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

11/19/18

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?

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.

9/13/18

young, widowed and isolated; part 2



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

Here are some useful tips for coping:

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/10/18

young, widowed and isolated: part 1



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

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Not so soon.

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

Suddenly you have to juggle financial issues.

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

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

That’s because:

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

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

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

8/30/18

widowhood way back when: manly mourning in victorian times

While widowers had it easier in some ways than widows in Victorian times, they were more strictly constrained in how they expressed their grief.

According to “Widower Etiquette & Social Conventions" by eHow contributor Rachel Levy Sarfin:

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, widowers were expected to adhere to certain social conventions. Widowers had to refrain from attending any entertainment events for a year.

At the same time, men were not expected to mourn deeply for their spouses. Shows of emotion were considered unmanly. Men threw themselves into their work to distract themselves.

Unlike women, men were expected to remarry quickly. A new wife would provide companionship and childcare, if necessary.

Widowers who had not remarried were considered in the same class as bachelors. An unmarried woman could not visit a widower unless one of his female relatives was present. A married woman could visit a widower, as long as she was accompanied by her husband or brother. Callers would leave behind condolence cards, as they would do for any bereaved individual. In return, the widower would send thank-you cards to his callers.

Widowers were also expected to dress in a certain manner. Black was the official color of mourning. While women were expected to buy a new wardrobe in this color, men were not expected to do this. Instead, etiquette dictated that men wear a black armband or hatband. White linen replaced colored linen for the duration of the mourning period. Men never wore crepe, which is a matte fabric traditionally worn by women in mourning.


Aside from having to repress feelings of grief and strong pressure to remarry whether one felt ready or not, being a Victorian widower was certainly easy on the clothes budget.











8/23/18

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


8/13/18

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




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

Here are additional important points to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/9/18

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for more tips in Part 3.

8/6/18

lost my partner to suicide; part 1


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

Part 1

You as the Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/2/18

are support groups the right step for you?




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

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

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

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

Won’t everyone be crying all the time?

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

Keep in mind the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/30/18

patience: easier said than done


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


7/26/18

pets as support


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever you decide, also consider getting a rescue animal.

7/23/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 3








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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

7/19/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 2





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/16/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 1



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


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

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

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

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

That isn’t true.

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

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

7/12/18

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 2



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


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

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

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

7/9/18

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 1





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


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

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

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

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

7/5/18

how to cope with the usual at an unusual time



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

The refrigerator goes on the blink.

The car needs new brakes.

Or the plumbing creates a disaster.

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

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

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

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

6/14/18

making it through father's day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6/11/18

how past losses can kick in now; part 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And don’t forget that every tear counts.

6/7/18

how past losses can kick in now; part 1



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

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

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

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

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

- How complicated the mourning process for your partner becomes.

Why does this happen?

Previous deaths shape and influence how you now mourn because:

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

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

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

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

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

5/31/18

another great website for the military widowed



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

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

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

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

There are also a blog and a resources page.

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

5/28/18

resources for military survivors




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

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

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

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




5/24/18

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


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

The best ways to cope with these situations include:

a) Recognizing what is actually triggering these emotions.

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

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

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

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

5/17/18

supportive sites for widowed moms



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/30/18

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.