12/28/20

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

12/24/20

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/.

12/21/20

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.

12/17/20

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. “

12/14/20

reflections by deb edwards: hard to believe it's been a year

The first year following the death of a spouse is filled with many “anniversaries”, occasions that can stir up memories both happy and sad.
Contributer Deb Edwards shared some recollections that the anniversary of her husband's death triggered for her:

Hard to Believe It's Been a Year
This is a tough month for me. Last year at this time, I put my husband Dale into hospice and began preparing myself for the inevitable (as much as you can “prepare”). But it was a very special time; we made our amends and reaffirmed our love. I was able to make two of his wishes come true before he died: to receive his black belt and to be baptized. It was a very special time for our family – but one that brings back many smiles and many tears. It is hard to believe it has almost been one year. 

Look for more about coping with these special days in our other posts.

12/10/20

best ways to get through the holidays during covid 19


With Christmas and New Year’s arriving during the current pandemic, we thought you might appreciate some additional support right now.


Best Ways to Get Through the Holidays During Covid 19:

Dreading the upcoming holidays? Especially with Covid restrictions making everyone feel more isolated?If you’ve recently lost your spouse, the  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 virtual family gatherings, don’t remain alone all day. Spend some time chatting with a friend by phone using Facetime, if possible.

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

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 online family holiday activities, feel free to limit how long you remain online or become involved in the conversation.



12/7/20

take the "surprise!" out of anniversary reactions




We've 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.

12/3/20

how you and your pets can help each other




How can you and your pet(s) help each other through the mourning process?

It’s important to recognize that pets also feel grief and express it in their own ways.

To better understand how animals mourn, read our post, Is Your Pet Also Grieving?

There’s also an informative post on Psychology Today’s blog by Marc Bekoff that looks at scientific data about animals and grief.

Declaring “Grief in animals: It's arrogant to think we're the only animals who mourn”, the author goes on to say, “There is no doubt that many animals experience rich and deep emotions. It's not a matter of if emotions have evolved in animals but why they have evolved as they have. We must never forget that our emotions are the gifts of our ancestors, our animal kin. We have feelings and so do other animals.

Among the different emotions that animals display clearly and unambiguously is grief. Many animals display profound grief at the loss or absence of a close friend or loved one.” (Read More)

Our pets can also provide invaluable emotional support for us in our bereavement. For more about this, read our post Pets As Support, where we discuss the various studies that reveal the ways animals are able to show empathy and affection to bereaved owners.

We’d appreciate hearing about your own experiences with your pets.

11/30/20

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.    

11/26/20

widowhood way back when: how pilgrims progressed though loss




If you’re looking ahead to a Thanksgiving dinner that will probably 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 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 say, “Conditions on the Atlantic Ocean crossing were poor, at best. What little fresh food the Pilgrims brought with them was quickly consumed. There was no personal space to be had; passengers slept in hammocks, since there were no cabins for passengers.

The occupants of the ship were miserable. To make matters worse, two passengers died en route to America. They were buried at sea in an effort to stem the spread of disease. Family members did not have an exact burial site to visit and there was no time for the traditional observations of grief."

Describing Pilgrim burials, the authors go on to say, “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 go on 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 meal and be grateful that as difficult as some relatives can be, at least you aren’t stuck with them for all eternity.

11/23/20

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.

11/19/20

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.

11/16/20

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

11/12/20

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.

11/9/20

widowhood way back when: revolutionary war veteran's benefits






If you were the widow of a revolutionary war veteran, you had better stick around a long, long time if you hoped to collect on your husband’s government pension.

According to the site lineages.com, we discovered the following about those early benefits:


July 24, 1836: Widows were authorized the pension that would have been available to their veteran husbands when they were living, so long as they had married before he left service.

July 7, 1838: Widows who had married Revolutionary War veterans prior to January 1, 1794 were authorized a five-year pension.

July 29, 1848: Widows were authorized a pension for life if they could prove they had married the veteran prior to January 2, 1800.

February 3, 1853: All widows of Revolutionary War veterans, regardless of their date of marriage, were made eligible for a pension.

March 9, 1878: The final Revolutionary War pension act authorized pensions for widows of veterans who had served at least fourteen days or had participated in any engagement.


Imagine being one of the widows who was finally able to collect benefits almost 100 years after the Revolutionary War!

Gives new meaning to the term "May-December Romance", doesn't it?

11/5/20

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

11/2/20

how to cope with the usual at an unusual time



Daily life is full of things that go wrong or break down.

The refrigerator goes on the blink.

The car needs new brakes.

Or the plumbing creates a disaster.

Some of these problems may have been neglected during your late spouse/partner’s illness, but now demand your attention. Having to deal with these headaches while you’re grieving can feel overwhelming. Before you give up in despair, try these strategies:

1)Prioritize. Which tasks are most urgent? What can wait a while?
2)Get support. Although you may be very capable under normal circumstances, this is not a “normal” time for you. For now, it’s okay to ask family, friends and neighbors for assistance.
3)Give yourself permission to make a mistake. If you later find that you didn’t make the best decision to solve a problem, be kind to yourself.

Remind yourself that you’re going through one of life’s most stressful experiences. At least you did something to handle a problem.

Remember: For now, your usual coping abilities are not working as they used to. This is only temporary! You will get better.

10/29/20

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.

10/26/20

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.

10/22/20

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.

10/19/20

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.

10/15/20

reflections by deb edwards: how i cope with thoughts about what happened

Our post Can't Stop Thinking About What Happened, inspired these reflections from contributing writer Deb:

I was with my husband when he died at home. For the longest time, every time I thought of him, it was in those final moments.

Over time, I learned how to "redirect" my thoughts to happier memories, but it takes a real effort. I put pictures of my husband close by so I could focus on the positive; having that visual reminder really helped me. If you are lucky enough to have children or grandchildren, they are a great source of happy memories because that is what they remember. It is true that in the beginning you are preoccupied with the details of death and it can be very overwhelming and all-consuming. This is where I learned the "art of compartmentalizing", a big term for breaking it down into more manageable pieces and having the ability to "switch gears" and do something else.

You don't have to do everything at once. Take a break: go for a walk, call a friend, pick some flowers, or read until you feel ready go back to the tasks at hand. Give yourself time to do everything you need to, but limit the amount of time you spend doing it. Ask for help if you need it (this was a tough one for me). Time is a great healer, but it doesn't mean that I love or miss my husband any less because I am not thinking about him 24/7, and though I do have my "grief attacks", I am able to think of him in a happier, more comforting way. And as always...remember to breathe and be gentle with yourself. Deb Edwards

10/12/20

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!

10/8/20

protect your late partner's identity; part 2


"Protecting the Dead From Identity Theft" by Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam Proof Your Life, continues:
 Ghosting can still cause plenty of angst. So protect yourself by taking these steps after a loved one's death:

In obituaries, list the age but don't include birth date, mother's maiden name or other personal identifiers that could be useful to ID thieves. Omitting the person's address also reduces the likelihood of a home burglary during the funeral (sadly, this does happen).

·  Using certified mail with "return receipt," send copies of the death certificate to each credit-reporting bureau — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — asking them to place a "deceased alert" on the credit report. Mail certificates to banks, insurers, brokerages and credit card and mortgage companies where the deceased held accounts. If you're closing an individual account, make sure the institution lists "Closed: Account Holder Is Deceased" as the reason. For joint accounts, remove the deceased's name.

·  Report the death to Social Security by calling 800-772-1213.

·  Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel the deceased's driver's license, to prevent duplicates from being issued to fraudsters.

·  A few weeks later, check the credit report of the person at annualcreditreport.com to see if there's been any suspicious activity. Several months later, go to the same site to get another free report from a different credit-reporting bureau.

·  For more tips, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center and type "deceased" in the search box.

 Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP Books/Sterling). He writes the Scam Alert column for AARP.

10/5/20

protect your late partner from identity theft; part 1





 
We came across this important article by Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam Proof Your Life, in the AARP Bulletin:

Protecting the Dead From Identity Theft

Identity thieves are sinking to new lows — specifically, six feet under.
Each year they use the identities of nearly 2.5 million deceased Americans to fraudulently open credit card accounts, apply for loans and get cellphone or other services, according to fraud prevention firm ID Analytics.

Nearly 800,000 of those deceased are deliberately targeted — roughly 2,200 a day. The identities of the others are used by chance: Crooks make up a Social Security number that happens to match that of someone who has died.

 It's called "ghosting," and because it can take six months for financial institutions, credit-reporting bureaus and the Social Security Administration to receive, share or register death records, the crooks have ample time to rack up charges. Plus, of course, the dead don't monitor their credit — and often, neither do their grieving survivors.

Sometimes, crooks glean personal information from hospitals or funeral homes. More often, the crime begins with thieves trolling through obituaries. With a name, address and birth date in hand, they can illicitly purchase the person's Social Security number on the Internet for as little as $10.

This time of year, criminals may file tax returns under the identities of the dead, collecting refunds (they totaled $5.2 billion in 2011) from the IRS.

 The only good news here is that surviving family members are ultimately not responsible for such charges (or for legitimate debts of the dead if their names are not on the accounts).


Learn what you can do to combat these scams in Part 2

10/1/20

sleeping solo




Some people find it difficult adjusting to sleeping alone after his or her partner has died.

It’s often uncomfortable to change your position on the bed after having shared it with a partner. For some, moving into a bedmate's “space” may feel comforting while for others it’s a painful acknowledgment that a loved one is no longer there.

Whether you feel most comfortable sleeping on your usual side of the bed or moving to your late partner’s side, here are some tips for helping you adjust to sleeping alone:

1) Try hugging a pillow to help you doze off.

2) You may want to sleep with an article of clothing that carries your partner’s familiar scent.

3) If you’re uncomfortable moving from your customary position, try out shifting yourself gradually toward the center of the bed.

4) If you initially find it comforting to have your young child/children sleep with you, try to ease them back into their own beds as soon as possible. While it may be reassuring to you and your child in the short term, you don’t want to burden children with the responsibility of “taking care” of you.

5) Sharing the bed with your pets, however, is a better way to feel less alone.

Adjusting to sleeping by yourself is a very personal process. There is no right or wrong about this, so take your time and move (or sleep) at your own pace.

9/28/20

widowhood way back when: wear what widows wore way back when





We came across a site, recollections.biz, that offers wearable reproductions of Victorian era mourning clothes. And to complete the picture, you can discover Victoria’s real secret by also purchasing reproductions of 19th century underwear.

According to the Recollections home page, “Have you ever envisioned yourself back in time…when genteel women wore delicate lace trimmed camisoles, pantaloons, bloomers, petticoats, blouses, bustle skirts, feather trimmed hats and lest we forget, elegant ball gowns. Made in rich velvets, taffetas, satins, and cottons and lavishly trimmed in a virtual treasure trove of laces, ruffles and beaded bodices. Recollections makes it possible for your dreams to come true!"

Don’t forget to add the stifling long black veils (better than sunglasses for hiding those tell-tale puffy eyes and red noses), or the black gloves, capes and, for summer, black parasols.

You too, can resemble your Victorian grandmother as you mourn your loss.

Just be sure your bloomers are trimmed in black.

9/24/20

identifying with someone's loss



Whenever we hear about the sudden death of someone we can identify with, whether it's someone we know personally or a celebrity, it can be unsettling and frightening. In whatever way we knew them, that person was also a member of a family, possibly a spouse or partner and maybe a parent and grandparent. Those connections and the loss, especially if it's sudden, may stir up feelings as you relate to that loss. 

In identifying with another person's loss, you may imagine what the impact of your own death would be on loved ones. How would your partner/child/parents manage to go on in life without you? If death occurred to someone you yourself love, how would you continue without them?

Situations like these remind us how fragile life can feel and how vulnerable we all are to a sudden loss. Try to view these events as reminders to reach out and reconnect with loved ones and acknowledge their importance in your life.



9/21/20

encounters of the awkward kind; when others haven't heard about your loss


Maybe it’s a call or message asking for your spouse/partner. Or you bump into an acquaintance in the market. Or at a social gathering. And the other person hasn't yet heard about your loss.These unexpected encounters with someone who isn't aware of the death can be especially difficult, leaving you feeling:

- Discomfort as you struggle with how to reply.

- Possible pain at hearing your partner’s name brought up.

- Resentment as you feel compelled to take care of the other person’s reactions of shock and embarrassment.

Here are some ways to respond to unexpected queries about your spouse/partner:

Calls Or Messages From Friends (“So, how is…?”)
With a friend who hasn’t heard about the death, try replying, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this but he/she died (give approximate date).”

Unsolicited Business Calls (“May I speak to…?”)
If you don’t recognize the caller, screen the call by first asking the person to identify themselves. Putting the caller off with “(your spouse/partner) isn’t here right now.” may only trigger a return call. Try, “Unfortunately, he/she is deceased.”

Face-to-Face Encounters (“So, how is…?”) Keep it simple. One response might be, “This has really caught us both off guard. Briefly, here’s what happened…” If you’d rather avoid going into details, you might say, “I can’t really talk about it right now. I’ll be in touch when I’m up to it.”

Remind yourself that with time, you’ll gain skill at handling these inevitable situations.

9/17/20

understanding your child's reactions; part 3








In Part 2, we covered many of the feelings your child or teen may not be able to express in words.

In this continuing excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, we go on to discuss the impact of the loss on your child:

It’s important to realize that since your spouse/partner’s death, your child’s world has been impacted in a number of ways:

a) Children and teens expect their parents to always be there.

b) Due to your own grieving, you’re often emotionally unavailable to them.

c) Your child may be afraid of showing distress out of fear of further distressing you.

d) Children and teens often feel that their peers and some adults treat them differently because of the death. Others can, in fact, be uncertain how to react to grieving children and teens under these circumstances.

Your child needs you to help find the words to express the pain.

Make the time to ask your child his or her views about what has happened.

Listen to his or her thoughts about death. Correct false thinking but be sure to listen and give them an opportunity to ask questions. It’s important to give clear, truthful answers about what happened.

Trusted family and neighbors can be invaluable at a time when you’re so overwhelmed by taking on some of your childcare responsibilities.


IMPORTANT: Do not create the expectation that your child or teen has to take the place of your spouse in any way. This is especially important with older children and teens, who are often able to assume chores like cooking, housework, or driving.

Check out our post, Online Support for Grieving Kids and Teens for helpful resources.

9/14/20

understanding your child's reactions; part 2





In the first part of three excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, we talked about how children and teens demonstrate their grief differently than adults do.

Keep in mind that like you, children and teens mourn in their own unique ways. Some of the feelings he/or she may be experiencing but are unable to put into words include:

1) Fear of abandonment (“Who’s going to take care of me now that Mommy’s not here?”)

2) Guilt and/or remorse (“It’s my fault Dad’s dead. We had a really horrible fight the night before and he got so stressed it killed him.”)

3) Anger (“Why me? Why did I have to be the one to lose my mom? All of my friends still have their moms!”)

4) Anxiety (“I’m scared in my room, Mommy. Can’t I sleep in your bed?”)

5) Depression (“I don’t feel like playing with anybody. I’m too sad.”)

6) Longing for the deceased parent. This reflects the unreal aspect of death for children (“Who just called on the phone? I’ll bet it was Mommy calling to tell us she’s coming back!”)

7) A sense of feeling “crazy” (“Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna just freak out and start screaming at the whole world.”)

8) A sense of shame (“I’m different now and not like the other kids.”)

9) Feelings of helplessness (“Now that Dad’s gone, how will I ever learn to drive?”)

In Part 3, we’ll look at how loss has impacted your child’s world and the best ways to be supportive.

9/10/20

understanding your child's reactions; part 1



Excerpted from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition (McCormick Press, 2008), this is the first in a three part series on understanding your child’s reactions to your spouse/partner’s death.


“As far as I can tell, my daughter’s handling things pretty well since her father died. Apart from some tears and a few questions, she seems to be her usual happy-go-lucky self. I have noticed she’s wetting the bed again, though, but don’t all kids do that sort of thing sometimes? Anyway, with everything else going on, I’m just too overwhelmed to pay much attention to that sort of thing right now.”

“My son spends most of his time holed up alone in his room with earphones on while he sits glued to his computer. I’ve tried a few times to talk to him about the loss, but he just ignores me. I’m ready to give up.”

Children and teenagers don’t necessarily express grief in the same ways adults do. They may act as if nothing has happened and yet be deeply affected. While you’re caught up in the pain and upheaval of your own grief, it may be harder to understand or have patience for your child’s reactions.

For you, the mourning process is at first very intense with the loss being felt almost constantly. For your child or teen, mourning tends to come and go. This can create the impression that your child is either over the loss quickly or perhaps feels it less strongly than you do.

That isn’t true.

Remember that while adults can tell others what they’re feeling, children and teens usually chow their reactions in their behavior. Any changes or different behavior may be his or her way of expressing feelings of loss.

In Part 2, we look at some of the common reactions that your child or teen may be experiencing but is unable to put into words.

9/7/20

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.

9/3/20

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

8/31/20

widowhood way back when: victorian calling cards


Before the advent of telephones, let alone computers, the 19th century widowed received messages of support and condolence through calling cards.

We found this interesting information by Stacy Calvert on eHow.com., which we’ve excerpted:

Calling cards were an important part of Victorian social life, especially among the well-to-do and social-climbing members of the middle class.

Simple and personalized, they carried meaning not conveyed by text, but rather in the way they were physically manipulated before being left at the home of a friend, acquaintance or potential social connection.

If a card was left intact, it meant it had been delivered by a servant; if bent or torn on the top right corner, it signified congratulations. On the top left, a social call. On the bottom left, goodbye. A calling card bent at the bottom right acted as a Victorian-era sympathy card.

A black border on the card meant the caller was in mourning. Popular symbols, such as birds, flowers and hands indicated sentiments, such as friendship and peaceful intentions.


Imagine the confusion if your cards were accidentally folded the wrong way while in your pocket or purse.





8/27/20

reflections: remembering don spector on his birthday


Today would have been my dad’s 95th 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 insights.

His love.

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

Laurie

8/10/20

coping with the loss of closeness when your spouse/partner dies



We came across this post on the Open to Hope Foundation Network’s site for the death of a spouse. This personal account by thegriefblog.com contributing author Beverly McManus has good suggestions about being kind to yourself at a time when you’re feeling deprived.


“I Need a Hug” – Coping with Loss of Intimacy After the Death of Your Spouse


Yes, I missed Steve’s voice, his laugh, his footsteps on the stairs, and even his snoring. But after he died, I was unprepared for the depth of how much I missed his physical intimacy — the simple human touches we shared almost unconsciously through 20 years of marriage:

…casually brushing against each other as we passed each other in our home.

…the little pats that said, “I hear you.”

…friendly nudges and teasing light pinches.

…ongoing hugs.

…running my fingers through his hair, and vice versa.

…dancing around the kitchen as we cooked together.

…the short good morning kisses, and the longer kisses we shared when we greeted each other after an absence.

…and, oh, yes, the more private intimacy between husband and wife.

These were all now a thing of the past. With one daughter away at college and the other totally involved in her final years of high school, it seemed like sometimes many weeks would pass between me touching someone or having them touch me.

In my pain and initial numbness, I didn’t even know how much I missed this very human need until I was at my hairdresser’s. As Ilya gently shampooed my hair, and tenderly rinsed out the suds, tears came to my eyes as I realized it was the first time anyone had really touched me since Steve died. I realized how shattered I’d been feeling, and how good and human it felt to be touched in a personal way.

New in bereavement, I was of course no where close to developing a new relationship in which the physical touch I’d once shared with Steve would be shared with another. At that point, six years ago, I couldn’t even imagine ever being with anyone else, let along wanting the physical closeness and intimacy that is part of a healthy relationship.

But my experience at the hairdresser’s told me that I not only wanted, but actually needed, to build in some opportunities for sharing human touch. I began to consider some options, and discussed this topic with friends, one of whom jokingly suggested getting a paid escort! Of course, for me that was out of the question, but it did make me realize that there is an entire profession devoted to therapeutic human touch: professional massage therapists.

One of my friends actually treated me to my first session with a lovely massage therapist who seemed to have magic hands, and along with them, a tender, compassionate heart. After the first session, I realized that this was incredibly beneficial and should not be viewed as a luxury, but rather, as a really good way to take care of myself, just as I viewed my regular visits to the hairdresser or dentist.

As she massaged my tense and overworked body, Laura really seemed to help me free up some of the energy I’d been holding, that had been causing knee pain and neck aches. She also very gently encouraged me to open up some of the feelings I’d been holding so tightly, and each week I felt myself getting stronger and more hopeful. I continued my weekly appointments for more than three years, and treated our time together as a sacred “Sorry, this is an important appointment I can’t reschedule” occasion, because otherwise work pressures would have made me miss many of the sessions.

As she worked with my muscles and physical body, Laura also tended to my broken heart and soul, listening with care as over the weeks I explored who I was in my new life without Steve. She helped me process the empty nest I was facing with the high school graduation and departure for college of my youngest daughter. She held me as I grieved the illness and death of my dear aunt, and then shortly thereafter, the loss of my sweet mother. The massages and intense physical touch each week gave me energy and made me feel like a human being again.

What I’ve discovered:
I realized that I didn’t need to limit myself to weekly massages in order to meet my needs for human touch. I consciously began to become a “hugger,” you know, those friends who hug you every time you see them. I found that as I gave a hug, more often than not, I’d receive one too. Ahhhhhh… Heaven. To be held and hugged!

I’m now famous for my hugs - and as often as I can, I encourage others to reach out and hug someone nearby. I was thrilled to see an international hugging movement, in which volunteers stood on street corners holding signs offering “Free Hugs”. What a marvelous gift to give others, one that doesn’t require gift wrap, or to be dusted or stored!

And after my three-plus years under Laura’s tender ministrations ended, I discovered that I could visit local organic grocery stores for impromptu chair massages, where for a very reasonable fee, a massage therapist would iron out the kinks in my back and neck for 20 or so minutes, leaving me feeling refreshed, and yes, touched.

At this point, six years since Steve’s death, I’m gradually yet surely transitioning from the label as “widow” into one as “strong woman who is looking forward to being in a relationship again, at some point in the future.” Yes, for the first time in 26 years, I’m beginning to feel “single” again.

What the future holds is uncertain, yet I am enthusiastically embracing the possibility that once again, I will at some point share my life — and my physical touch — with someone I love, and who loves me.
How have you coped with the loss of physical touch and intimacy after the death of your spouse? What challenges have you faced? What solutions can you share with others? We’d love to hear about your experiences.


Beverly Chantalle McManus lives in Northern California with her two daughters, who have each now graduated from college. She is a bereavement facilitator and core team member of the Stepping Stones on your Grief Journey Workshops, and a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of loss and grief. In addition to grief support, she is also a marketing executive for professional services firms.

8/6/20

now that i'm sick, where are you? part 2


In our previous post, we looked at how feelings of abandonment, anger, depression and anxiety can arise when you find yourself struggling through an illness without your spouse/partner being there for you.

The best ways to cope with these situations include:

a) Recognizing what is actually triggering these emotions.

b) Calling on family, friends or neighbors to stop by (just having someone in the house can be comforting), or run errands for you.

c) Reminding yourself, if you’re uncomfortable asking for help, that you would help others if they were in a similar situation.

d) Contacting the medical social services department at your local hospital for assistance in finding resources, such as support groups, home health aides, or other services.
Remember: you’ve developed coping skills during and after your spouse’s death and can now draw on them to make it through this period.

NOTE: Because your spouse’s death has left you more physically vulnerable, it’s important to let your doctor know about your loss. Some pre-existing medical conditions may be affected by the stress of recent circumstances.

8/3/20

now that i'm sick, where are you? part 1


The first couple of years following the death of your spouse/partner are, statistically speaking, likely to leave you more vulnerable to illness.

When illness does strike, whether it’s a common cold or something more serious, it can stir up an emotional reaction as well. Whatever comfort and support your partner once offered is no longer available to you.

You may find yourself saying:

“Why aren’t you here when I need you?” or “I took care of you but you’re not here to take care of me!”
It’s normal to feel abandoned, angry, depressed and/or anxious under the circumstances.

In our next post, we’ll give you the best ways to cope with these situations.

7/30/20

is your pet also grieving?






If you have a pet(s), you may have noticed changes in their behavior since your spouse/partner has died.

We came across the following post by on the Animal Friends site and found it interesting.

According to When Pets Grieve, "We all find it hard to say goodbye. Our pets are just like us in many ways. Many of us can clearly understand their moods and emotions by the way they look at us or the way they wag their tail.

Our pets display emotions every day, but do they experience a complex emotion like grief? Grief is a reaction to the sudden absence of something or someone who brought comfort and satisfaction—and many pet owners will attest that their pets grieve when they lose a loved one."

It continues, "Research now confirms that our pets experience symptoms of grief when they lose a beloved human or animal companion. Grief has even been observed in wild species. Elephants have been seen caressing the body of a deceased companion. There are published reports of pets who constantly search for a deceased loved one and animals who no longer want to play or eat when a companion dies."

The author goes on, "Many grieving dogs often act as if they’re searching for something. They become restless or lethargic, lose their appetite, have accidents in the house, cry and don’t want to play. Dogs are certainly not alone; many cat and rabbit owners report similar experiences with their grieving pets."

The author suggests, "Just as you’d comfort a grieving friend, you can help your pet cope with grief. First and foremost, keep your pet’s routine as normal as possible. This may be difficult if a pet’s primary caregiver has passed away, but it is essential to maintain as normal a routine as possible. Second, don’t reinforce any behavioral changes. If your pet stops eating, don’t change the food, and don’t increase the amount of attention you give your pet. It may lead to new problems, like separation anxiety."

And goes on to advise, "If you find that nothing helps your pet, speak with your veterinarian. Your vet can help you decide whether prescription medicine will be effective to help calm and relax your pet."

The post later concludes, "Both humans and animals find it hard to say goodbye, but with love and understanding, we can work to help our animal friends cope with loss."


What are your thoughts?

7/27/20

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.