan "In Memory and In Honor of the Mothers of America."

Later the public's interpretation of the symbolism of the painting went even farther afield, and it appeared in a myriad of commercial advertisements and parodies, such as doctored images of the subject watching a television, sometimes accompanied by slogans such as "Whistler's Mother is Off Her Rocker."


Now, is that any way to talk about a mother?

5/10/18

making it through mother's day - this year



Holidays like Mother’s Day can be difficult, especially during the first year after your loss. Gift items and cards are advertised everywhere, bittersweet reminders of happier family times.

Mother’s Day may stir up the pain of loss for you, your children and/or grandchildren. If you’ve lost your spouse/partner, it may also remind you of your own deceased parent(s).

Children in particular can feel left out and troubled while others around them celebrate the occasion.

Here are some tips for helping your family cope:

a. Acknowledge your own feelings of loss by talking about how you miss your spouse/partner or parent. When children see you sad or tearful it lets them know their own feelings are normal.

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

c. You may find it comforting to visit the cemetery or other place of remembrance.

d. If there is a family gathering, make some time to share fond or funny memories of your loved one.

The feelings Mother’s Day stirs up won’t just go away. It’s best to acknowledge the occasions, even briefly, especially with children. Otherwise, these emotions will come up another time.

5/7/18

your mom's worrisome reactions: part 2


(Part 2 is a continued excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition)


“We’re really worried about Mom. She keeps telling us she’s fine, that she’s always been the 'independent type' and doesn’t need any help. But we can all see how the strain is affecting her. It’s so frustrating the way she keeps rejecting our help.”

Many people who normally pride themselves on their self-sufficiency find it especially hard to let others help, even under these circumstances.

Try suggesting specific tasks you’d like to help with, citing your own interest in or skills with the problem. It’s okay to say, “We know you can handle that, but for now, we find it comforting to take care of it (the task) instead.”



“It’s been almost two years since Dad died, and Mom just can’t seem to pull herself together. She almost never leaves the house anymore and refuses to join any family activities.”

Keeping in mind that each person grieves in his or her own way and at their own speed, your parent may be experiencing major depression as well as going through bereavement. Suggest he/she talk to a trusted doctor or clergyperson, who can, if needed, refer your parent to a mental health professional.

5/3/18

your mom’s worrisome reactions; part 1




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

“Since Dad died, Mom has acted like she could care less. She hardly shows any sadness and is going to all her usual activities. I don’t understand this. My folks were married a long time. I thought she loved my dad. What’s going on?”

The lack of obvious emotion in a surviving parent can be upsetting and confusing.

Some people, especially men, don’t show sadness or tears because of family and/or cultural pressures to “be strong” and hide these emotions.

Also, while it may look like mom or dad is indifferent to what has occurred, keep in mind that all marriages have conflicts and issues that children, even when adults, are not aware of. In cases where a marriage was conflicted, one partner felt oppressed by the other, or there was a lengthy, difficult disease, the survivor often feels relief or liberated when death occurs.

While your parent may seem disloyal, remember that you don’t know all the facts.

More in Part 2.

4/30/18

can't stop thinking about what happened


In the days following the death of your spouse/partner, you probably find yourself preoccupied with what has happened.

Whether it’s the details of those final days or months, or worries about arrangements/financial concerns, thoughts and images about your loss seem to occupy every waking moment.

In the aftermath of any shock (even when a death is anticipated), it’s normal to be preoccupied with these thoughts and images as your mind struggles to absorb the reality of the loss. Added to this are the other adjustments and tasks you’re forced to deal with as a consequence of the loss itself.

Keep in mind that with time, you’ll be able to focus on other aspects of your life. Many people feel guilty when this happens, fearful that pulling away emotionally means they will longer love or remember their partner.

What it actually means is that you’ve begun to find a new, different place inside yourself for your loved one. A place that is no less cherished because it doesn't demand constant attention.

If, after about a year, you're still constantly thinking about the death, you may have conflicts or unfinished business that is complicating your mourning process. Consider getting counseling from a mental health professional or trusted clergy person to help you sort through troublesome concerns.

4/26/18

widowhood way back when: dower power


We came across this interesting article about the beginnings of one of the earliest rights for widows.

According to a Harvard Law Review article by George L. Haskins, “From very early times, English law assured to a wife certain rights in her husband’s property if she survived him. For centuries those rights have been known as dower.”

Professor Haskins goes on to say, “The origins of downer take us back to a period in Teutonic (Germanic) history when the bridegroom made a payment to the kinsmen of the bride, in return for the rights over her which he acquired by the marriage, and gave to her a morning gift for her support if she outlived him.”

The author describes how in Anglo-Saxon times, a betrothal was marked by a covenant which stipulated what (the groom) would give (his future wife) if she ‘chose his will’, and named the dower she would have if she lived longer than he.

According to Haskins, "The dower in the earliest days seems usually to have been a right to remain after his death in his house along with the other heirs – a right to a seat by the hearth.”

Hope your seat by the hearth has central heating.

4/23/18

recognize your progress!


While you’re in the midst of grieving for your spouse/partner, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and at times defeated by the burdens of new tasks and responsibilities. Caught up in the day to day struggles of surviving your loss, it may feel discouraging to think about how much still lies ahead of you.



It’s important however, to pause and notice how far you’ve already come since the death. Try to remember how you were functioning a week, a month, or months ago.

-  Picture yourself as you were back then.

-  Consider all the little steps you’ve achieved since those earlier times.

-  What challenges have you faced and managed to deal with?

-  What strengths have you discovered within yourself that you never realized before?


Now give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

You might also consider recording your progress on a device or in a journal. It’s a good way to keep track of how far you’ve come.

4/19/18

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



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


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


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

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

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

…friendly nudges and teasing light pinches.

…ongoing hugs.

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

…dancing around the kitchen as we cooked together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

4/16/18

your new identity


Becoming widowed often means adjusting from thinking of yourself as part of a couple to seeing yourself as “single”.

This process can be difficult, especially if your loss was recent and if your marriage was a long one. If you were young when you married, your sense of yourself was probably more tied in with being part of a couple. You may also be part of a generation that discouraged married partners from developing identities outside that relationship.

It’s important to remember however, that you haven’t been part of a couple all your life.

Try to think back to that time before the responsibilities and compromises of marriage.

What used to be your dreams and goals for yourself?

What talents and skills were you beginning to recognize but perhaps had to set aside?

If your loss was recent, it may feel uncomfortable to consider trying new activities such as taking a class or engaging in a long-postponed hobby or sport.

Just take baby steps. With each step you do take, you’ll discover a growing sense of achievement.

And rediscover the unique individual you’ve always been.

4/12/18

too much too soon; part 2

In Part 1, we talked about the period following your spouse/partner’s funeral, when all the attention from well-meaning friends and family can start to feel overwhelming.

When that occurs, try to remember the following tips:

Pace yourself. People will understand that under the circumstances, you need to gage your capabilities on a day-to-day basis.

If you feel the need for quiet or solitude, it’s okay to say so. Let others know you appreciate their company but recent events have left you depleted and you need to take time to retreat.

If others invite you out for a meal or other social occasion, you may be reluctant to decline due to fear of losing more connections in your life. People will understand if you explain that you aren’t sure from one day to the next how you’ll be feeling and will have to let them know closer to the event.

Keep in mind that during this difficult period, your needs and comfort are important! For now, it’s okay to make them your top priority.

Also remember it’s important to have others in your life and not to isolate yourself.

4/9/18

too much too soon; part 1




In the initial weeks following your spouse/partner’s death, you may find yourself swamped by well-meaning family, friends and others anxious to show their caring and support. Phone calls, e-mails and visits can provide a welcome cushion from the shock and pain of your loss.

There may be times however, when all the attention becomes overwhelming.

Keep in mind that others tend to feel helpless when a death occurs. The calls, visits and invitations help them feel less so. You might suggest they help with small chores such as marketing or helping sort paperwork.
Your comfort level, however, is what’s most important, however, so help others to really “be there” for you by gently setting some limits.

Look for tips on how to set limits with others in our next post.

4/5/18

reluctant to visit the gravesite?


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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your thoughts about this?

4/2/18

you and your adult child: emotional guidance


Have your adult children begun to look to you for some of the emotional support or guidance that your late spouse/partner used to provide?

It’s understandable to feel uncomfortable in a new role with your family. You may feel some resentment that you are the sole parent taking on all the responsibilities.

Try thinking back to what your partner used to say in similar circumstances. After years with him or her, you can probably imagine what would be said. Let this guide you and trust your own judgment as a parent.

Rather than providing a “solution” to your child’s concerns, he or she may just need the reassurance that one parent is still around for support.

3/29/18

spiritual comfort; part 2: coming to terms with the questions


In Part 1 of Spiritual Comfort, we explored some of the questions about your faith that can arise following the death of your partner.

Our excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? continues.

Each faith has its own way of understanding the experience of death.

Some people turn to their religious advisor and find answers that are comforting.

Others may be given answers that fail to satisfy them when they’re feeling such terrible pain. This can feel like an even more profound loss.

Before you decide to give up on your faith:

- Give yourself time. Some have to struggle for awhile before discovering answers that feel right for them.

- Get a different perspective. Some clergy are simply more skillful at handling these issues than others. Rather than giving up on your faith, you might want to consider consulting another clerical member of your denomination. Sometimes a different perspective (and personality) can make all the difference.

Other good sources of comfort are books that deal with the “whys” of death, such as When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner (Schocken Books, Inc., 2001).

3/26/18

spiritual comfort; part 1: questions

Parts 1 and 2 of Spiritual Comfort are excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition (copyright 2008 from McCormick Press).

For some, bereavement is a time when religion provides great comfort and support.

For others, it can be a painful time in which you question your most cherished beliefs.

The impact of losing a spouse can cause some people to experience a crisis of faith. In the face of death, each of us struggles in his/her own way to find answers to profoundly difficult questions

You may question the fairness of the loss:

“We played by the rules. My partner was such a good, loving person – why did this have to happen to us?”

You may feel that death cheated you of many things: your spouse as your life partner, the dreams and plans you had for the future, the sharing of family experiences, etc.

It’s not uncommon to feel anger toward God for allowing the loss to happen.

While some people feel guilt about expressing it, others find relief by allowing themselves to vent this anger directly at God. Some may even shake their fists at the heavens, while others may turn away from their religion altogether.


In Part 2, we discuss ways to come to terms with these painful questions.

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.

3/15/18

reflections: irish words of wisdom


* May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you're going and the insight to know when you're going too far.


* May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.


* A friend's eye is a good mirror.


*Even a small thorn causes festering.


* When a twig grows hard it is difficult to twist it. Every beginning is weak.


* As you slide down the banisters of life may the splinters never point the wrong way.


* May your troubles be as few and as far apart as my Grandmothers teeth.

3/12/18

widowhood way back when: wakeful irish; part 2



With a nod to St. Patrick’s Day, here is part 1 of an excerpt from the book, Of Irish Ways by Mary Murray Delany. We discovered this on http://www.funeralwise.com/:


Mourning and Merrymaking

Wakes lasted through two or three nights. Food, tobacco, snuff, and liquor were plentiful. Out in the countryside, the liquor served consisted of whiskey or poteen, which is a very potent and illegal Irish homemade brew.

Laughter and singing as well as crying filled the air as mourners shared humorous stories involving the deceased. In addition to this seeming merriment, games were played.

While this may appear to have been disrespectful of the dead, it was not the intention. It is thought that the merrymaking aspects of these wake customs were influenced by the Irish pagan heritage as well as the need to stay awake for such a long period of time. The church frowned upon these activities and tried hard to discourage the people from indulging in them, mostly to no avail.

No emotion was left out of the mourning process. Between the extremes of tears and laughter, heartfelt poetical lamentations and boisterous songs, there were debates. As the mourners gathered round the kitchen table, poteen or whiskey laden tea in hand, it was inevitable that discussions would begin. Often these debates turned heated as one might expect given that the most common topics concerned religion, politics or economics.

Mourners Pay Final Respects

One last opportunity for friends and neighbors to pay respects to the deceased came on the morning of the funeral. The body was placed in a coffin and brought outside the house. There, the open coffin was laid across some chairs, where it remained until time to carry it to the graveyard. Mourners kiss the deceased prior to the lid being placed on the coffin.

The journey to the church and then onto the graveyard was a long and arduous trip. Four of the closest relatives carried the coffin at a quick pace. They would be relieved by four more along the way and so it went until they reached the church. After the service, the procession would continue, again on foot, until reaching the graveside. The coffin was lowered into the grave and the clay, the common soil in Ireland, was shoveled over it. The spade and shovel were laid on top of the new grave in the form of a cross. Prayers were said, bringing the wake and funeral to a close.

Who says funerals have to be dull?

3/8/18

widowhood way back when: wakeful irish; part 1



With a nod to St. Patrick’s Day, here is Part 1 of an excerpt from the book, Of Irish Ways by Mary Murray Delany. We discovered this on http://www.funeralwise.com/:


Part 1
Irish Wakes and Funeral Customs of Old

Until modern times, Irish wake customs ran the gamut from profound grieving to what appeared to be rollicking good fun. This was especially true if the deceased was elderly. This curious mixture borne of a cultural blend of paganism and Christianity survives today in a severely toned-down fashion.

Wakes of times gone by began with neighbor women washing the body of the deceased and preparing it to be laid out on a bed or a table, often in the largest room of the house. The body was covered in white linen adorned with black or white ribbons, flowers for the body of a child. Lighted candles were placed around the body. Clay pipes, tobacco and snuff were also placed in the room. Every male caller was expected to take at least a puff. The smoke kept evil spirits from finding the deceased. Usually, a pipe and tobacco were placed on a table next to the body. Occasionally, a pipe was laid on the chest of the deceased male. Clocks were stopped at the time of death. Mirrors were turned around or covered.

Watching Over the Deceased and Keening

Once the body was prepared, it was never left alone until after burial. Someone, usually a woman, sat in the same room until it was taken away. According to custom, crying couldn’t begin until after the body was prepared lest it attract evil spirits that would take the soul of the departed. However, once the body was properly prepared, the keening began. The Caointhe, the lead keener, was first to lament the deceased. Keeners, especially the Caointhe, recited poetry lamenting the loss of the loved one in addition to crying and wailing. All the women in the house joined in, especially as each new caller arrived to pay his or her respects.

Find out more in Part 2.

3/5/18

7 tips for deciding what to do with your spouse/partner's belongings


How do you know when the time is right to clear out your spouse/partner's belongings?

This important decision has few clear guidelines. Well-meaning family and friends may pressure you to "get rid of" cherished possessions you don't feel ready to let go of. Or you yourself may feel anxious to "get rid of" painful reminders of your loss. But what's the rush? We urge you not to dispose of anything before you first consider these tips:

1. Trust your own instincts about the right time to tackle this difficult process. Take your time and don't rush. The hasty decision you make today may become tomorrow's regret.

2. Ask a trusted family member or friend for help in packing things up and/or making arrangements.

3. Set a realistic timetable for completing this process. Make allowances for how grief is affecting you. Assume there will be times when, despite your best intentions, you won't feel up to dealing with this.

4. Start by first getting rid of items you feel least attached to. Try to imagine what your spouse would want done with their possessions.

5. Don't kid yourself into believing that by getting rid of painful reminders, you can avoid the pain. Allowing yourself to feel the loss is an important part of getting through it and is actually emotionally beneficial in the long run.

6. Hold on to whatever possessions give you comfort right now.

7. Move items you're undecided about to another location, such as rented storage. This allows you some breathing space before making more permanent decisions.


Be sure to give yourself the time you need and trust your instincts about what's best for you.

3/1/18

when sudden death strikes


Whenever we hear of the recent, unexpected death of a celebrity it reminds us of the fragility of life and highlights the special challenges facing surviving spouses, family and friends.

If you’ve lost your spouse/partner to a sudden death or know someone who has, understanding the following tips from our book may help you cope:

1.) When death comes unexpectedly, it seems unreal, like a bad dream that will be over once you wake up. Expect this sense of unreality to persist for awhile.

2.) With any sudden death, there is almost always unfinished business: unresolved conflicts, words either spoken in anger or not at all, plans left unclear or incomplete. You’re cheated of the opportunity to put things in order before the finality of death.

3.) You may feel rage over the unfairness of what has happened.

4.) You have to struggle with a sense of helplessness as events following the death move you along with them. There is often a need to place blame somewhere.


With any sudden death, expect the mourning process to take somewhat longer than usual, as the shock of the loss is generally greater than with a death that was anticipated. Be gentle with yourself and take the time you need to grieve. Learn more in this excellent article by Barbara Paul, Ph.D., Reactions to Sudden or Traumatic Loss.

Please send us your thoughts and/or reactions.

2/26/18

am i ready for dating? part 3: easing into dating

In Part 2 of our excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we looked at the changes in dating customs that may have occurred since you were last single.


Okay, now you’re ready to start easing your way into the social life of a single person. How exactly should you go about it?

Your attitude in approaching this step is important.

Try to think in terms of a shopping experience.

You’ll want to “try on” the different ways and places to meet someone until you find a good “fit”. In the process, you’ll get a chance to learn what doesn’t fit or appeal to you.

With that concept in mind:

- If you’re comfortable with it, let friends and family know you’re ready to meet new people.

- Find a friend who’s currently single. Ask this friend for advice about the latest rules and customs. But remember: no matter how well-intentioned advice can be, you always need to adapt it to what feels right for you.

- Check out social activities geared for singles at your place of worship.

- Check local papers or online for schedules of special-interest activities for singles. Many feel more relaxed when there’s an activity such as hiking, films, gourmet cooking, concerts, etc., to focus on rather than just “meeting someone”. If you’re over fifty-five, consider joining Elderhostel, an organization that combines travel with learning in a way that’s comfortable for people on their own.

- Bring a friend along the first time you try anything new. It’s a good idea to discuss before you go what each of you will do in the event one of you becomes uneasy, wants to leave early, or meets someone.

Taking the Plunge

Trust yourself to know when it’s time to start dating.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be anxious or uncertain. Some anxiety on any date is natural and, in your situation, expected. Don’t try to bluff it out. What often helps is to let the other person know that you’re new at this.

One of the most important things to remember in starting any new relationship is that a new person is a new learning experience. You probably had years to get to know your spouse/partner and adjust to the ways you reacted to each other. A new person can’t be expected to react in the same ways as your spouse/partner did. It takes time to know each other.

A WORD OF WARNING: Sometimes people jump into dating to erase the pain they’re feeling. They hope the excitement of a new relationship will make the pain go away. Dating for that reason can backfire. You aren’t being fair to a new relationship when you haven’t taken enough time to emotionally finish with the old one. Please take the necessary time to go through the mourning process before you start dating.

Please share your thoughts about these posts with us.

2/22/18

am i ready for dating? part 2: what's different now




In Part 1 of these 3 excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we discussed your emotional readiness to begin dating.

How old were you when you last dated?

What were the dating rules and customs at that time?

Many people report that when they first re-enter the singles’ world, they feel like Rip Van Winkle – on the inside it’s as though they were still the age they were when last single. On the outside, though, the world has changed.

Some of the biggest changes you’ll probably discover include:

a) Women making the first move. It’s not uncommon now for a woman to initiate a phone call or email to invite a man to a movie or a sports/cultural event.

b) Sexual conduct. Even in this time of increased caution, many people engage in sex sooner than they once did.

A WORD OF WARNING: Don’t believe that just because you’re a certain age, you’re safe from sexually transmitted diseases. For example, according to Centers for Disease Control, over 50% of newly reported case of AIDS in 2005 were in people (heterosexual as well as homosexual), over age 40. It’s wise to play it safe. Check with your doctor about safe sex practices.

c) Women paying for themselves. In some cases, a woman may view paying her own way as freeing her from any obligation to the man. Or it might just be a case of economics. If both people live on fixed incomes, it’s more thrifty to share the expense of a night out.

Regardless of what others are doing, you are the best judge of what is right for you. Keep in mind, however, that if you were a teenager when you last dated, you probably followed your parents’ guidelines about what was permissible. Now that you’re an adult, you’re able to make choices about what’s right for you.

In Part 3, we’ll move into strategies for easing into dating.

2/19/18

am i ready for dating? part1: ready or not?

The following 3 posts are excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition.


You may not want to even consider the idea of new relationships.

You may be ready to think about the possibility of new relationships.

You may be at a point where you are ready to try new relationships.

One of the final stages of the mourning process is where you begin to seriously consider the possibility of new attachments. This may mean creating friendships with members of the same sex or opposite sex. Or it might indicate a wish to explore a romantic and/or sexual relationship.

This doesn’t mean you want to forget your spouse/partner, but rather it reflects a growing readiness for the companionship and intimacy you once shared with someone.

Friends and family will often drop hints or make suggestions about “fixing you up” or going to singles’ activities. It’s important not to let others pressure you. Trust your own feelings and sense of when the time is right.

Even if you don’t feel ready to test the waters of the singles’ scene, don’t be surprised if at first you find yourself experiencing some of the following:

a) GUILT. It’s not uncommon to feel survivor guilt as you reach this stage. Because you want to begin enjoying life once again, it may feel as though you’re being disloyal and/or leaving behind your deceased spouse/partner. If feelings of guilt persist, they could be a sign that you have more grieving to do.

b) ANGER. You may find yourself angry at your spouse/partner: “If you hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have to go through this.”

c) ANXIETY. Of course you’re anxious! After all, when was the last time you were single?

In Part 2, we’ll look at how dating rules and customs have probably changed since you were last single.

2/15/18

widowhood way back when; victoria's other secret



Feeling comforted by keeping some of your late spouse/partner’s possessions for a time is a common reaction for many widowed people.

There are, however, limits.

Just consider Queen Victoria, that symbol of perpetual widowhood.

When her husband died suddenly in 1861, Queen Victoria officially decreed that “mourning for the Prince consort shall be ordered for the longest term in modern times.”

According to biographer Greg King in his book, Twilight of Splendor, “Windsor (Castle) was immediately draped in black crepe; so much was used that the entire country’s supply was depleted within a day.”

King goes on to say, “Victoria created a cult devoted to the memory of her husband. The Blue Room at Windsor was to be kept ‘in its present state,’ she ordered, ‘and not be made use of in the future,’ although she herself added memorial wreaths and a bust of Print Albert.”

“For forty years to the end of her reign,” King continues, “Albert’s rooms were the scene of an incredible ritual. Each morning, a servant delivered a fresh jug of hot water to the unused washstand, as if Albert’s ghost might appear and need a shave, and laid out a change of clothes amid the fresh flowers that covered the bed; even his unused chamber pot was scoured and replaced at night.”

Too bad the mental health profession wasn’t yet up to speed in 1861. Victoria could have benefited from a little supportive feedback.

Luckily, if you find yourself scouring your late spouse/partner’s chamber pot every day, professional help is now an option.

In any case, it's okay to give yourself a little time.

Hopefully, it won't be forty years.

2/12/18

valentine’s day quotes to send to family and friends

This Valentine's Day, embrace all the people in your life for whom you feel affection.  Send a card (like when you were a kid), and/or get together (even if it's just for coffee) to give a new meaning to the day.

Here are some sample quotes to add to emails or cards:

"I get by with a little help from my friends."
- John Lennon

"Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends."
- Czech Proverb

"My friends are my estate."
- Emily Dickinson

"It's the friends you can call up at 4am that matter."
- Marlene Dietrich

"A friend is a gift you give yourself."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

“In time of test, family is best.”
- Burmese Proverb

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”
- Anthony Brandt

Have any quotes of your own to share? Let us know.

2/8/18

how to beat the valentine's blues if you're widowed

It’s all around you: painful reminders that you don’t have that “someone special” with whom to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Although your spouse/partner isn’t here to share the day, consider expanding your definition of what the word “love” really means.

This year, remind yourself that “love” isn’t just limited by the type of relationship you shared with your spouse/partner. By widening your scope a bit, you can embrace all the other relationships in your life where you give and receive affection. This can mean including relationships such as family members and good friends.

Use the Valentine’s holiday to show your appreciation of these other important personal relationships in some of the following ways:


  1. Schedule an outing or meal such as lunch or dinner to get together with a good friend or family member.
  2. Remember when you were a kid and gave valentines to friends and classmates? Revive this childhood custom with relatives and friends.
  3. Show yourself some appreciation. Think back and list on a valentine card at least two things you’ve achieved since your spouse’s death that you used to think weren’t possible. It’s important to give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made.
  4. Treat yourself to some pampering (a manicure or massage), or buy yourself a gift (hobby items or clothes or yes, a box of chocolates).
Remember that your marriage was just one of several caring relationships in your life. This year, begin a new tradition by celebrating all of them.


2/5/18

explore the new world of single friends: part 2


In Part 1, we looked at one of the unfortunate consequences of losing your spouse/partner: losing some couple friends.

The best way to counteract the pain of these losses is to reach out and create new friendships with others who are single.

Although you may be initially uneasy with the idea, try the following:

a) Contact single friends you already know and get together for coffee, a movie or other activity.

b) Consider joining a group that reflects your interests or hobbies. Check with your place of worship, local Chamber of Commerce or neighborhood hobby supply stores for groups or clubs in your area. In addition to offering opportunities for potential friendships, groups can help you feel less isolated.

c) Unlike couples, who are constrained by the needs and schedule of a partner, single friends are often available and eager to join you in activities.

d) Depending on your age, you’ll probably find you have more in common with others who have been widowed.

Give yourself time but keep in mind that finding new friends with similar interests can create lasting and supportive friendships.

2/1/18

explore the new world of single friends: part 1


While you and your late spouse/partner may have enjoyed friendships with other couples, the situation usually changes once you are widowed.

Making the shift from being part of a couple to being single can be difficult. While you may choose to continue with the comfort of couple friends, you’ll probably find some of these relationships fading away.

The loss of established friendships means yet more losses to deal with at a time when you’re already bereft. It’s normal to feel hurt, abandoned, rejected, angry or all of the above.

In Part 2, we’ll offer tips on how to cope with this situation.

1/29/18

reflections: quotes to get you through the the new year

1) In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
- Albert Camus

2) Courage is like love; it must have hope for nourishment.
- Napoleon

3) We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.
- Martin Luther King

4) If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.- Milton Berle

5) The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.
- Al Neuharth (founder of USA Today)
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1/25/18

when the visits stop; part 2


In our last post, we covered what it felt like once the visits and activities following your late spouse/partner’s funeral begin to taper off.

But how do you cope with feelings (such as those of abandonment), that may arise as things quiet down?

Keep in mind that others usually take their cues from you about how much or how little interaction you want or need. Although you may find it a struggle just to get out of bed each day, please consider the following:

1. It’s okay to reach out to others. They will probably be pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call or e-mail from you.

2. Keep it simple. Suggest an activity like coffee, a meal or a movie that involves a minimal time commitment from you during this difficult period.

3. Look into widowed groups as a place to meet others who are going through similar experiences (discover many other opportunities for meeting people in our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?)

4. Spend some time with children and/or grandchildren. Visits can be kept short if that’s more convenient for you.

5. Although your memory and concentration are probably impaired right now, others will understand. Remind yourself that these symptoms of grief will get better.

Remember to take one step at a time and try not to remain isolated from other people.

1/22/18

when the visits stop; part 1





In the period following your spouse/partner’s funeral, you were probably caught up in a flurry of visits and invitations from family and friends.

Not to mention the tasks of legal and financial paperwork.

These activities can provide both distraction and comfort from the pain of loss.

Once all the distraction has begun to taper off however, you may find yourself feeling:

· The pain of your loss more acutely as the initial shock wears off.

· A sense of abandonment, both by your spouse and others you depend on.

· A sense of being unsettled, as you ask yourself “Where do I go from here?”

· Overwhelmed by the challenge of how to put your life back together again.

There are several ways to deal with these reactions as they come up during this period.

We’ll have some helpful tips in our next post.