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.)