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.

12/7/20

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.

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.

11/16/20

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?

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

10/8/20

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.





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.

7/16/20

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

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

Woody wrote:  

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

Comments made while Joey was in the hospital:

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

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

Comments made after Joey passed away:

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

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

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

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

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

Woody

7/6/20

widowhood way back when: manly mourning in victorian times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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











6/4/20

staying connected with adult step-children; part 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6/1/20

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


You’ve just lost your spouse/partner.

Now you may face more losses.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

5/28/20

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.

5/21/20

patience: easier said than done


It’s difficult to “be patient” while the pain of your loss feels so intense. But the saying, “time heals” is actually true.


We live in a culture of instant gratification, where we’ve come to expect results literally within moments. Unfortunately, this makes it even more difficult to tolerate the natural process of mourning. Keep in mind that historically and in nearly all cultures, the death of a partner has been recognized as a lengthy (usually a year) period in which to give the survivor the necessary time to go through a range of normal and necessary reactions.

It can also be hard to tolerate the unpredictability of the experience.

As we discuss in Part 1 of our 3 posts, When Will This Be Over?:

“The mourning process is often described as feeling as though you’re stuck on a roller-coaster.

Nobody chooses this ride, but once it starts, you have to hold on tight and trust you’ll eventually be back on solid ground. The first few dips can be unsettling, and just when the track straightens out and you think you can finally relax, there may be a few more dips before you get to the finish.” 
(Read more)

It helps to remind yourself how far you’ve come since the beginning. Give yourself a pat on the back for the progress you have made.

Please share with us your own tips for coping with impatience.


4/27/20

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.

4/23/20

widowhood way back when: dower power


We came across this interesting article about the beginnings of one of the earliest rights for widows.

According to a Harvard Law Review article by George L. Haskins, “From very early times, English law assured to a wife certain rights in her husband’s property if she survived him. For centuries those rights have been known as dower.”

Professor Haskins goes on to say, “The origins of downer take us back to a period in Teutonic (Germanic) history when the bridegroom made a payment to the kinsmen of the bride, in return for the rights over her which he acquired by the marriage, and gave to her a morning gift for her support if she outlived him.”

The author describes how in Anglo-Saxon times, a betrothal was marked by a covenant which stipulated what (the groom) would give (his future wife) if she ‘chose his will’, and named the dower she would have if she lived longer than he.

According to Haskins, "The dower in the earliest days seems usually to have been a right to remain after his death in his house along with the other heirs – a right to a seat by the hearth.”

Hope your seat by the hearth has central heating.

4/16/20

reflections by deb edwards: dealing with anger

Contributor Deb Edwards shares some of the ways she learned to cope with anger following her husband's dealth:


There are so many emotions that occur during the grief process. After my husband died, I found myself feeling angry a lot. I created the “Mad List”, which listed in no particular order everything and everyone I was angry at. I was quite surprised at how long it was, but it gave me a lot of insight as to why I felt the way I did.

One day I took the list and for every entry I had made, I made a second entry of gratitude. It helped me to dissipate the anger and find forgiveness.

The important thing is to let those feelings out. If writing is not your thing, try exercising, talking with someone, or even hitting a pillow. Holding those feelings inside can have unhealthy results, both physically and emotionally.

4/9/20

reflections: quotes about appreciating friends

Holidays aren't the only time to reflect on family and friends who continue to support us every day of the year.

Here are some quotes that we really like:

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.
- Maya Angelou

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca

The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.
- Ulysses S. Grant

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.
- Helen Keller


Please send us your own favorite quotes.

4/6/20

learn how to clean house



If your late spouse/partner used to handle most of the cleaning chores around the house, you may want to learn how to maintain some basic upkeep, even if you choose to hire a cleaner.

A few years ago, I discovered a series of “how to” books by professional cleaners Jeff Campbell and The Clean Team. The basic book, Speed Cleaning, lays out a very simple system for how to tackle basic cleaning chores.

Although Campbell also promotes his own line of cleaning supplies, it’s not necessary to use them.

I continue to use many of the tips I’ve learned in Campbell’s books.

Let us know if you’ve discovered other helpful resources.

4/2/20

widowhood way back when; victoria's other secret



Feeling comforted by keeping some of your late spouse/partner’s possessions for a time is a common reaction for many widowed people.

There are, however, limits.

Just consider Queen Victoria, that symbol of perpetual widowhood.

When her husband died suddenly in 1861, Queen Victoria officially decreed that “mourning for the Prince consort shall be ordered for the longest term in modern times.”

According to biographer Greg King in his book, Twilight of Splendor, “Windsor (Castle) was immediately draped in black crepe; so much was used that the entire country’s supply was depleted within a day.”

King goes on to say, “Victoria created a cult devoted to the memory of her husband. The Blue Room at Windsor was to be kept ‘in its present state,’ she ordered, ‘and not be made use of in the future,’ although she herself added memorial wreaths and a bust of Print Albert.”

“For forty years to the end of her reign,” King continues, “Albert’s rooms were the scene of an incredible ritual. Each morning, a servant delivered a fresh jug of hot water to the unused washstand, as if Albert’s ghost might appear and need a shave, and laid out a change of clothes amid the fresh flowers that covered the bed; even his unused chamber pot was scoured and replaced at night.”

Too bad the mental health profession wasn’t yet up to speed in 1861. Victoria could have benefited from a little supportive feedback.

Luckily, if you find yourself scouring your late spouse/partner’s chamber pot every day, professional help is now an option.

In any case, it's okay to give yourself a little time.

Hopefully, it won't be forty years.

3/26/20

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




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

Here are additional important points to consider:

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

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

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

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

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

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

3/23/20

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for more tips in Part 3.

3/19/20

lost my partner to suicide; part 1


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

Part 1

You as the Survivor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3/5/20

should my child attend the funeral? part 2

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





Before the Service

Customs vary in terms of how funerals are conducted and how mourners show their grief. Unless a younger child has already attended a family funeral, he/she may become frightened by all the strange procedures and emotional loss of control unfolding before them.

Prior to the service, explain to the child what happens at funerals or memorials. You might say:

“Mommy’s/Daddy’s body will be in a large box called a casket. He/she won’t be able to see or hear anything.”

If the casket is to be open, explain that family or friends may touch or perhaps kiss the deceased. If closed, explain that there will no longer be any opportunity to see the parent.

Mention too, that there will probably be someone who talks about the parent, and that some of the people who go to the funeral might be sad and crying because they will miss that person too.

Preparing your child in this way allows time for him/her to express any feelings or concerns that should be respected in the situation.

During the Service

Ask a friend of family member (who won’t mind missing some of the service) to sit near you and keep an eye on your child in case he/she becomes uncomfortable and needs to “take a walk and talk about things”. This way, you can focus on getting through the day without having to worry that your child’s needs aren’t being addressed.

With adequate emotional support, the opportunity to observe a funeral and see others confronting loss can make it easier for a child to accept the death of a parent.

Be sure to talk with your child after the service about what he/she experienced.
He/she may find it helpful to draw pictures.

3/2/20

should my child attend the funeral? part 1





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

Part 1

Although most of you will be reading this some time after the funeral has occurred, some of you may be facing that experience and wondering whether or not to have your child attend.

While funerals can be helpful for children, whether they attend or not depends upon:

1) The child’s wish to participate.

2) His or her age.

3) The child’s level of understanding.

It’s appropriate to let your child take part in any mourning ritual, as long as they’ve been given a choice and know what to expect.

If your child chooses not to attend the funeral, sit down with him/her once the event is over and in a clear, sensitive way, describe what went on. Together, you might draw pictures and create a memorial ritual that enables your child to say goodbye to the parent.

An option to consider is holding a separate service for your child and his/ her friends that your child can help plan and participate in.

In Part 2, we’ll talk about ways to prepare and support your child if you decide to have him or her attend the funeral.

2/27/20

i'm done with dating

In this couple-oriented culture of ours, there is often pressure from well-meaning family and friends to date soon after your partner has died.  Although this usually occurs more to younger widowed, pressure at any age is unwelcome.

Any decision about dating is yours alone.

You may need more time to heal from the loss and are clear about not wanting to date at this time.  But you may change your mind down the road.

Or you may be clear that you are definitely not interested in another romantic relationship.

Whatever your choice, it’s a personal matter and others need to respect that.


Here’s some suggested ways to respond in these situations:

1) "Thanks for your concern but I’m really not interested (at this time)."

2) "While I appreciate your concern, my dating days are over - and I’m really okay with that."


Keep in mind however, that after losing a partner, it’s important to eventually form new (not romantic) relationships that will provide friendship and support.

Remember too, that you are the best judge of what is right for you.


(Our thanks to Beth Chaparral for suggesting this subject.)

2/24/20

are you really ready for sex?




As we warn in our book, Lost My Partner, sometimes people jump into dating and sex to erase the pain they’re feeling. They hope the excitement of a new relationship will make the pain go away. Dating for that reason can backfire. You aren’t being fair to a new relationship when you haven’t taken enough time to emotionally finish with the old one.

Please take the necessary time to go through the mourning process before you start dating.

That said, it’s natural to feel fairly anxious about engaging in sex. This can frequently be caused by:

- Guilt that crops up and gets in the way.
- Lack of sexual activity during your marriage.
- Issues of morality you might be wrestling with.

Try to keep in mind the following:

1. If you feel really anxious, you may just need more time. Give yourself permission to move at a pace that’s right for you.

2. Remind yourself that each new person is a learning process. You and your spouse/partner had years to work out what felt right for both of you. No two people react the same way sexually or otherwise.

3. The keys to a good sexual relationship are trust and communication. It’s important to feel free to tell each other what you are and are not comfortable with. This includes being able to discuss the issue of taking precautions against sexually transmitted diseases (make sure you update your knowledge about this issue before engaging in sexual activities).

As we always suggest, take your time and listen to yourself about what feels right for you.