8/31/20

widowhood way back when: victorian calling cards


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

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

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

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

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

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


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





8/27/20

reflections: remembering don spector on his birthday


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

If, that is, he had lived more than a few weeks past his 49th birthday.

It took me a long time before I could picture Dad as the man he was before cancer so cruelly altered him and our lives.

I try to imagine him now as an elderly man with all the physical changes that come with advanced age.

Yet despite how he might now look if he’d been able to grow old, what comes through in my thoughts are the qualities about him that would have remained ageless;

His compassion.

His sense of humor.

His intelligence.

His insights.

His love.

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

Laurie

8/24/20

making sense of anger; part 4: handling anger



In Parts 2 and 3 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner, we looked at various ways anger about your loss may be misdirected, either towards yourself or others.



While it’s important to be aware that you’re feeling anger, it’s equally important to look at what you’re doing with it.

Feeling an emotion and expressing it are two very different things. Everyone feels anger sometimes, but the way you choose to deal with that anger can make a world of difference. You’ll probably feel angry and abandoned by your partner when it comes time to deal with financial headaches, your children, family conflicts, etc. Misdirecting your anger in any way, such as yelling at your family for no reason, won’t really make you feel better or less angry.

Here are some examples of choices you can make in handling anger:

DESTRUCTIVE WAYS:

- Verbally or physically attacking others.

- Turning anger inward. For example, scolding yourself, injuring your body by hitting something too hard, or having “accidents”.

- Doing self-destructive things like excessive drinking or drug use, driving recklessly, or neglecting your health.


CONSTRUCTIVE WAYS:

- Talking about your angry feelings to someone who will understand, such as close friends, grief counselors, widowed groups or religious advisors.

- Writing a letter to whomever you’re angry with but not mailing it, then taking a brisk walk around the block.

- Punching a pillow or a cushioned piece of furniture.

- Sitting in a room at home with the widows closed (so the neighbors aren’t alarmed), and shouting.



If you’ve come up with any other constructive strategies for venting anger, please share them with us.

8/20/20

making sense of anger: part 3: outside targets

In Part 2 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we covered the potentially self-destructive results of turning anger inward.
Here are some common ways that anger about your loss can be focused outward.


“How could God let this happen?”

Some may undergo a religious crisis when their anger is directed at God. In questioning how God could allow your loved one to die, you experience this as a spiritual abandonment.

For more on this, read our posts, Spiritual Comfort, Parts 1 and 2.

Another common target for anger following a death is the medical establishment (doctors, nurses, hospital personnel). While there are certainly situations where anger toward a medical professional is justified, there are times when the real source of upset is the helplessness and frustration that comes with not being able to stop the inevitable from occurring.

In Part 4, we’ll offer tips for coping with anger in constructive ways.

8/17/20

making sense of anger; part 2: when anger turns inward




In Part 1 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we looked at some of the underlying reasons for feeling anger.



It’s important to recognize the some of the ways anger can be misdirected.

“I wish everybody would stop fussing and just leave me alone. What’s the use of going on, if my husband isn’t here?”

When anger is turned inward it can take the form of depression or even suicidal feelings.

If this is happening to you, talk over your feelings with your doctor, religious advisor or a mental health professional right away. If you are seriously thinking about taking your own life, tell someone immediately!

Call the Operator to reach your local suicide hotline or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org).

Remember: You are important! Get the help you need.



In Part 3, we’ll talk about ways your anger may be directed toward outside sources.

8/13/20

making sense of anger ; part 1: facing this reaction

 

When a spouse/partner dies, it’s common to feel some anger. You may not recognize it, but it’s usually there. Anger, however, may feel especially uncomfortable when it occurs around a death. Many people feel guilty or uneasy about acknowledging the anger.

“How can you be angry with someone for dying? After all, it’s not like my partner wanted to die.”

Although anger is a natural reaction to having lost your spouse, it may be easier to deal with it, if you give yourself permission to be angry that the loss happened. For example,

“It’s so unfair that this had to happen to us!”

Sometimes anger can cover up other, more difficult feelings, such as:

- ABANDONMENT: “Why did she have to die and leave me? I always thought I’d be the first to go.” Or “Where are you when I need you?”

- HELPLESSNESS: “I took such good care of her, but she died anyway.” Or “I begged him to stop smoking/lose weight, but he just wouldn’t listen!”

These reactions are understandable, if you keep in mind that death creates the ultimate experience of abandonment and helplessness.


More in Part 2.

8/10/20

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



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


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


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

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

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

…friendly nudges and teasing light pinches.

…ongoing hugs.

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

…dancing around the kitchen as we cooked together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

8/6/20

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


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

The best ways to cope with these situations include:

a) Recognizing what is actually triggering these emotions.

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

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

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

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

8/3/20

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


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

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

You may find yourself saying:

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

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