8/30/18

widowhood way back when: manly mourning in victorian times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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











8/27/18

reflections: remembering don spector on his birthday


Today would have been my dad’s 93rd birthday.

If, that is, he had lived more than a few weeks past his 49th birthday.

It took me a long time before I could picture Dad as the man he was before cancer so cruelly altered him and our lives.

I try to imagine him now as an elderly man with all the physical changes that come with advanced age.

Yet despite how he might now look if he’d been able to grow old, what comes through in my thoughts are the qualities about him that would have remained ageless;

His compassion.

His sense of humor.

His intelligence.

His insightfullness.

His love.

These are the realities of Dad that remain ageless. And always with me.

Laurie

8/23/18

can't stop crying




That might sound like title of a country western song, but it’s all too real an experience when your spouse/partner has died.

After my husband’s death, I felt like the tears would never stop.

I remember being at work, in social situations, or just driving and finding myself unexpectedly tearing up. Caught off-guard and often embarrassed, I’d head for the nearest private place (like a restroom or quiet street), to try to pull myself together.

I realize some people consider crying a form of self-pity.

But I’ve learned that tears are nature’s way of helping us release tension. The best way to do the mourning is to do the grieving. And that means every tear helps.

So trust yourself. Your mind does have a shut-off valve.

How have you handled these situations?

Ruth


8/20/18

When it's wise to stay home; part 2


In our last post, we explored some of the reasons you may feel tempted to accept an invitation to visit out-of-town family and friends in the weeks following your spouse/partner’s death.

By leaving town so soon after the death however, you may interrupt some critical aspects of your mourning process. Some of the problems that can come up include:

- Feeling disoriented when you arrive at your destination. Now that your whole world has been turned upside down by your loss, the new location will lack the comfort of familiar objects.

- Promises of being cushioned by loving attention from adult children or friends may not turn out to be what you expected. As a “houseguest”, you may find yourself left alone while others are at work or asked to baby-sit at a time when you aren’t up to that sort of responsibility.

- Once you return home, your local family and friends may assume you’ve “moved on” and no longer need them as you did before you left. Their intense support will no longer be there.

Although painful, the adjustment period right after your spouse/partner’s death is an extremely important one.

So give yourself plenty of time before taking out that suitcase.

8/16/18

when it's wise to stay home; part 1


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

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

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

Don’t start making travel plans just yet.

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

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

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

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

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

8/13/18

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




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

Here are additional important points to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/9/18

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for more tips in Part 3.

8/6/18

lost my partner to suicide; part 1


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

Part 1

You as the Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/2/18

are support groups the right step for you?




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

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

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

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

Won’t everyone be crying all the time?

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

Keep in mind the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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