7/9/20

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 1





“No matter how many times the doctor warned him, and I begged, threatened, and tried to help, he still ignored us.”


If your partner’s death occurred as an apparent result of not following medical advice and/or complying with treatment or by substance abuse, it can seem that he/she chose to die. While the term “suicide” is generally applied to a sudden act that results in death, these situations can seem like a form of slow suicide.

After what may have been years of frustration as you tried your best to control your partner’s self-destructive behavior, he/she died anyway. As a consequence, you may see yourself as not having been valuable or powerful enough to stop your partner’s downward spiral.

You may also feel “relieved” that a painful and oppressive relationship has ended, but guilty about expressing this, especially around family and friends, who may see your reactions as “disloyal” towards your late partner.

In Part 2, we'll offer tips on how to cope with these concerns.

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.











7/2/20

reluctant to visit the gravesite?


Have you found yourself reluctant to visit your late spouse/partner’s grave since the funeral?

If so, do you find you just can’t bring yourself to go? Even when family and friends offer to accompany you?

Is there guilt because this ritual is one a widowed partner is "supposed to observe"?

Actually, there are no rules about this. Although some faiths mark the end of the first year of mourning by observing a memorial for the deceased, visiting the gravesite is otherwise a very personal choice.

While some people find regular visits comforting, others find it too upsetting and choose not to visit. Some visit only on special occasions or holidays.

As with all other aspects of mourning, you should trust your own sense of what feels right for you.

What are your thoughts about this?

6/29/20

how past losses can kick in now; part 2


In our previous post, we looked at some of ways that old losses can complicate how you mourn the death of your spouse/partner.

To become more aware of the confusing, hidden influence of past losses, ask yourself the following:

1) What other significant losses have I experienced in my life? Your relationship to that loved one is what counts here. Not whether you were “related” or not.

2) How did my family react to major losses? Were we able to talk about what had happened and express feelings of loss or was the whole thing “hushed up”?

3) Do I want to mourn in a way that’s different from what I learned in my family?

4) Have I truly allowed myself sufficient time to mourn past losses? If not, is there some emotional “unfinished business” I still need to address when I’m feeling up to it?

5) Are there aspects of my current loss that stir up similar reactions to my prior loss/es?

By considering how past losses influence your current mourning, you may be able to better understand and defuse some of the distress you’re currently experiencing.

Keep in mind that the more you do the “work” of mourning, the more quickly you’ll truly be able to move forward.

And don’t forget that every tear counts.

6/25/20

how past losses can kick in now; part 1



As you struggle through the recent death of your spouse/partner, there may be other losses hovering in the background, influencing your current mourning process. Former losses can include the death of a parent/s or anyone else significant in your life.

So what? you may ask. That loss is over and done with. Why should I think about it now?

Because those past losses can now affect you in the following ways:

- The length of time it takes you to mourn his or her death.

- Your experience of puzzling or frightening reactions that don’t seem connected to your current loss.

- How complicated the mourning process for your partner becomes.

Why does this happen?

Previous deaths shape and influence how you now mourn because:

1) The ways you’ve observed family members mourn a past death has given you (rightly or wrongly), a blueprint of how to grieve. Was it important in your family and/or culture to appear “strong” and unemotional?

2) How did you yourself mourn those earlier losses? Was your grieving process cut short by circumstances or your own attempts to “get over it” too quickly?

3) If a prior death occurred recently, you may feel too overwhelmed by the additional trauma of your current loss to adequately mourn either death.

By becoming aware of these hidden issues, you'll gain more confidence over some of the puzzling reactions that may be complicating your ability to mourn for your partner.

In our next post, we’ll look at some important questions you should ask yourself to better understand the impact of past losses on the here and now.

6/22/20

reflections by frada; a tribute to a departed husband



We discovered this poem on thegriefblog.com .


A Tribute to a Departed Husband


It doesn’t really matter
Why nor how nor when.
It’s just never ever easy
To lose your very best friend.

You did so much together.
You shared ideas too.
Now time alone is so very hard
For both family and you.

Music gets you thinking
About so many past events.
The places that you went to
And all the times you spent.

The future looks so scary.
How will it be alone?
What will happen to you
When your future’s so unknown?

Just remember that this person
No longer by your side
Would never want you miserable
You know it just can’t be denied.

So give yourself the privilege
Of some time and space.
Be patient and caring about yourself.
Take all you can embrace.

Memories will be there.
Their love never goes away.
Life is just now different.
So take it day by day.

And don’t forget that there are others
Who will stand along your side.
They’ll be happy to be there for you
And with them you can confide.

Don’t feel like you’ve been punished.
And that life is so unfair
Just remember the person whom you’ve lost.
And the love that you both shared.


By Frada

6/18/20

making it through father's day


Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day can be difficult, especially during the first year after your loss.

But Father’s Day can stir up the pain of your loss even once you’ve made it through that first year. In addition to the memories of your late spouse/partner, the occasion may also remind you of your own deceased parent(s). Children and grandchildren may also ask about your spouse/partner and have difficulty understanding why he’s not here to celebrate.

Rather than ignore the occasion and/or brushing off children’s questions, consider:

a) Acknowledging your loss by talking about your spouse with other family members. This gives others, especially children, the cue that it’s okay to remember and share feelings of sadness about a loved one.

b) Helping younger children create “remembering” cards, with photos or drawings of special memories about their parent or grandparent.

c) Visiting the cemetery or other places of remembrance on or close to Father’s Day.

d) If there is a family gathering, make some time to share fond or funny memories of your spouse/partner.

The feelings this holiday stirs up won’t just go away. It’s best to acknowledge the occasion, even briefly, especially with children. Otherwise, the emotions you try to push down and avoid will just come up another time. Probably when you least expect them.

6/15/20

dad's worrisome reactions; part 2



This post for adult children is a continuation of excerpts from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?


“It’s only been a few months since Mom died and Dad is already talking about dating and going on singles’ cruises. He and Mom had a long, happy marriage, so I can’t understand why Dad is acting so disloyal to her memory. At his age, there’s a lot of single and widowed women out there hunting for a husband. I’m afraid Dad will do something rash.”

Often those who were happily married feel the loss of companionship and emotional security most acutely. Men, in particular, tend to jump into new relationships before they have allowed themselves to fully experience the painful but necessary mourning process.

Gently point out that while you understand how difficult and lonely it must be for him/her without their spouse, acting impulsively will backfire. Ask your parent to consider whether he/she really wants to sabotage a new relationship because of not having taken the necessary time to grieve the old one.

With any behavior that seems impulsive and/or potentially risky, try this approach:

“I realize a new (relationship, move, risky financial investment, etc.) feels exciting right now but I’m concerned about what will happen down the road. Let’s slow down, put our heads together and see if we can’t come up with some other ways to get you through this difficult time.”


REMEMBER: However your parent may react to the loss of their spouse, you also need to pay attention to your own needs. Try to take some time off from normal responsibilities to give yourself the time and space you need to grieve. Draw on the support of others and delegate caretaking for your mom or dad.

6/11/20

dad’s worrisome reactions: part 1




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

“My mother passed away just three months ago and my dad has already gotten rid of all her possessions and is planning to sell the house they lived in for almost 30 years. He says all the reminders are too painful and he wants to move to another city.”

Many people hurry to dispose of possessions and other reminders that stir up the pain of loss.

Like other forms of emotional pain, you can run but you can’t hide.

Gently point out to your parent that while you understand his/her actions make him/her feel better in the short run, he/she will still have to face them eventually. The more your parent tries to avoid the pain, the more likely it will strike at unexpected times.

More in Part 2.

6/8/20

widowhood way back when: widowed tv dads



If you’re a baby boomer or beyond, this post by Guy Belleranti from www.loti.com (Rewind the Fifties) should bring back memories.

If only being a widower with kids was as easy as it looked way back then.

Widowed Fathers in TV Programs of the 1950’s and 1960’s

There were a number of television programs in the 1950’s and 1960’s which revolved around a widowed father and his child or children. Several, but not all, were sitcoms.

One of the most famous has to be The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968). Andy Taylor (Griffith) is the sheriff of the small town of Mayberry, North Carolina. He has the added responsibility of raising his son Opie (Ron “Ronny” Howard). Andy gets help in the matter from Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). There were many wonderful aspects to this classic series, but one of the best had to be those moments of father-son discussions.

My Three Sons, starring actor Fred MacMurray, was another sitcom where a father had mother-less sons. In this case, the father, Steve Douglas (MacMurray) had not one son, but three. Mike (Tim Considine) was the eldest, Robbie (Don Grady) the middle and Chip (Stanley Livingston) the youngest. From 1960 to 1965 Steve had help from Bub O’Casey (William Frawley). After that, until the program’s end in 1972, he had help from Uncle Charley (William Demerest). When Tim Considine left the show, his eldest son Mike character was written out. However, the Douglas family gained a third son by having Chip’s former best friend, Ernie (Barry Livingston, Stanley Livingston’s real life brother), lose his parents and then become adopted into the family.

Danny Thomas’ Danny Williams character became a widower in 1956 on Make Room for Daddy when Jean Hagen (his series’ wife, Margaret, since the program’s start in 1953) left the program. For the 1956 season Danny had to raise his son Rusty (Rusty (Hamer) and daughter Terry (Sherry Jackson) solo. He did have a housekeeper, Louise, however, to help out when needed.
Then in 1957, the program’s title changed to The Danny Thomas Show and Danny had a new TV wife, Kathy (Marjorie Lord). He also had a new daughter, Kathy’s daughter Linda (Angela Cartwright), as well.

The sitcom The Courtship of Eddie’s Father in 1969 featured Bill Bixby as Tom Corbett, widowed father of a son, Eddie (Brandon Cruz). Like the title implies, Eddie was forever trying to get his father remarried.

The family drama Flipper also featured a widowed father. Brian Kelly played Porter Ricks, a Park Ranger in South Florida. Ricks had two sons: Sandy (Luke Halpin) and Bud (Tommy Norden). He also had help from a dolphin named Flipper.

Finally, there were a couple famous television westerns where fathers were single parents. One was The Rifleman. Chuck Connors played Lucas McCain, a New Mexico rancher. His son Mark (Johnny Crawford) featured heavily in most episodes. Lucas taught Mark both by the “Good Book” and by example.

Bonanza featured widowed rancher Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his three sons. Ben apparently had lots of bad luck in marriage, with three wives dying. However, each wife did leave him a son. The sons that we, the viewer, see on Bonanza are all grown men. Adam (Pernell Roberts) is the eldest, Hoss (Dan Blocker) is in the middle and Little Joe (Michael Landon) is the youngest.

Interestingly, a glance back at all of these programs reveals that only one featured a widowed father with a daughter. And this program, Make Room for Daddy, only had the father a widower for one year.

6/4/20

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.

5/25/20

another great website for the military widowed



While we continue to recommend T.A.P.S. ( Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors; taps.org) , we also want to tell you about another site that offers support to the military widowed and their families.

American Widow Project (http://www.americanwidowproject.org/), was started by Taryn Davis, a young military widow, following her husband’s death.

According to the site, “The American Widow Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to the new generation of those who have lost the heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow, with an emphasis on healing through sharing stories, tears and laughter...Military Widow to Military Widow.”

In addition to a subscription newsletter, the site offers a hotline staffed by other military widows as well as various scheduled “get-aways” and events.

There are also a blog and a resources page.

Check the site out and let us know what you think.

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.


5/18/20

your mom's worrisome reactions: part 2


(Part 2 is a continued excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition)


“We’re really worried about Mom. She keeps telling us she’s fine, that she’s always been the 'independent type' and doesn’t need any help. But we can all see how the strain is affecting her. It’s so frustrating the way she keeps rejecting our help.”

Many people who normally pride themselves on their self-sufficiency find it especially hard to let others help, even under these circumstances.

Try suggesting specific tasks you’d like to help with, citing your own interest in or skills with the problem. It’s okay to say, “We know you can handle that, but for now, we find it comforting to take care of it (the task) instead.”



“It’s been almost two years since Dad died, and Mom just can’t seem to pull herself together. She almost never leaves the house anymore and refuses to join any family activities.”

Keeping in mind that each person grieves in his or her own way and at their own speed, your parent may be experiencing major depression as well as going through bereavement. Suggest he/she talk to a trusted doctor or clergyperson, who can, if needed, refer your parent to a mental health professional.

5/14/20

your mom’s worrisome reactions; part 1




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

“Since Dad died, Mom has acted like she could care less. She hardly shows any sadness and is going to all her usual activities. I don’t understand this. My folks were married a long time. I thought she loved my dad. What’s going on?”

The lack of obvious emotion in a surviving parent can be upsetting and confusing.

Some people, especially men, don’t show sadness or tears because of family and/or cultural pressures to “be strong” and hide these emotions.

Also, while it may look like mom or dad is indifferent to what has occurred, keep in mind that all marriages have conflicts and issues that children, even when adults, are not aware of. In cases where a marriage was conflicted, one partner felt oppressed by the other, or there was a lengthy, difficult disease, the survivor often feels relief or liberated when death occurs.

While your parent may seem disloyal, remember that you don’t know all the facts.

More in Part 2.

5/11/20

widowhood way back when: whistler’s mom






Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother, famous under its colloquial name Whistler's Mother, is an 1871 oil-on-canvas painting by American-born painter James McNeill Whistler. Now owned by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, it occasionally tours worldwide.

Anna McNeill Whistler posed for the painting while living in London with her son. Several unverifiable stories surround the making of the painting itself; one is that Anna Whistler acted as a replacement for another model who couldn't make the appointment. Another is that Whistler originally envisioned painting the model standing up, but that his mother was too uncomfortable to pose standing for an extended period.

The work was shown at the 104th Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Art in London (1872), but first came within a hair's breadth of rejection by the Academy. This episode worsened the rift between Whistler and the British art world; Arrangement would be the last painting he would submit for the Academy's approval.

The sensibilities of a Victorian era viewing audience would not accept what was apparently a portrait being exhibited as a mere "arrangement"; thus the explanatory title "Portrait of the Artist's Mother" was appended. It was from this that the work acquired its
popular name.

Whistler would eventually pawn the painting, which was acquired in 1891 by Paris' Musée du Luxembourg. As a proponent of "art for art’s sake", Whistler professed to be perplexed and annoyed by the insistence of others upon viewing his work as a "portrait."

In his 1890 book The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, he writes: "Take the picture of my mother, exhibited at the Royal Academy as an 'Arrangement in Grey and Black.' Now that is what it is. To me it is interesting as a picture of my mother; but what can or ought the public to care about the identity of the portrait?"

Given this outlook, whatever the level of affection Whistler may have felt for his own mother, one finds an even more divergent use of the image in the Victorian era and later, especially in the United States, as an icon for motherhood, affection for parents, and "family values" in general.

For example, in 1934 the U.S. Post office issued a stamp engraved with a stylized image of "Whistler's Mother," accompanied by the slogan "In Memory and In Honor of the Mothers of America."

Later the public's interpretation of the symbolism of the painting went even farther afield, and it appeared in a myriad of commercial advertisements and parodies, such as doctored images of the subject watching a television, sometimes accompanied by slogans such as "Whistler's Mother is Off Her Rocker."


Now, is that any way to talk about a mother?

4/30/20

pets as support


If you’re living alone since your spouse/partner’s death, getting a pet may help with the following:

1) The silence. Being alone in your home may be comforting at times, but at other times, the silence can feel uncomfortable.

2) Safety concerns. Even if your partner was ill, there was probably an illusion of protection just because they were around. Having a watchdog can be reassuring.

3) Companionship. In addition to providing unconditional love, a pet can be a great listener.

Research has shown that pets can help increase the health and quality of life of their owners. “Therapy Pets” are used to enhance the recovery process of patients and the disabled. Learn more.

If you’re new to pet ownership, ask a pet owner you know for advice and referrals to local veterinarians.

Before considering bringing any pet into your life, consider not only your needs, but also your physical capabilities. While a dog provides a greater sense of safety, they do require daily walks and exercise. Cats are generally lower maintenance.

Do some research into the characteristics of different breeds so you can choose a pet best suited to your own lifestyle.

Whatever you decide, also consider getting a rescue animal.

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.

4/20/20

can't stop thinking about what happened


In the days following the death of your spouse/partner, you probably find yourself preoccupied with what has happened.

Whether it’s the details of those final days or months, or worries about arrangements/financial concerns, thoughts and images about your loss seem to occupy every waking moment.

In the aftermath of any shock (even when a death is anticipated), it’s normal to be preoccupied with these thoughts and images as your mind struggles to absorb the reality of the loss. Added to this are the other adjustments and tasks you’re forced to deal with as a consequence of the loss itself.

Keep in mind that with time, you’ll be able to focus on other aspects of your life. Many people feel guilty when this happens, fearful that pulling away emotionally means they will longer love or remember their partner.

What it actually means is that you’ve begun to find a new, different place inside yourself for your loved one. A place that is no less cherished because it doesn't demand constant attention.

If, after about a year, you're still constantly thinking about the death, you may have conflicts or unfinished business that is complicating your mourning process. Consider getting counseling from a mental health professional or trusted clergy person to help you sort through troublesome concerns.

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.

4/13/20

can't stop crying




That might sound like title of a country western song, but it’s all too real an experience when your spouse/partner has died.

After my husband’s death, I felt like the tears would never stop.

I remember being at work, in social situations, or just driving and finding myself unexpectedly tearing up. Caught off-guard and often embarrassed, I’d head for the nearest private place (like a restroom or quiet street), to try to pull myself together.

I realize some people consider crying a form of self-pity.

But I’ve learned that tears are nature’s way of helping us release tension. The best way to do the mourning is to do the grieving. And that means every tear helps.

So trust yourself. Your mind does have a shut-off valve.

How have you handled these situations?

Ruth


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.

3/30/20

5 things you don't have to worry about while grieving


With all the changes and stress you have to cope with because your spouse/partner has died, we thought it might help relieve some pressure to know what does not require your immediate attention.

1) Responding to sympathy cards and/or other forms of condolence.

2) Staying on a diet (unless your health is at great risk), or any other non-critical lifestyle change.

3) Taking care of others feelings about the loss (except immediate family).

4) Keeping any social obligations.

5) Making major decisions about your home, finances, etc.

Remember that you’re going through a major loss and others don’t expect you to function the way you normally do.

So be realistic about your expectations for yourself and trust that others will understand.

Be kind to yourself.

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.

3/16/20

reflections: irish words of wisdom


* May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you're going and the insight to know when you're going too far.


* May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.


* A friend's eye is a good mirror.


*Even a small thorn causes festering.


* When a twig grows hard it is difficult to twist it. Every beginning is weak.


* As you slide down the banisters of life may the splinters never point the wrong way.


* May your troubles be as few and as far apart as my Grandmothers teeth.

3/12/20

widowhood way back when: wakeful irish; part 2



With a nod to St. Patrick’s Day, here is part 1 of an excerpt from the book, Of Irish Ways by Mary Murray Delany. We discovered this on http://www.funeralwise.com/:


Mourning and Merrymaking

Wakes lasted through two or three nights. Food, tobacco, snuff, and liquor were plentiful. Out in the countryside, the liquor served consisted of whiskey or poteen, which is a very potent and illegal Irish homemade brew.

Laughter and singing as well as crying filled the air as mourners shared humorous stories involving the deceased. In addition to this seeming merriment, games were played.

While this may appear to have been disrespectful of the dead, it was not the intention. It is thought that the merrymaking aspects of these wake customs were influenced by the Irish pagan heritage as well as the need to stay awake for such a long period of time. The church frowned upon these activities and tried hard to discourage the people from indulging in them, mostly to no avail.

No emotion was left out of the mourning process. Between the extremes of tears and laughter, heartfelt poetical lamentations and boisterous songs, there were debates. As the mourners gathered round the kitchen table, poteen or whiskey laden tea in hand, it was inevitable that discussions would begin. Often these debates turned heated as one might expect given that the most common topics concerned religion, politics or economics.

Mourners Pay Final Respects

One last opportunity for friends and neighbors to pay respects to the deceased came on the morning of the funeral. The body was placed in a coffin and brought outside the house. There, the open coffin was laid across some chairs, where it remained until time to carry it to the graveyard. Mourners kiss the deceased prior to the lid being placed on the coffin.

The journey to the church and then onto the graveyard was a long and arduous trip. Four of the closest relatives carried the coffin at a quick pace. They would be relieved by four more along the way and so it went until they reached the church. After the service, the procession would continue, again on foot, until reaching the graveside. The coffin was lowered into the grave and the clay, the common soil in Ireland, was shoveled over it. The spade and shovel were laid on top of the new grave in the form of a cross. Prayers were said, bringing the wake and funeral to a close.

Who says funerals have to be dull?

3/9/20

widowhood way back when: wakeful irish; part 1



With a nod to St. Patrick’s Day, here is Part 1 of an excerpt from the book, Of Irish Ways by Mary Murray Delany. We discovered this on http://www.funeralwise.com/:


Part 1
Irish Wakes and Funeral Customs of Old

Until modern times, Irish wake customs ran the gamut from profound grieving to what appeared to be rollicking good fun. This was especially true if the deceased was elderly. This curious mixture borne of a cultural blend of paganism and Christianity survives today in a severely toned-down fashion.

Wakes of times gone by began with neighbor women washing the body of the deceased and preparing it to be laid out on a bed or a table, often in the largest room of the house. The body was covered in white linen adorned with black or white ribbons, flowers for the body of a child. Lighted candles were placed around the body. Clay pipes, tobacco and snuff were also placed in the room. Every male caller was expected to take at least a puff. The smoke kept evil spirits from finding the deceased. Usually, a pipe and tobacco were placed on a table next to the body. Occasionally, a pipe was laid on the chest of the deceased male. Clocks were stopped at the time of death. Mirrors were turned around or covered.

Watching Over the Deceased and Keening

Once the body was prepared, it was never left alone until after burial. Someone, usually a woman, sat in the same room until it was taken away. According to custom, crying couldn’t begin until after the body was prepared lest it attract evil spirits that would take the soul of the departed. However, once the body was properly prepared, the keening began. The Caointhe, the lead keener, was first to lament the deceased. Keeners, especially the Caointhe, recited poetry lamenting the loss of the loved one in addition to crying and wailing. All the women in the house joined in, especially as each new caller arrived to pay his or her respects.

Find out more in Part 2.

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.

2/20/20

widowhood way back when: presidents who were widowers; part 2



In Part 1, we listed the U.S. Presidents who were widowers.

The following widowed presidents went on to remarry while in office:


John Tyler (1841 – 1845)
After his wife Letitia became the first First Lady to die in the White House, Tyler met and married Juliana Gardiner in 1844.

According to excerpted information about the presidents and first ladies from http://www.whitehouse.gov/, late in 1842 the Gardiner [family] went to Washington for the winter social season, and Julia became the undisputed darling of the capital. Her beauty and her practiced charm attracted the most eminent men in the city, among them President Tyler, a widower since September.

Tragedy brought his courtship poignant success the next winter. Julia, her sister Margaret, and her father joined a Presidential excursion on the new steam frigate Princeton; and David Gardiner lost his life in the explosion of a huge naval gun. Tyler comforted Julia in her grief and won her consent to a secret engagement.

The first President to marry in office took his vows in New York on June 26, 1844. The news was then broken to the American people, who greeted it with keen interest, much publicity, and some criticism about the couple's difference in age: 30 years.

As young Mrs. Tyler said herself, she "reigned" as First Lady for the last eight months of her husband's term.

The Tylers' happiness was unshaken when they retired to their home at Sherwood Forest in Virginia. There Julia bore five of her seven children; and she acted as mistress of the plantation until the Civil War. As such, she defended both states' rights and the institution of slavery. She championed the political views of her husband, who remained for her "the President" until the end of his life.
His death in 1862 came as a severe blow to her. In a poem composed for his sixty-second birthday she had assured him that "what e'er changes time may bring, I'll love thee as thou art!"



Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921)
Following the death of his first wife, Ellen, in 1914, Wilson met Edith Bolling Galt.

This excerpt from http://www.whitehouse.gov/ follows: By a quirk of fate and a chain of friendships, Mrs. Galt met the bereaved President, still mourning profoundly for his first wife. A man who depended on feminine companionship, the lonely Wilson took an instant liking to Mrs. Galt, charming and intelligent and unusually pretty. Admiration changed swiftly to love. In proposing to her, he made the poignant statement that "in this place time is not measured by weeks, or months, or years, but by deep human experiences..."

They were married privately on December 18, 1915, at her home; and after they returned from a brief honeymoon in Virginia, their happiness made a vivid impression on their friends and White House staff.

Though the new First Lady had sound qualifications for the role of hostess, the social aspect of the administration was overshadowed by the war in Europe and abandoned after the United States entered the conflict in 1917. Edith Wilson submerged her own life in her husband's, trying to keep him fit under tremendous strain.

His health failed in September 1919; a stroke left him partly paralyzed. His constant attendant, Mrs. Wilson took over many routine duties and details of government. But she did not initiate programs or make major decisions, and she did not try to control the executive branch. She selected matters for her husband's attention and let everything else go to the heads of departments or remain in abeyance. Her "stewardship," she called this. And in My Memoir, published in 1939, she stated emphatically that her husband's doctors had urged this course upon her.

In 1921, the Wilsons retired to a comfortable home in Washington, where he died three years later. A highly respected figure in the society of the capital, Mrs. Wilson lived on to ride in President Kennedy's inaugural parade. She died later in 1961: on December 28, the anniversary of her famous husband's birth.


Read complete article.