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.

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

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.

9/17/20

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.

9/7/20

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.





7/6/20

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.











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.

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.

4/6/20

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.

3/5/20

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.

1/20/20

cooking for one; part 1: how do i cook for myself?




If you’re used to preparing meals for two, cooking for one can feel like an uncomfortable adjustment to make.

Or, if your late spouse/partner used to handle most or all of the cooking in your relationship, you may be at a loss as to how to manage meals for yourself.

In either case, we encourage you to acquire new skills.

While many people, especially men, resort to unhealthy snack foods, frozen dinners and/or meals out, learning some basic cooking skills can be a healthier, cheaper and ultimately confidence building alternative.

Here are some suggestions:

1) Purchase books or go online to learn about basic cooking skills or recipes designed for one.

2) Consider taking a class at a local culinary school and/or adult extension courses.

3) Ask a trusted relative or neighbor to show you how to prepare some basic recipes.

4) Have a friend or neighbor take you grocery shopping to familiarize yourself with neighborhood stores and how to select produce and meats.


Please share any suggestions or experiences you’d had in dealing with these kitchen dilemmas.

In Part 2, we’ll offer reading suggestions and useful online sites .