8/16/18

when it's wise to stay home; part 1


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

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

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

Don’t start making travel plans just yet.

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

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

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

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

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

8/13/18

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




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

Here are additional important points to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/9/18

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for more tips in Part 3.

8/6/18

lost my partner to suicide; part 1


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

Part 1

You as the Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/2/18

are support groups the right step for you?




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

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

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

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

Won’t everyone be crying all the time?

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

Keep in mind the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/30/18

patience: easier said than done


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


7/26/18

pets as support


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever you decide, also consider getting a rescue animal.

7/23/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 3








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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

7/19/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 2





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/16/18

understanding your child's reactions; part 1



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


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

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

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

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

That isn’t true.

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

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

7/12/18

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 2



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


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

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

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

7/9/18

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 1





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


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

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

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

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

7/5/18

how to cope with the usual at an unusual time



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

The refrigerator goes on the blink.

The car needs new brakes.

Or the plumbing creates a disaster.

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

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

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

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

7/2/18

widowhood way back when: revolutionary war pensions




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

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

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

Lemuel Cook (1759–1866)

Samuel Downing (1764–1867)

John Gray (1764–1868)

Daniel F. Bakeman (1759–1869)

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

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


Hope you have a Happy Fourth!

6/28/18

dad's worrisome reactions; part 2



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6/25/18

dad’s worrisome reactions: part 1




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

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

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

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

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

More in Part 2.

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.