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.