8/19/19

how to ease into those zzz's;part 1


Since your spouse/partner’s death, do you feel exhausted during the day because when you try sleep at night, you:

a) toss and turn all night, unable to shut down your thoughts?

b) fall asleep, only to wake up a few hours later, unable to get back to sleep?

Keep in mind that some disturbances in your normal sleep pattern are to be expected. With all the changes, stresses and mental/physical overload you’re dealing with, it’s no wonder you can’t rest.

With time, these typical symptoms of grief will subside.

In the meantime, remind yourself that everything seems worse at night. Once morning arrives, the problem or memory that kept you tossing and turning will probably seem more manageable.


In our next post, we’ll give you our 7 best ways to make it through those endless nights

8/15/19

take the "surprise!" out of anniversary reactions




In our last post, we looked at how to recognize when you’re being ambushed by unexpected anniversary reactions following the death of your spouse/partner.

Now let’s talk about how to cope with these situations.

Anniversary reactions have a way of “sneaking up” and blindsiding us despite our best efforts to avoid them. Even the most subtle sights, sounds, smells, or other reminders can suddenly trigger powerful and often baffling reactions of loss.

Here are some ways to disarm those “sneak attacks”:

A) Take the time to identify what’s touched off your reaction (see our previous post).

B) Give yourself permission to feel the sadness associated with the event you’re remembering.

C) Assure yourself that now that you’re aware of a particular emotional trigger, you can better anticipate it in the future. This will give you greater control in dealing with the situation.

D) Allowing yourself to experience the feelings of loss means you’re taking another step forward in your mourning process.

Keep in mind that although there are always these emotional triggers out there, the pain you feel will become less intense over time.

We’d love to hear about ways you’ve found to cope with anniversary reactions, especially the “sneaky” types.

8/12/19

when anniversary reactions sneak up on you



We've all experienced them: things are going along okay when out of the blue you're suddenly feeling sad or depressed. You can't understand what's hit you. Everything seemed fine and these emotions just don't make sense. Or do they?

Stop and take a minute to ask yourself:

1. Is it the anniversary of a month, day or event that had significance for you or your spouse? While holidays are expected to be difficult, days that represent the "last time" or "our special experience" are just as emotionally loaded and often less obvious as sources of pain.

2.Have you recently revisited places that were special for you or your spouse? Even if it's a different time of year, locations can also trigger feelings of loss.

3. Is the anniversary date/revisit about to come up or just past? One reason these reactions catch us off-guard is because their timing is often unpredictable or unexpected.


We'll discuss ways to cope with anniversary reactions in our next post.

In the meantime, learn more about these experiences.

8/5/19

when the visits stop; part 1





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

Not to mention the tasks of legal and financial paperwork.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/1/19

i hate the word "widow"!


As if going through the death of a spouse/partner wasn’t difficult enough, you’re suddenly labeled by everyone as a “widow” as soon as the death occurs.

Unfortunately, there have always been negative stereotypes about what it means to be widowed.

Take these examples from literature:

In order to save face in society, a widow was compelled to announce her loss to the world by her apparel. From Middlemarch by George Eliot: "My dear Celia," said Lady Chettam, "a widow must wear her mourning at least a year.”

Here’s an example of the stereotype of a widowed woman as vulnerable sexual prey from Fantastic-Fables by Ambrose Bierce: ‘A widow weeping on her husband's grave was approached by an Engaging Gentleman who, in a respectful manner, assured her that he had long entertained for her the most tender feelings.’

Until recently (in some cases, it’s still a reality), a widow was left financially destitute by her husband’s death. From the novel, Robin Hood by Walker J. McSpadden: ‘Toward the close of the same day, Rob paused hungry and weary at the cottage of a poor widow who dwelt upon the outskirts of the forest.’

Keep in mind that many of these old stereotypes probably continue to influence how you and others see your changed status. Like all aspects of a new identity, it takes time and baby steps to increase your sense of who you now are and how you want to define yourself.













7/29/19

reflections from lost my partner: even more words of wisdom


Here are more sayings from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?

1) For now, it’s okay to ask for help from others. Nobody’s strong all the time. Even Superman can be weakened by Krytonite.

2) Confusion and memory loss are normal and temporary symptoms.

3) The first year is full of first everythings.

4) Any new situation will start out being uncomfortable the first time. The next time is always easier.

5) Bereavement is a learning experience about you. You’ll discover new capabilities and strengths you didn’t realize you had.

7/25/19

the dilemma of honoring last wishes; part 2



In our previous post, we talked about dealing with conflicting feelings that can arise about carrying out your spouse/partner’s last wishes.

If you’re facing this dilemma, or already have, consider the following:

1) At the time these requests were made, he or she couldn’t have anticipated the realities of how you would feel when the time came to carry out these wishes.

2) Discuss with family members the possibility of compromise. If, for example, your spouse/partner wanted no service or memorial but you and the family feel the need to get together to share the loss, you might arrange a “gathering” to which family and friends can bring photos and mementoes of your spouse.

3) The important thing is that you honor(ed) your partner’s life in the best way possible for all concerned

Keep in mind that your needs are as important to respect as your late partner’s were.

7/22/19

the dilemma of honoring last wishes; part 1


Few requests carry a more powerful sense of obligation than those of a dying spouse/partner.

These can include anything from funeral/memorial arrangements to where and how the remains are to be dealt with.

Sometimes, though, your partner’s wishes may conflict with your own needs.

What seemed the right choice at the time the requests were made can, as the realities of death are actually faced, feel uncomfortable or inappropriate to the survivor. The decision to change or ignore your partner’s wishes, however, may leave you struggling with feelings of guilt and/or resentment.

In our next post, we’ll suggest ways to cope with this dilemma.

7/18/19

get comfortable going solo


Going alone to restaurants, movies or social occasions is a major shift after losing a spouse/partner. Like many people, you may feel self-conscious about being seen by others as “alone” and worry you’ll stand out in a crowd.

By avoiding these situations, you cheat yourself of the potential pleasure they offer. Instead, try these tips for easing yourself back into the swing of things:



A.) RESTAURANTS. Bring along a book, electronic device, crossword puzzles or anything else that will distract you from worrying thoughts. Think about how often you yourself pay attention to other people in restaurants before they “blend into the scenery”. Why should others be any different?



B.) PARTIES AND SOCIAL OCCASIONS. Contact the hostess ahead of time and ask if there will be anyone attending who you already know and could be seated next to.



C.) MOVIES. Attend matinees (when the price of tickets is generally cheaper, anyway), when you are less likely to be surrounded by couples.


Remember that you were your own person before you were part of a couple, and you still are. You bring unique gifts and qualities, which are enhanced by life experiences, to any situation.

Discovered strategies of you own for coping with these situations?










7/15/19

when sudden death strikes


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Please send us your thoughts and/or reactions.

7/11/19

5 tips for staying healthy while you're mourning




Research has shown that you’re more vulnerable to physical problems following the death of a spouse/partner. This doesn’t mean that you will get sick, only that it’s important to take care of your health during this stressful period.

The 5 best ways to safeguard yourself include:

1) Informing your doctor(s) that your spouse/partner has died. Pre-existing medical conditions can be affected by the stress of coping with loss and you may need an adjustment in medication dosages or other treatment changes.

2) Making sure you’re getting adequate nutrition. Appetite loss is a common symptom of grief and can create health problems over time. Rather than forcing yourself to polish off three full meals a day, try to eating several small snacks throughout the day, including fruits, vegetables and lean meats or other sources of protein.

3) Considering vitamin and/or meal supplements. Ask your doctor about taking vitamins and/or one of the liquid meal supplements like Ensure.

4) Taking short naps to compensate for the lack of sleep at night. Sleep disturbance is a very common symptom of grief. A word of caution: Some doctors will want to prescribe sleep medications. Although this type of medication can be helpful in the days following the death, continued use can interfere with the normal mourning process.

5) Keeping moving. If at all possible, try to get at least 20 to 30 minutes a day of light exercise, like taking a walk. Mild exercise has been proven to help overall health and well-being.

Remember: grief puts you under a lot of stress both emotionally and physically. So try to take the best possible care of yourself during this vulnerable time in your life.

7/8/19

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.

7/4/19

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!

7/1/19

reflections by sandra pesmen: moving to the middle of the bed





Sleeping in the bed you shared with your late partner can be a very difficult step. In this post from opentohope.com, journalist Sandra Pesmen, shares her personal struggle.




Moving to the Middle of the Bed
Last night, I slept in the middle of our king-size bed. It took me two years to do that. For 55 years, I shared that bed with my husband.

He never walked on water. Sometimes we broke that cardinal rule and went to sleep angry. But far more often, we embraced that bed, and each other, with tremendous joy, grateful we found mates that showed love, kindness, consideration, and selflessness on an almost daily basis. How unusual is that?

So often people reach out their hand when they hear I’m a widow and say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “Thank you,” I answer, “but I only had two years of loss. I had 55 years of gain.”

I know that not everyone has my resiliency. I lead The Widows List.com Web site (http://www.widowslist.com/) as well as several widows clubs at local senior centers, and I give motivational talks to help people learn to “Strive and thrive alone.”

Too often, these people are so grief stricken they find it hard to concentrate on anything except their sorrow. Their sadness has become the focus of their lives, and everything and everyone else is on the periphery.

I try and help them understand that life is not a dress rehearsal. We don’t get to have a “do-over.”

Whatever time we do have left is meant to be spent enjoying, loving, helping and caring for ourselves as well as others.

No one can hurry your grief or mine. No one can tell anyone else when it’s time to pick up living and begin placing those loved ones who died into a beloved memory space. All day every day, I think about my husband, silently telling him funny incidents, and asking myself what he would decide when a problem arises. His photos are on his desk in the den, on our dresser in the bedroom, and in the living room. When I talk to our grown children and grandchildren, one of them usually says, “Oh, that’s just what Dad (or Papa) wouid say.”

He is with me always and last night, after two years spent sleeping on my side of the bed, my husband’s memory finally joined me in the middle.

(Sandra Pesmen, host of www.widowslist.com, also writes the weekly DR.JOB column syndicated by Career News Service.)





6/27/19

how to travel without your 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.

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.

6/24/19

what widowers experience: part 3





The article by Dr. Michael S. Caserta continues.

Mental health issues.

According to Dr. Caserta,“Bereavement… is more depressing for many widowers because they, quite simply, have more to lose than widows. This is based on the assumption that a man's spouse is often his primary source of social support.

Consequently, although a widower may have been more apt to express his thoughts and feelings to his wife when she was alive, he may be equally unlikely to be so open to others. Widows more frequently use alternative sources of support that can protect them more effectively from potentially adverse effects of the loss and other stressors.”

The author goes on to say, “Many, however, are not drawn to what they believe to be counseling interventions because they often perceive them as services designed primarily for women. Widowers are typically uncomfortable with environments where the open expression of emotion is encouraged because it is not consistent with their preferred way to grieve.

Instead, researchers and practitioners suggest that bereaved men are more suited to active coping mechanisms that may include being engaged in meaningful activities. Programs that primarily feature such activities could have more appeal to widowers. Group walks and outings, for example, can be just as beneficial as traditional support groups because men who participate are able to interact and support one another in these situations and can do so more comfortably. Because the focus is on activity, however, as opposed to support or counseling itself, it is more consistent with many widowers' coping styles and is consequently less threatening. Because widowers use strategies that tend to be more cognitive than emotional in nature, they do well with books and other educational resources that help them help themselves.

Because of the unique problems widowers have assuming new responsibilities, they can benefit from programs that focus on skill-building and self-care education to help them successfully manage those tasks of daily living important to health, functioning, and independence. Issues of greater concern for widowers might include meal planning and preparation, housekeeping, and doing laundry. These programs can focus as well on more general health promotion topics like stress management, health screenings, immunizations, medication management, and physical activity, to name a few, that are equally relevant to widows and widowers but often go ignored or neglected by them given their new situation.”

Read part 1 and part 2.

6/20/19

what widowers experience; part 2



The article by Dr. Micheal S. Caserta continues:


Emotional response

Similar to widows, bereaved husbands experience an array of emotions, such as anger, shock (especially if the death is unexpected), numbness, denial, and profound sadness. Unlike widows, however, grieving men tend to control their emotions (with the possible exception of anger), for instance, by holding back and crying less openly.

Widowers, more often than not, will channel their energy into active coping and problem-solving strategies like work, physical activity, or addressing disruptions in the household. At other times they may prefer to be alone with their thoughts, whether thinking about the circumstances surrounding their wife's death or reflecting on ways to cope with their new situation.

Widowers who experience the same emotions as widows but were raised with the belief that emotional control is a sign of strength often find themselves confronting an inner conflict about how to respond to a loss. The situation may instinctively call for a response that is emotional but the widower may not be socialized to express himself in that way. Adding to this confusion on the part of the widower is an assumption that there is only one way to grieve.

Men usually express their feelings of grief in solitary ways, but this should not be construed as being any less intense than a widow's grief. At the same time, to a varying degree, some widowers express their emotions more openly than others, suggesting that while some responses may be more typical, any one widower's experience can be somewhat unique as well.

Read more in Part 3.

6/17/19

what widowers experience: part 1




This week’s posts are excerpted from an excellent article by Michael S. Caserta, Ph.D. posted on http://www.deathreference.com/.


What Widowers Experience


While women who lose their husbands often speak of feeling abandoned or deserted, widowers tend to express the loss as one of "dismemberment," as if they had lost something that kept them organized and whole.

The Harvard Bereavement Study, a landmark investigation of spousal loss that took place in the Boston area during the late 1960s, reported that widowers often equated the death of their wives with the loss of their primary source of protection, support, and comfort. This went to the very core of their overall sense of well-being. It has been described as "being lost without a compass," usually due to their profound loneliness but also because widowers often depended on their wives for many things like managing the household, caring for their children, and being their only true confidant.

This sense of being lost is more profound when widowers need help but have difficulty obtaining or even asking for it. They also can experience ambiguity about the emotions they are feeling and the uncertainty of how to express them.

Learn more in Part 2.


6/13/19

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.

6/10/19

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.

6/6/19

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.

6/3/19

thanks for asking, but...


Whenever friends ask you out to dinner or other events, are you uncertain about accepting the invitation? Uncertain because due to grief, you’re not sure how you’ll be feeling when the time comes to actually get together?

Here are some suggestions for handling this common dilemma for anyone who is bereaved.

After thanking your friends for their interest, remind them that because of your loss, every day has it’s ups and downs.

Ask your friends if it’s okay to notify them a day or so ahead of the occasion, so you don’t feel pressured and have a better idea of what you’re up for.

Keep in mind that most people are very understanding.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about these situations.

5/30/19

your grieving child and a new caregiver/housekeeper


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

Introducing an unfamiliar person into the household following your spouse/partner’s death can present special concerns in terms of your child’s sense of emotional security. It’s important that the caretaker/housekeeper be made aware of the following:

· The importance of being sensitive to your child’s grieving. Explain that your child’s behavior may sometimes reflect an inability to talk about the loss. Stress that it’s up to your child to decide if he/she wants to talk about what’s happened, and the caretaker should not pressure him/her.

· How to handle issues of loss. Clarify that you wish your own beliefs about death and loss, rather than the caretaker’s, to be the response to your child’s questions or concerns. If the caretaker is of a different religion and/or culture and therefore views death differently, it might be wise to discuss your family’s religious orientation with him/her.

· Your child’s needs and concerns regarding household routines. Allowing your child to participate in a discussion on this subject will help him/her feel understood by the new person caring for them.

5/27/19

when adults lose a parent; part 3: more ways to cope



In part 2 of our excerpt from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do?, we discussed how losing a parent can affect your relationship with your surviving parent. We offered some suggestions for understanding and coping with
this situation.

MORE WAYS TO COPE

Here are some additional tips:

- Inheritance issues can open a nasty can of worms. In some families money equates love, so possessions can symbolize to members how your late parent felt about them. Try to enlist a neutral person to mediate any family discussions about this emotional subject.

- If possible, talk with your sibling(s) and evaluate what each of you can realistically do. If one of you lives far away, that person may still be able to pay for household help or other services and stay in touch on a regular basis with your parent.

- Have a frank discussion with mom or dad about how you can help. Keep expectations realistic and try to focus on specific tasks, such as helping with paperwork, shopping or home maintenance chores. Reach out to other trusted family members (such as cousins or older grandchildren), neighbors and family friends for assistance with chores. Others appreciate the opportunity to provide support in specific ways.

Have you discovered other strategies that help? Please share them with us.

5/23/19

when adults lose a parent; part 2: ways to cope




In Part 1, we discussed your reactions to losing a parent.

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

Ways to Cope
As you attempt to cope with your own feelings, you may find that your relationship with your surviving parent changes in other ways.

In addition to helping with funeral arrangements, you may be called on to assist your already overwhelmed parent deal with health and/or financial problems. Under these circumstances, your mom or dad can seem uncharacteristically dependent and clinging. They may also have expectations of you that can feel burdensome or inappropriate.

Trying to manage all of the above in addition to your own family and work demands can stir of flashes of anger and resentment, which you may feel guilty about.

Take a deep breath and keep in mind the following:

- Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time. Each member of your family had a unique relationship and history with your late parent and their reactions to the loss will often reflect this.

- Respect the fact that the mourning process (yours as well as your parent’s) is difficult and takes time.

- Although mom or dad appears overwhelmed and not their usual self, this is temporary. She/he is an adult and still your parent. While some assistance is appreciated, mom or dad does not want to be treated like a child. Most surviving parents worry about becoming burdens to their children even under these temporary circumstances and don’t wish to relinquish their customary role in your life as providers of love and support.

Learn more ways to cope in Part 3.

5/20/19

when adults lose a parent; part 1: your reactions





This week’s posts are excerpts from Chapter 23, "I Lost My Parent", from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition.

Your Reactions


Losing a parent, indeed, both parents, is to be expected in life. When this happens though, it can shake your world in ways you never anticipated.

While you’re feeling abandoned (no matter how old you are) by your late parent, it’s natural to turn to your surviving parent for comfort and reassurance.

You may discover, however, that he/she is unable to provide support because of his/her own grief. Their preoccupation and withdrawal can feel like one more abandonment.

You may react by:

a) Becoming excessively anxious about your surviving parent’s health and/or safety.

b) Trying to assume the role of your late parent by taking over many of their tasks and responsibilities.

c) Pressuring your mom or dad to quickly dispose of “painful reminders” or sell their home right away and move closer to you.

d) Becoming impatient, annoyed or angry with the way your parent is coping with the loss.

e) Expecting your own spouse or partner to always be supportive and understanding of your situation.

f) Quarreling with your sibling(s) over who does what or who gets what.

g) Withdrawing.

In addition, you may struggle with guilt, remorse or other emotional unfinished business from your late parent’s final illness or circumstances of death.

In Part 2, we’ll help you understand changes in your relationship with your surviving parent.

5/16/19

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.

5/13/19

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.

5/9/19

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?

5/6/19

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.

5/2/19

reflections from lost my partner: words of wisdom





1) Your limitations in coping are temporary. With time, you’ll get better at handling responsibilities.

2) Trust your own instincts while sorting out well-meaning advice from others. You are the best expert on you.

3) Try not to let others pressure you. What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for you.

4) If possible, postpone any major decisions for the first year. Your ability to make sound judgments is temporarily out of order.

5) Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to be able to make serious plans at a time when having to decide what to do tomorrow can feel overwhelming.



Hope these help.

4/29/19

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.

4/25/19

when should i stop wearing my wedding ring and other timeline questions about widowhood; part 1




After your partner’s death, it’s difficult to know when the appropriate time is to let go of various symbols of your union. Often friends and family will urge you to take a step you may not feel ready to take. Despite the pressure from others, however, it’s important to listen to your own sense of what feels right for you.


* When should I stop wearing my wedding ring?

After your spouse/partner dies, you may have mixed feelings about when to remove your wedding ring.

Because there are no firm rules about if and when to take this emotionally loaded step, it’s really up to you to decide when to stop wearing your ring.

You might practice removing it for short periods and see how you feel. Or try a more gradual change by shifting the ring to another finger, different hand, or a chain you wear around your neck.

However you proceed, take the time you need to the make the decision that’s right for you.


* When should I get rid of my spouse/partner’s possessions?


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

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

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

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

4/22/19

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


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

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

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

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

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

Before you decide to give up on your faith:

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

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

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

4/18/19

spiritual comfort; part 1: questions

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

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

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

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

You may question the fairness of the loss:

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

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

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

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


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

4/15/19

i'm not the typical partner: part 2

(Excerpted from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition)


In our last post, we discussed ways in which the loss of a non-traditional partner can differ from that of a traditional spouse.


Here are some suggestions for how to cope:

1)      Are any of your partner’s family more accepting of you? It can be a comfort to share your pain with those who were close to your partner. Reach out to approachable family members or friends.

2)      If you’ve been barred from attending the funeral, you might consider creating your own memorial gathering.

3)      Let those close to you know what you’re going through. Check for community support groups or online resources.

4)      Consult an attorney or contact your local bar association and the Social Security Administration about your legal rights and survivor benefits. While each state has different laws, some do make provisions for non-traditional partners. Even once divorced, if your marriage lasted 10 years or more, you may be entitled to your ex-spouse’s social security benefits. Don’t assume you have no rights – investigate!

Remember: it’s not important how others judge your relationship or your grief. What matters most is what your attachment meant to you and your partner. Recall what was special and cherish the bonds that brought you together. Respect your own needs and treat yourself kindly.

4/11/19

i'm not the typical partner: part 1



(This post is excerpted from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?, Revised and Expanded Edition)



Grief for the death of a long-term partner in a same-sex or opposite sex relationship is as deep and meaningful as the grief felt in the loss of a spouse. Even the death of an en-spouse can be a painful loss.

While you, the survivor, may experience the same grief reactions as traditional partners, there are different issues that affect your mourning process and may not be publicly acknowledged or supported, such as:

·    Whether your relationship was accepted or rejected by family members.

·     Access to your partner during the final illness or circumstances of the death and/or inclusion in funeral/memorial arrangements.

·    Legal and financial complications involving property ownership, child custody or survivor benefits.

·    Emotional unfinished business, especially any conflict as an aftermath of divorce or lack of access to your partner around the time of death.

·     Lack of traditional community support systems.

Any, or all of the above can prolong or complicate a normal mourning process.

In our next post, we offer some suggestions for coping.




4/8/19

staying connected with adult step-children; part 2


In our last post, we looked at some of the causes of tension between you and your adult step-children.

Here are some strategies for defusing that tension and improving communication.

1) Give everyone a psychological “time-out” from making any decisions. Postpone any discussions about who gets what for a few months and tell the family, “I’m just not ready to focus on such important questions yet.”

2) Look to other family members and friends for your emotional support. Your spouse/partner’s children may or may be there to lean on right away.

3) Don’t put your stepchildren in the middle of any unfinished business you have with your late spouse/partner or his or her ex. Vent your anger at the appropriate target, even if it means talking to a photo of your spouse/partner.

4) After a few months (trust your instincts about the timing), suggest a get-together. Assure your stepchildren that they remain important to you and you’d like to work out ways to maintain your connection.

5) Remember that when it comes it financial issues, conflicts can easily arise. Protect yourself by consulting with your own experts.

Keep in mind that if your prior relationship with a step-child was close, he or she will be anxious not to lose it. A strong foundation can help any relationship weather some temporary storms.

4/4/19

staying connected with adult step-children; part 1: understanding the issues


You’ve just lost your spouse/partner.

Now you may face more losses.

If your spouse/partner had adult children, how can you be certain those relationships won’t either slip away or be destroyed by conflict?

To better understand what is happening, keep in mind the following:

-Your step-children are grieving too. Their reactions will reflect their own relationships with their deceased parent. If there was conflict, there may be hidden guilt or remorse behind how they act.

-Your connection with your step-children depends on how you have been in their lives and what kind of relationship you shared. If there was any initial tension around the circumstances of your marriage, this can surface.

-Is your spouse’s ex alive? Your step-children may distance themselves from you. Keep in mind that what appears to be a shift in loyalties may just be a temporary reaction to the loss.

-Consider your connection prior to the death. Were you close to your step-children? What stresses did the circumstances prior to the death (prolonged illness, a sudden accident), put on the relationship?


Hopefully these questions can shed some light on what lies beneath any tensions or confusion you may have experienced with your stepchildren.

In our next post, we’ll offer some strategies for strengthening these important relationships during this difficult time.

4/1/19

widowhood way back when: widows on rooftops




An interesting architectural feature began in the days of sailing ships.

According to Wikipedia, a widow's walk (or roofwalk) is a railed rooftop platform often with a small enclosed cupola that was often found on 19th century North American houses.

A popular romantic myth holds that the platform was used to observe vessels at sea. The name comes from the wives of mariners who would watch for their spouses' return, often in vain as the ocean took the lives of the mariners, leaving the women as widows.

However, there is little or no evidence that widow's walks were intended or regularly used for this purpose.

Widow's walks are in fact a standard decorative feature of Italianate architecture, which was very popular during the height of the Age of Sail in many North American coastal communities. The widow's walk is a variation of the Italinate cupola . The Italianate cupola, also known as a "belvedere", was an important ornate finish to this style, although it was often high maintenance and prone to leaks.

Beyond their use as viewing platforms, they are frequently built around the chimney of the residence, thus creating an easy access route to the structure. This allows the residents of the home to pour sand down burning chimneys in the event of a chimney fire in the hope of preventing the house from burning down.

We wonder if those 19th century wives had deck chairs and sun block while they were up there.

3/28/19

reflections by deb edwards: what i know for sure about being a widow - one year later


Although it's been a few years, this early post from contributor Deb Edwards is still inspiring :

Tomorrow will be one year since Dale died. It seems impossible to me. I had a tree planted and a memorial plaque in his memory that finally were installed yesterday at a local plaza in the town where I live.

In preparation for this important anniversary, I "circled the wagons" I am having a small private dedication with my closest friends, followed by dinner. My granddaughters are coming for a sleepover so I won't have to be alone. With all my planning, I will still be glad when it is over.

Now that the day has arrived, Deb shares her reflections:


What I Know For Sure About Being a Widow.....One Year Later

Today is one year since my husband died. This has been quite a journey, with some very unexpected twists and turns.

My writing and the positive feedback I have received as a result has helped me so much with my own healing:

don't waste your energy trying to understand the reasons "why?"-they will never make sense

children and animals can offer a tremendous source of comfort, wisdom and insight in its purest and simplest form

everything and anything seems 10x worse at 2:00am

"alone" does not have to be synonymous with "lonely"

the cereal aisle still makes me cry.........but not as often

just when you think it never will, it does get easier-some days

look for ways in your life to "give back". paying it forward can be unbelievably rewarding-helping someone else can redirect your focus and lessen the pain

the moments that you feel "better" will turn into hours, then days, then weeks and then... there you are crying again

your "alone" time can be a real opportunity to reinvent yourself if you can embrace the possibilities

indulge yourself in extreme "self-care"-whatever works for you-a massage, a walk, a hot bath, brownies (i am a firm believer in the healing power of chocolate!)-anything that makes you feel good

getting through all the "firsts" seems impossible, but you somehow get through it-I hope the "seconds" won't be so tough. planning ahead helps.

don't be afraid to ask for what you need or want-you may be pleasantly surpised at what you get

when you feel like you can't go on, just put one foot in front of the other and eventually you will get to where you want to be

it can be very scary to step outside your comfort zone and try new things-but if you don't try you could miss out on something wonderful

forgive, forgive, forgive....the one you lost, God, the doctors, but most of all yourself

grief is a complicated process so if you think you're over it-you're not and if you haven't experienced it-trust me-you will

endings can also be wonderful beginnings-keep your mind and heart open and don't quit 5 minutes before the miracle

and as always..... remember to breathe


deb edwards

3/25/19

reflections by e. raymond rock: now that she's gone


Excerpted from thegriefblog.com, here’s a man’s perspective on losing his wife.

Now That She's Gone

You’ve been with her for many years. You have shared the ups and downs, the tragedies and the triumphs. You became used to each other and shared your dreams, the dreams you both had, with bright eyes and wondrous anticipation when you were young. . . . And then one day, she was gone.

Just that fast, she was gone. You didn’t have a chance to say goodbye, or tell her what she meant to you, or ask her what you will do without her. She was just . . . gone.

You walk through the house and find her here and there, the lamp you both argued about, but she let you win; her favorite, cracked cup that she glued back together so carefully; little things, a million memories, and you wonder how you will go on.

It’s too quiet now. No one there to say, “Hi Babe; how was your day?” Just the mocking silence. Why is the pain so unbearable? What is it with life anyway? Does it all come down to this; this crushing loneliness? Will there ever be another? No, there couldn’t be, not like that one. You could never let yourself fall so deeply in love again, it’s too painful.

The days go by, and the memories fade, and you find that you are changing. You will never be what you once were. The youthful exuberance and the never ending optimism has been replaced by a deep sadness, a melancholy wisdom, and you find yourself slowing down a little; nowhere important to go now, now that the one you lived for is gone. You find yourself going through the motions.

And one day you think about her less often, but when you do, you still wonder if you could have made her happier, if you could have sacrificed a little more or paid more attention to her little dreams, instead of just what you wanted. But then you remember -she never asked for that much, just to be with you.

You’re moving on now; you can’t live in the past. The world does not stop spinning. You know that she is okay, wherever she is; she always had a way of making the best of things. But you’re not okay, not really — maybe someday, but not today.

And you sit with the loneliness, and the pain; and you don’t escape from it this time. You don’t escape into a therapy of some kind, or a self-help book. No, you sit with it, and it takes every bit or courage that you have, and you feel defeated.

There is no more hatred toward others, no more criticism. There is no energy for that. They will feel this same pain someday, and therefore how could you not feel connected to them? There is no longer any self-righteousness, because you no longer know anything about life for certain, all of your certainties died with her. Now you are experiencing life, raw life, just as it is, without hiding from it, or theorizing about it, and somewhere deep inside, mixed in with all the pain and the hurt, there is a murmur, just a whisper of something else.

And you sit at night, alone in your meditation; your breath going in and going out, your memories and the pain going in and going out. The moonlight drifts through your window, your only friend now, and after awhile, it’s okay. It’s quiet now. If you listen carefully you can almost hear her breathing next to you, and you continue sitting in your meditation. And you hold your broken heart in your hands . . . and you ask why.

No answers come, just the in breath, and the out breath, and the cycles of life where everything changes, and where we suffer so much.

And that is enough for now. And you sit with it. And you wait . . .

E. Raymond Rock

3/21/19

reflections by deb edwards: filling the "hole"

Back in '09, Contributor Deb Edwards shared her reflections in this insightful post.

Filling the “Hole”

Anyone who has lost their partner knows what I am referring to in some way. It is how you feel when you are the only one in the room that is not half of a couple, It is the way you feel at the end of the day when you are alone. It is the way you feel the first time you fill out a form and circle the “W” instead of the “M”. It is the way you feel when you realize they are never coming back.

Since my husband died a little over a year ago, I have felt a physical and emotional “hole” where he used to be. It is bigger on some days and smaller on others, but it never goes away completely.

I have known people that have used the “hole” to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Eating too much, drinking too much, self-medicating, spending too much, but at the end of the day, the “hole” is still there. I tried to fill the “hole” with cookies, but trust me - it didn’t help. The “hole” was still there - and I had a stomach ache!

So what do you do? You do the best you can to fill the “hole”. Meet new people, find new interests, and develop a good support system. Re-invent yourself - take risks-step outside your comfort zone. I am fortunate to have a job that I love, I spend time with my grandkids, I rescued a cat and I have been doing volunteer work. Don’t hesitate to get professional help if you feel like you have fallen in the “hole” and get can’t pull yourself out.

The “hole” is a normal part of the grieving process and nothing can ever replace the one you lost. It is ever-present, but what I have learned during the past year is that it is how you fill the “hole” that is important. You have a choice every hour of every day on how you want to live your life. So choose well, but don’t beat yourself up. We are human, and some days we do better than others.

And as always - breathe!
Deb Edwards

3/18/19

reflections by woodrow irvin: some comments for the clueless to consider

Contributor Woodrow (Woody) sent the following eloquent comments about Condolences from the Clueless. We want to devote a  "reflections" post to his response.

Woody wrote:  

I would like to give you some of the "remarks" that were said to me before and after I lost  Joey, my partner of 11 years in January of this year due to complications from diabetes. Some days I still remember the comments and start to get bitter and angry

Comments made while Joey was in the hospital:

1) His aunt said to me: "If he doesn't make it, are you going to go back home?" [Georgia , where I was born]. I was so shocked and dumbfounded that ANYONE would say that at a time of intense stress that I was speechless.

2) His uncle said to me: "Couldn't you have gotten him down here sooner?" That upset me big time because when someone has an infection, sometimes you don't see the symptoms until much later. Don't add to my pain and stress by saying something insensitive like that!

Comments made after Joey passed away:

1) "He's in a better place and not suffering." This is the most common response I got and I know people probably mean well but the fact is it hurts to hear this because I of all people know that he is in a better place and not suffering, etc. I was with him 24/7, and I saw things no one else saw. I saw the suffering, etc. Hearing this doesn't help me because I DON'T HAVE HIM WITH ME ANY MORE.

2). "I understand how you feel!" - No you don't understand how I feel. You can sympathize but you have no idea what I'm going through, the loss and the hurt and the bitterness. Unless you have lost a partner/husband/wife, you can't understand the feelings that are so intense and painful and debilitating.

3) The evening of his passing this same aunt and uncle started to ask 20 questions like when is the service, are you going to take his ashes and sprinkle them at Disneyland, etc. that finally I said “I can't talk any more”, and hung up. I was crying and grieving. Don't ask so may questions so soon after a loss !!! Keep it brief, offer your sympathy and then say good-bye. Later, at a more appropriate time, the questions can hopefully be answered.

Joey was the type to tell me not to let people and their remarks get to me. He always said you are better than that and to let it go. Don't let it get you down and destroy you. I will always love him for saying that and THAT is what keeps me going.

Hopefully someone may read about my experiences and learn from them. I agree, most people mean well but some don't realize what they say can make the pain worse and that's the last thing we need.

Woody