12/30/19

a new year; what's ahead for you?



The holidays are finally over.




Congratulate yourself on having survived.



As you look ahead to the coming year, what do you feel? Dread, anticipation or a combination of both?

Depending upon how recently your loss occurred, you may experience dread if:

1) This will be a year of firsts, i.e., first birthday, wedding anniversary, and/or other special occasions since the loss.

2) You are wondering where to turn for support.

3) You ask yourself, “How can I put my life back together now that my partner is gone?”

If some time has passed since the loss, you may be facing the future with anticipation as you:

- Think about ways to enlarge your circle of friends, (you may have lost some, especially couple friends, now that you are widowed).

- Re-define how you see yourself. What strengths have you gained and in what ways are you more confident?

- Consider trying new activities, which are good ways to gain both of the above.

Recognize that while so much in your life has changed due to your loss, you can trust yourself to learn how to weather the changes and challenges in the year ahead.

In our next post, we’ll suggest 5 easy and practical resolutions you can make for the coming year.

12/23/19

we're taking the rest of the week off - happy holidays!


We'll be back next week with more tips and advice.

In the meantime, please check out our earlier posts for support and information.


Happy Holidays to all!


Laurie and Ruth

12/19/19

reflections: quotes to get you through the the new year

1) In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
- Albert Camus

2) Courage is like love; it must have hope for nourishment.
- Napoleon

3) We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.
- Martin Luther King

4) If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.- Milton Berle

5) The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.
- Al Neuharth (founder of USA Today)
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12/16/19

getting through get-togethers; part 3: breaking the ice



In Part 2 we covered various strategies for gaining a sense of control in party situations.

Part 3 continues in this excerpt from Lost My Partner:

At family gatherings, everyone will be aware of your loss. They may feel awkward about making any mention of it out of fear of "upsetting" you.

In truth, you may actually feel more hurt and upset if everyone is avoiding the subject.

In addition, not talking about the person everyone is thinking about only creates more tension at a gathering.

Others will take their cue from you. It’s helpful, therefore, at a point most comfortable for you, to mention your spouse in whatever way you wish.

You might, for example, bring up the name as part of a toast or prayer at dinner. Even casual comments such as: “Gee, Jack always loved Aunt Rose’s apple pie,” or “Remember how Connie couldn’t wait to start decorating for the holidays?” are effective ice breakers.


Please share any of your own strategies for coping with these situations.

12/12/19

getting through get-togethers; part 2: tips for feeling in control


In Part 1, we talked about taking some steps to be emotionally prepared before you attend a get-together.

Our excerpt from Lost My Partner continues:

 You can gain a greater sense of control in these (party) situations by:

1) Giving yourself the first 30 minutes after you arrive to adjust to the circumstances. Remember that without your spouse/partner, this is a new situation. Expect some brief uneasiness. Many discover that once they’ve made it past the first half hour, they’re more relaxed.

2) Contacting the host or hostess ahead of time to explain that you aren’t your usual self and may wish to leave early.

3) Taking your own car or alerting a friend who’s driving you about the possibility of making an early exit.

4) Giving yourself a ‘time-out’ in the event of feeling overwhelmed, so you can retreat to the privacy of a bathroom or bedroom, or take a walk, and have a brief cry. Most people will understand.

In Part 3, we’ll cover how to break the ice about your loved one when others are uncertain about mentioning the loss.

12/9/19

getting through get-togethers; part 1: first things first






Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, here are some proven strategies for making it through festive gatherings, even when you aren’t feeling in the holiday spirit.

In our previous post, Best Ways to Get Through the Holidays (Part 1), we suggest “To lessen the chance of emotional ‘sneak attacks’, make some time to grieve, either on the holiday or just before it.”

In Lost My Partner, we add, “Even when you’ve prepared yourself by making time to grieve beforehand, you may feel anxious about becoming uncomfortable in a festive gathering. There’s often a sense of being “out of it”, as you watch others having a good time.

However, just going, even if you need to leave early, is a sign of progress.”

In Part 2, learn the best ways to gain a greater sense of control in these situations.

12/5/19

fa la la la lost my partner


This time of year it’s all around us: holiday music.

From shopping malls to television to our computers, we’re bombarded by holiday tunes and jingles.

If you’ve recently lost your partner, these seasonal tunes can stir up happy memories as well as tears of remembrance.

Because it’s everywhere, holiday music and the bittersweet recollections that bring on tears are hard to avoid.

Rather than fighting it, we suggest you try to “go with the flow” and, in the privacy of your own home, allow a few tears.

By giving yourself permission to grieve, it will be easier to get on with some of the pleasures of the holiday season.

12/2/19

help yourself through the holidays by helping others



Is the prospect of any holiday celebrating just too much to consider this year?

If you recently lost your partner, you may be feeling very “bah, humbug!” about all the customary activities and rituals of the season.

While you may chose to modify some of your usual tasks (see our post about surviving the holidays), you might be thinking about ignoring the day completely.

Keep in mind that at some point, either on the holiday or before, the pain of your loss with catch up with you (learn more about preventing “sneak attacks”).

So in addition to grieving, what can you do if you want to skip the usual holiday activities?

This time of year, there are numerous opportunities for volunteering in your community.

Consider participating with a friend and/or your children or grandchildren.

In addition to helping you stay busy during this difficult period, you’ll gain the warm feelings that come with brightening the days for those you help.

Here are some good ideas we found on factoidz.com:

Nursing Homes
Nursing homes need all kinds of volunteers. You could help decorate for their Christmas and Thanksgiving parties. They usually have a need for gift wrappers as well, and for volunteers to help the elderly make arts and crafts Christmas gifts. Volunteering for the elderly can be a year round project.

Women’s Shelters
These shelters would love to have help decorating trees, babysitting, and maybe even transporting women to do their holiday shopping. Also consider doing things like answering phones and data entry.

Homeless Shelters
There is always a need for help in these shelters, and these days our shelters are overflowing with people who need your services. Go there to help with fundraising, food preparation, clothing drives; the list is endless.

Food Kitchens
Thanksgiving is a great time to help prepare and serve a hot meal to the needy. Shelters are listed in the phone book and on the Internet.

Children’s Shelters
Help the kids get the toys they want for Christmas. Call your local childrens’ shelter and find out what toys they need and drop them off. Remember Toys for Tots, it’s sponsored by the United States Marine Corps, and all you have to do is buy a toy and drop it off at one of many selected drop off points.

Your local place of worship
Ask your religious advisor what you can do to help those in your community, maybe even those at your place of worship need help. This type of volunteering is one of the easiest ways to help our neighbors.

Online Volunteering
Contribute your skills to organizations all around the world, and help them grow. You can make a difference through your translation skills, research, writing and editing….the possibilities are almost endless.

Any other suggestions for holiday volunteering?

Please let us know.

11/28/19

widowhood way back when: how pilgrims progressed through loss





If you’re facing a Thanksgiving dinner that might be hindered by a bad case of heartburn or having to cope with troublesome relatives, consider what the original Pilgrims had to cope with. Especially the widowed survivors.

For a look back, we discovered the informative article, Pilgrim Burials on the site http://www.lovetoknow.com/.

According to this excerpt from authors J.C. Redmond and MaryBeth Adomaitis, “Pilgrim burials were relatively simple affairs. The occupants of the Mayflower were buried in unmarked graves because it is thought that they didn't want the Native Americans living in the area to know how small of a population they were.”

The authors go on to describe later Pilgrim burials, “When Pilgrims died, headstones were not erected at the burial site. No artisans skilled in carving stone had come over with the first group of settlers. In addition, there was no stone available in the area where the Pilgrims settled from which to fashion a monument to the dead. Their first priority was to concentrate on the tasks necessary for survival; even if the stone carvers had come on the trip, there wasn't any time to carve headstones.

A family wanting to erect a headstone in memory of a loved one would have to go to the expense of having one brought over from England.”

Redmond and Adomaitis describe burial rituals, “In the early years after the arrival of the Pilgrims in North America, funerals were a very simple matter. No funeral ceremony was conducted and no special sermon was given. The grieving family did not wear mourning clothes for a certain time after the death.

Embalming of the body of the deceased was not done. On occasion, graves were opened and reused. The bodies of a family or a small community may share the same grave.”

So enjoy the food and be grateful that as difficult as some relatives can be, at least you aren’t stuck with them for all eternity.

11/25/19

reflections: by darcie sims



With the holidays here, we thought we’d post this inspiring article by Darcie Sims from The Grief Blog.com. Although it’s about a military family, the issue is one that we all deal with at holiday times.

The Empty Chair
There’s an empty chair in our house and I am not sure what to do with it. It’s been empty a long time and although we’ve moved more than a few times since it became empty, we still haul it around with us. It’s not a particularly classic chair or even a very pretty one, and it is empty…all the time.

I never really know which room to put it in whenever we do move, but once it has found its place, I’ve noticed that it simply stays there. No one moves it, no one suggests putting it away.


No one sits in it. It’s just an empty chair.

As a military family, for many generations, we are used to having members of the family off in faraway places for long periods of time. My father would be gone for up to a year or even two. His chair was often empty at the table. My husband’s military career took him away for many months at a time, and his chair was often empty. And then, when our daughter was commissioned in the military, we knew her chair would also be empty sometimes. So empty chairs at our house are not an uncommon thing, but this chair…this chair should never have been empty.

As the holidays approach, I am always faced with the task of deciding what to do with our empty chair. Should we put it away for the season? Should we decorate it? Or should we just ignore it?

One holiday season, we did decide to put it away. Even though it was an empty chair, it left an even bigger empty space when we did move. How can that be? How can something that is empty leave a bigger empty space when it’s gone?!

We’ve tried to ignore it, but its emptiness is very loud and it is hard to miss an empty chair in a room filled with people sitting in all the other chairs. And even when we could manage to ignore it, others could not and they always commented on it. An empty chair is not invisible.

Then, one year, we decided to simply include it in our holiday decorating scheme; that was the cause of some interesting discussions. Should we put a special holiday pillow in it? What about tossing a colorful quilt or afghan over the back? Should we put something in the chair? But nothing we tried could fill the emptiness of that chair. It just sat silent like a sentinel, waiting for something…or someone.

It took us many years of living with that empty chair, day in and day out, to finally figure out what to do with it. Our empty chair is pulled up to the table and a single rose is placed on the plate, a symbol of everlasting love. The empty chair represents all of those who are not with us for this occasion, but who live within our hearts forever. It is not a sad sight because we know that empty chair represents a love we have known and shared and with that gift, our family is forever blessed.

We join hands in thanksgiving, completing the circle with the empty chair within our family circle, for even though death may have come, love never goes away.

So, if your holiday table will have an empty chair this year, remember that it is not truly an empty space. That place is still occupied by the love and joy of the one(s) who sat in it. Don’t hide that chair away. You may not wish to bring it to the table as we do, but take time this holiday season to remember the laughter, the joy, the love, the light of those who are no longer within hug’s reach, but whose love still fills us with gratitude.

Join hands around your table, however small, and say a prayer of thanksgiving…for the love you have known and still hold deep within your heart. You are rich beyond measure for having had a chair filled. Don’t let death rob you of the heart space that love keeps.

Our little empty chair…no one has sat in it for 25 years…until this season. The empty chair at our house has been filled with the tiny spirit of a new life as she found that chair to be just the “right size.”

We are a family circle, some chairs filled and others not, broken by death, but mended by love.


Darcie D. Sims, Ph.D., CGC, CHT


Reach Darcie Sims at http://www.griefinc.com/.

11/21/19

holiday greetings dilemmas






Here's useful tips on handling an uncomfortable holiday dilemma.


1) Those Who Don't Know About Your Loss

You may receive some holiday greetings that still include your spouse/partner in the address (learn more about the whole issue of being caught off guard by people who don’t know about the loss in our earlier post, Encounters of the Awkward Kind; When Others Haven't Heard About Your Loss).

If there are some friends or business associates who haven’t yet heard about your spouse/partner’s death, you may be wondering about notifying them during the holidays.

It’s okay to do what feels most comfortable. While some people prefer to wait until the stress of the holidays is over, others choose to include a separate notification along with their customary holiday cards or messages.

Not sure how to break the news?

In the notification itself, you can give a brief description about what happened.

Then add a short update about how you and the family are coping.


2) To Send or Not to Send Holiday Greetings

If you usually send out seasonal cards or messages, you may feel uncertain about doing so this year. For many, this annual ritual is an important part of the holidays, and some may even feel guilty about not sending cards.

It's important to keep in mind however, that under the circumstances it's okay to skip this or any other holiday ritual you don't feel up to because you're mourning.

Others will understand.    

11/18/19

best ways to get through the holidays; part 2


In our last post, we suggested the best ways to cope with the upcoming holiday season.

Here are more proven strategies:

1) Contact the host or hostess before the get-together and let them know that you aren’t feeling like your usual self and may need to leave early.

2) Give yourself the first 30 minutes after you arrive to adjust to a gathering where your spouse is no longer with you.

3) Take your own car or alert a friend who is driving that you may want to leave early.

4) If you start to feel overwhelmed, you can retreat to the bathroom or take a short walk for some private time.

5) If you choose to avoid the usual gatherings, consider volunteering to serve meals at shelters, visiting shut-ins, or spending the day at a movie or health spa.

Remember: You will get through this time. We’ve found that the anticipation is usually much worse than the actual events. Be sure to plan ahead and do only what is most comfortable for you.

11/14/19

best ways to get through the holidays; part 1


Dreading the upcoming holidays?

If you’ve recently lost your spouse, the coming festivities can feel as unwelcome as Marley’s Ghost.

Here are some tried and true strategies for facing the holiday season:

1) Think ahead and try to anticipate how you’ll feel on each holiday.

2) Even if you don’t join in the festivities, don’t remain alone all day. Spend some time with a friend.

3) Considering your loss, don’t expect yourself to be as upbeat as usual. Expect some sadness as you take part in the festivities.

4) To lessen the chance of emotional sneak attacks, make some time to grieve, either on the holiday or just before it.

5) If you do choose to join in holiday activities, make some changes as to how much you do or become involved in.

Look for more tips in our next post.

11/11/19

bereavement counseling for surviving families of veterans

With Veteran's Day being observed this week, you might want to check out the opportunities for bereavement counseling if your loved one was a veteran.

The Veterans Affairs website was updated last year and is loaded with information about survivor benefits of all kinds. 

According to the website: The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers bereavement counseling to parents, spouses and children of Armed Forces personnel who died in the service of their country. Also eligible are family members of reservists and National Guardsmen who die while on duty. VA's bereavement counseling is provided at community-based Vet Centers located near the families. There is no cost for VA bereavement counseling. S

Services are obtained by contacting Readjustment Counseling Service (RCS) at 202-273-9116 or via electronic mail at vet.center@hq.med.va.gov both of which are specific to this specialized service.

RCS staff will assist families in contacting the nearest Vet Center. For further information, please visit http://www.vba.va.gov/EFIF/dependents.htm#deceased and/or http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/Bereavement_Counseling.asp

Even if you yourself aren't a surviving family member, you may discover some important resources that can help a friend or relative who has lost a serviceman/woman.

Our thanks and best wishes go out to all veterans and their families!

11/7/19

when the visits stop; part 2


In our last post, we covered what it felt like once the visits and activities following your late spouse/partner’s funeral begin to taper off.

But how do you cope with feelings (such as those of abandonment), that may arise as things quiet down?

Keep in mind that others usually take their cues from you about how much or how little interaction you want or need. Although you may find it a struggle just to get out of bed each day, please consider the following:

1. It’s okay to reach out to others. They will probably be pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call or e-mail from you.

2. Keep it simple. Suggest an activity like coffee, a meal or a movie that involves a minimal time commitment from you during this difficult period.

3. Look into widowed groups as a place to meet others who are going through similar experiences (discover many other opportunities for meeting people in our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?)

4. Spend some time with children and/or grandchildren. Visits can be kept short if that’s more convenient for you.

5. Although your memory and concentration are probably impaired right now, others will understand. Remind yourself that these symptoms of grief will get better.

Remember to take one step at a time and try not to remain isolated from other people.

11/4/19

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.

10/31/19

widowhood way back when: being a widow in salem


In honor of Halloween, we look back at the challenges of being widowed during the 1690’s witch trials in Salem, MA.

According to an excerpt from a paper by Mark Price about accused witch Margaret Scott:

“Another factor about Margaret Scott's character that made her vulnerable to accusations was her status as a widow for twenty-one years. Being a widow did not in itself expose a woman to suspicion.

However, Scott suffered from the economic and social effects of being a widow for a prolonged period. The most dangerous aspect of being a widow was the lack of a husband for legal support and influence.

Also, Scott, 56 at the time of her husband's death, was forced to live off her husband's small estate for twenty-one years. Often widows who were over fifty and not wealthy, were unable to find a new spouse and thus were reduced to poverty and begging. By begging, Margaret would expose herself to witchcraft suspicions according to what historian Robin Briggs calls the 'refusal guilt syndrome'. This phenomenon occurred when a beggar's needs were refused causing feelings of guilt and aggression on the refuser's part. The refuser projected this aggression on the beggar and grew suspicious of her.”

Broomsticks, anyone?


Happy Halloween!

10/28/19

beware the ghouls and goblins that prey on the widowed: part 2



In Part 1, we gave tips on how to identify and protect yourself from the ghouls and goblins, (AKA well-meaning friends and family) that prey on the vulnerability of the newly widowed.

Here are two more creatures you should be aware of.

3) Demolition Demons

Spot them: These creatures love to pressure you with sincere but unwelcome advice aimed at dismantling reminders of your former life. Under the guise of “it’s for your own good”, they urge you to give away your spouse’s belongings, sell your car, home, or other valuables, move to another city, or make other important changes…quickly.

Ward them off by: Keeping in mind that making hasty decisions while you’re grieving usually results in later regrets. Tell DD’s,“ I need more time before I make any important decisions. I’ll consider taking these steps when I’m in a better frame of mind.” If this doesn’t stop them, a simple, “Not now!” may work.

4) Creepy Crawlers

Spot them: Often a family friend or neighbor, these predators exploit your trust at a time when you’re most vulnerable. When these creeps offer a sympathetic “shoulder to cry on”, that’s not the only part of their bodies they want to share with you.

Ward them off by: Letting them know how insulted you feel and what a betrayal of trust their offers have caused. Or you might say, “You’ve obviously misread me/the situation. I’m not interested!”

The grieving process can be scary enough without these creatures. With a little caution and some assertiveness, you can send them scurrying back into the darkness.

10/24/19

beware the ghouls and goblins that prey on the widowed: part 1



In the days and weeks following your spouse’s death, shock and exhaustion can leave you vulnerable to certain people who are difficult to avoid. Usually disguised as well-meaning family and friends, these creatures often unknowingly say or do upsetting things.

Here are some tips for identifying them and protecting yourself:

1. Platitude Ghouls

Spot them : Though well-intentioned, these creatures don’t think before spewing out insensitive remarks such as, “It’s all for the best”, “Aren’t you over it yet?”, “Don’t worry – you’ll find someone else” or “ I went through exactly the same thing during my divorce.”

Ward them off by: Changing the subject.

2. Gruesome Grabbers

Spot them: Usually adult children/step-children, cousins, or other relatives, these creatures swoop in while you’re still off-balance and start nosing around for “remembrances” of your late spouse. Can often be found burrowing through closets and drawers while you’re in another part of the house.

Ward them off by: Telling them, “I’m just not ready to deal with this yet. I’ll let you know when I’m up to it.” Then be sure to keep an eye on them.


There’s more in Part 2.

10/21/19

reflections: quotes to help you cope with fear

1) Listen to what you know instead of what you fear. 
- Richard Bach

2) Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.
- Marie Curie

3) Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears. 
- Rudyard Kipling

4) I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do... 
- Eleanor Roosevelt

5) You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
- Eric Hoffer

10/14/19

widowhood way back when: what inspired the widowed columbus

In honor of Columbus Day, here’s some interesting information about Christopher Columbus’s personal life we found on answers.com.

After several local voyages, Columbus found himself in Portugal, “…where he married Felipa Perestrelo e Monis, daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrelo, deceased proprietor of the island of Porto Santo.

The couple lived first in Lisbon, where Perestrelo's widow (aka Columbus’s mother-in-law), showed documents her husband had written or collected regarding possible western lands in the Atlantic, and these probably started Columbus thinking of a voyage of investigation.

Later they moved to Porto Santo, where his wife died soon after the birth of Diego, the discoverer's only legitimate child.

After his wife's death, Columbus turned wholly to discovery plans and theories, among them the hope to discover a westward route to Asia.”

The post goes on to say that while waiting in Spain for royal permission to discover the New World, “…the widowed Columbus had an affair with young Beatriz Enriquez de Harana of Cordova, who in 1488 bore his other son, Ferdinand, out of wedlock. He never married her, though he provided for her in his will and legitimatized the boy, as Castilian law permitted.”

Widowed or not – never underestimate the influence of in-laws!

10/10/19

haunting symptoms; part 2: feeling your deceased partner’s presence


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

“Last night I suddenly woke up and was sure I could feel my husband lying there next to me, just like always. It was so reassuring that I was afraid to turn and look, in case it was all in my imagination.”

Many people report finding solace in having “conversations” with their deceased spouse/partner.

When you’ve lived with another person for a long time, their presence becomes a part of your physical landscape. Each room holds associations and memories of that person.

It’s not uncommon then, to experience a sense of your spouse/partner’s presence from time to time.

It can give you a comforting sense of connection to your partner in the early period after his or her death. It usually goes away with time.

Share your own experiences with us.

10/7/19

haunting symptoms; part 1: hallucinations




We’re not talking about the paranormal here.

We’re talking about the normal symptoms of hallucinations and/or a sense of your late partner’s presence that are a common reaction to losing a loved one.

Excerpted from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, Parts 1 and 2 explain more about these sometimes comforting, sometimes worrying symptoms of the mourning process.

Hallucinations

“I was in the kitchen one day shortly after my wife died, when suddenly, I thought I smelled her perfume. There wasn’t a perfume bottle anywhere nearby, but the fragrance came to me very distinctly.”
Because bereavement is such an intense emotional experience, it’s normal for your senses to occasionally play tricks on you.

Many people report hearing, smelling, or even seeing their deceased spouse/partner. For most of you, this experience can be very comforting.

Sometimes, however, hallucinations continue to occur long after a loss or reflect images not related to your partner. Overmedication or drug interaction could be a possible cause. It’s important to check with your physician or mental health professional if hallucinations continue.

In Part 2, we’ll talk about experiencing your partner’s presence.

10/3/19

a young widow's perspective on financial planning




This information is by Sandi Duffy, a widowed mom with young children. We’re impressed by the sound advice Sandi offers in Financial Planning for Widowed Moms.

According to Sandi,"Once the funeral is over, you are left to pick up the pieces of your life and your children's lives. How are you going to do this? Where do you even start?

It's a cold hard fact that you need money to live, pay the bills, feed your children, etc. The first and most important thing you can do for yourself and your children is to gather all your late husband's assets, bank accounts, retirement funds, life insurance, etc. and get yourself to a certified financial planner. I cannot emphasize enough the word Certified Financial Planner. Not a friend of a friend of a friend who claims to be good with money. I had a colleague at work tell me she is really good with finances and would do mine. Really? Would she be able to tell me how to invest my money, so that I can draw an income from it every month? Would she be able to project how much college will cost in 18 years and then advise me how to invest, so that I can fund my children's educations?

Go to a real certified financial planner, someone who is highly recommended by more than one person. If you are unsure, interview a few of them. I spoke to three before I chose the one I am currently using.

The next most important thing is to find a good lawyer who specializes in wills and trusts. Again, find one who specializes in wills and trusts. My husband and I used a real estate attorney to do our wills, living wills, and durable power of attorney (POA). Thankfully we didn't have to use the POA because when I went to a lawyer who specializes in this, he told me it was all wrong and never would have been honored.

This is critical if you have young children. I have a trust set up that in the event of my death, the children receive one quarter of my estate at 25, one quarter at 30 and the remaining balance at 35. It names who will become their guardians and who will control the money they inherit.

Also, the amount of paperwork dealing with your spouse's estate that has to be filed with the IRS is daunting. Let an attorney handle it all.

I know it seems cold, but you really need to take care of the financial part of your spouse's death. It's also a good distraction. I recommend two books that specifically deal with financial issues for women: David Bach's Smart Women Finish Rich and Suze Orman's Women and Money."

Sandi goes on to say," 'They' say not to make any big decisions for a year. That's probably a good idea. If financially you can keep your house, keep it. I couldn't even think about packing up my house, showing it to strangers, uprooting my kids, finding new childcare...the list is endless.

If you don't need to make more money, don't switch jobs. I remember calling my former boss for a letter of reference, thinking I needed to make more money for our family. She grudgingly wrote the letter, not because she had negative feelings towards me, but she didn't think it was a good idea for me to make a change so soon. I remember her telling me she would write it, but hoped I would be calling her in a few years to update it because I didn't use the first one. She was right. I kept my job.

Changing jobs, moving, and losing a spouse (through divorce or death) are the three biggest stressors. Try to deal with just one at a time."

Sandi Duffy was widowed in October 2007 when her 44-year-old husband succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer.

9/26/19

7 tips for deciding what to do with your spouse/partner's belongings


How do you know when the time is right to clear out your spouse/partner'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 dispose 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.

4. Start by first getting rid of items you feel least attached to. Try to imagine what your spouse would want done with their possessions.

5. Don't kid yourself into believing that by getting rid of painful reminders, you can avoid the pain. Allowing yourself to feel the loss is an important part of getting through it and is actually emotionally beneficial in the long run.

6. Hold on to whatever possessions give you comfort right now.

7. Move items you're undecided about to another location, such as rented storage. This allows you some breathing space before making more permanent decisions.


Be sure to give yourself the time you need and trust your instincts about what's best for you.

9/23/19

widowhood way back when: the 19th century mourning timetable



“Victorian mourning fashion,” according to Kyshah Hell, in her article Victorian Mourning Garb, “Was aimed mainly at women, widows in particular. The fashion had a way of isolating a widow in her time of need just as the Queen had done. For the first year, a woman who was in mourning was not allowed to exit her home without full black attire and a weeping veil. Her activities were initially restricted to church services.”

She goes on to describe the required stages of mourning for women:

“Full mourning, a period of a year and one day, was represented with dull black clothing without ornament. The most recognizable portion of this stage was the weeping veil of black crepe. If a woman had no means of income and small children to support, marriage was allowed after this period. There are cases of women returning to black clothing on the day after marrying again.”

“Second mourning, a period of nine months,” the author continues, “Allowed for minor ornamentation by implementing fabric trim and mourning jewelry. The main dress was still made from a lusterless cloth. The veil was lifted and worn back over the head. Elderly widows frequently remained in mourning for the rest of their lives.

Half mourning lasted from three to six months and was represented by more elaborate fabrics used as trim. Gradually easing back into color was expected coming out of half mourning. All manner of jewelry could be worn.”

“The standard mourning time for a widower, “ the author points out, “Was two years but it was up to his discretion when to end his single stage. Men could go about their daily lives and continue to work. Typically young unmarried men stayed in mourning for as long as the women in the household did. “

9/19/19

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.

9/16/19

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.

9/12/19

back to school after the loss; part 2: teenagers


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

In Part 1 of these excerpts, we suggested ways to ease your school-age child’s return to the classroom. There are, however, some important differences to be aware of with teens.

Because it’s not uncommon for teenagers to react to the death of a parent with behavioral problems at school such as poor performance or truancy, it’s important to:

a) Talk to your teen about what’s happened and how it’s affected them.

b) Listen to his/her fears and concerns and be reassuring but truthful in your response.

c) Ask your teenager if he/she would like you to inform the school or any teacher about the death. This is to ensure that the teacher will be understanding of the change in behavior and school work.

d) Let your teen tell classmates and friends in his/her own way, if they prefer to do so.

Remember that no matter how much they pull away from you because they’re adolescents, there are still times they need to depend on you.

9/9/19

back to school after the loss; part 1: children


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

Following the death of your partner, your child is probably anxious to return to their daily world, which provides a much needed source of support for them during this time. In addition to the stability it provides, school is where friends and teachers can offer an ear for feelings your child may hesitate to share with you.

1) Before your child returns to school, contact his/her teacher and the school counselor. Discuss how they can tell your child’s classmates about the death prior to your child’s return. It’s important the teacher be aware that your child’s loss may stir up fears in other children about losing a parent. The teacher might also explore with your child and his/her classmates how to respond supportively when your child becomes sad or tearful.

2) Prepare your child for how to react to people at school. Rehearse simple ways for him/her to respond to other children’s questions, behavior, etc.

3) If being at school becomes too overwhelming for your child, arrange ahead of time for you or another adult to come pick him/her up during the day.


In Part 2, we’ll discuss ways to support your teenager in returning to school.

9/5/19

getting back to work; part 2: your reactions




In Part 1 of this excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we discussed the various ways your coworkers may react to you once you return to work.

We now focus on your own reactions to being on the job following your loss.

- Be prepared for unexpected tears. During the first week at work, there may be moments when you find yourself tearful. This lessens with time, but for now, give yourself permission to retreat to the restroom or other secluded area for a good cry or to compose yourself. Many find giving themselves this release helps relieve the pressure of having to control feelings of grief while at work.

- Be prepared to experience some difficulty with memory and concentration. These are common but temporary grief reactions. While you may feel frustrated and anxious about this change, try to be patient with yourself. It helps to reread and/or go over information or tasks more than once.

- Your boss or coworkers may have unrealistic expectations. Assure them you’re doing your best, and that any slowdown on your part is temporary.

Despite how others may react, it’s important for you to recognize that what is going on is normal and temporary. With time and patience (especially your own), you will regain the capacity you used to have to do your job.

9/2/19

going back to work; part 1: coworkers' reactions



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

Returning to a job after a spouse’s death is a step that tends to be anticipated with eagerness, dread, or both, at different times.

The workplace can seem like a familiar well-ordered refuge where you find many hours of distraction away from your pain.

On the other hand, it can represent the ordeal of work pressures, coworkers’ reactions, and a boss’s unrealistic expectations.

Here are some ways to make it through a work day while you’re grieving:

- While your private world has been drastically changed, your workplace has gone along in its usual way. You may, therefore, initially feel out of sync with the rest of your coworkers.

- Coworkers will look to you for their cues. Others usually feel awkward about expressing feelings or knowing the “right thing” to say. How you respond to the first expressions of sympathy will convey a message to other coworkers about how and if you want to discuss the loss. Some possible responses include: “Thank you. It’s difficult to talk right now – maybe later.” Or “I appreciate your concern.” Remember, the choice is yours.

- Some coworkers may not mention the loss. This can feel hurtful and even insulting. Try to keep in mind that people are often afraid of “reminding” or upsetting a grieving person. Expressing sadness can seem especially threatening in a work setting, where personal distress is supposed to take a back seat to the demands of business.

In Part 2, learn tips for dealing with reactions of your own that may crop up at work

8/29/19

reflections: quotes for getting through the days 2


Here are more quotations we find inspiring:


1) Bereavement is a darkness impenetrable to the imagination of the un-bereaved.
-Iris Murdoch

2) Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.
-Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
3) Dawn is born at midnight.- Carl Jung
4) If the future seems overwhelming, remember that it comes one moment at a time.- Beth Mende Conny
5) They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.- William Penn

6) The timing of death, like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it.
- Mary Catherine Bateson
7) There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.-Aeschylus

8) Hope is the thing with feathersThat perches in the soul,And sings the tune without the words,and never stops at all.-Emily Dickenson

9) Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength.-Ralph W. Sockman

10) No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.
- C. S. Lewis

8/26/19

reflections: remembering don spector on his birthday


Tomorrow would have been my dad’s 94th 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

8/22/19

how to ease into those zzzs; part 2






In our previous post, we looked at how your normal sleep is disrupted by the stress of losing your spouse/partner.

Now for our 7 most useful tips on dealing with that long stretch before your alarm goes off.

1) Use your bed for sleep only. If you have to get up, go into another room to read, watch or listen to something boring. Avoid mentally stimulating content.
2) Don’t look at the clock. Noticing how long it’s taking you to fall asleep can become another pressure.
3) If you’re too tense to fall asleep, get up and perform some mindless, repetitive housework, like vacuuming.
4) Write down any persistent thoughts or worries.
5) Listen to music or an audio book/podcast at such a low volume that the effort to hear will distract you from worrying thoughts.
6) Listen to a relaxation audio while still in bed.
7) Get some mild exercise, like walking, earlier in the day. If you have health issues, be sure to check with your doctor before attempting any activity.

If you find that some nights you just can’t relax enough for sleep, don't try to medicate yourself with alcohol. Instead, talk to you doctor about prescribing some medication on a temporary basis only!

If certain problems persist in affecting your sleep, consider talking them over with a trusted clergyperson or a licensed mental health professional.

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.

8/1/19

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.

7/8/19

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.)