2/22/21

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.

2/18/21

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.

2/15/21

widowhood way back when: presidents who were widowers; part 1


In honor of President's Day, we’re doing a 2 part series about United States presidents who were widowers, either before or after entering the White House.


Presidents who were widowed prior to their election include:Thomas Jefferson (1801 – 1809)
- Jefferson’s wife Martha died following childbirth in 1781.

Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837)
- Jackson’s wife Rachel died in 1829, just prior to Jackson’s inauguration.

Martin Van Buren (1837 – 1841)
- Van Buren’s wife Hannah died of tuberculosis in 1819.

Chester A. Arthur (1881 – 1885)
- Arthur’s wife Ellen died of pneumonia in 1880.


Presidents whose early days in office were shadowed by the loss of their spouses include:

John Tyler (1841 – 1845)
- A reclusive invalid, Letitia Tyler became, in 1842, the first presidential wife to die in the White House.

Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921)
- His wife Ellen died in 1914 of Bright’s disease.

Learn about which presidents remarried in part 2 .

2/11/21

valentine’s day quotes to send to family and friends

This Valentine's Day, embrace all the people in your life for whom you feel affection.  Send a card (like when you were a kid), and/or get together (even if it's just for coffee) to give a new meaning to the day.

Here are some sample quotes to add to emails or cards:

"I get by with a little help from my friends."
- John Lennon

"Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends."
- Czech Proverb

"My friends are my estate."
- Emily Dickinson

"It's the friends you can call up at 4am that matter."
- Marlene Dietrich

"A friend is a gift you give yourself."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

“In time of test, family is best.”
- Burmese Proverb

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.”
- Anthony Brandt

Have any quotes of your own to share? Let us know.

2/8/21

your new identity


Becoming widowed often means adjusting from thinking of yourself as part of a couple to seeing yourself as “single”.

This process can be difficult, especially if your loss was recent and if your marriage was a long one. If you were young when you married, your sense of yourself was probably more tied in with being part of a couple. You may also be part of a generation that discouraged married partners from developing identities outside that relationship.

It’s important to remember however, that you haven’t been part of a couple all your life.

Try to think back to that time before the responsibilities and compromises of marriage.

What used to be your dreams and goals for yourself?

What talents and skills were you beginning to recognize but perhaps had to set aside?

If your loss was recent, it may feel uncomfortable to consider trying new activities such as taking a class or engaging in a long-postponed hobby or sport.

Just take baby steps. With each step you do take, you’ll discover a growing sense of achievement.

And rediscover the unique individual you’ve always been.

2/4/21

being around people who still have partners: part 2


In Part 1, we looked at the difficult feelings that can surface when you see other people who still have his or her partner.

It’s natural to feel some envy, anger and resentment when you see other couples. These reactions represent the difficult emotional shift you’re making from having been part of a couple to now being single.

You may imagine that if you had a second chance at having your late partner with you again, you would do things differently.  In reality, even if you could do it all over again, there would always be some tensions and conflicts. That’s just a normal part of being together with anyone.

Give yourself permission to yearn for what others still have but remind yourself of some of the realities that you once struggled with during your relationship with your late partner.

2/1/21

being around people who still have partners: part 1


Having lost your own spouse/partner, you may find yourself noticing couples everywhere: holding hands, arguing, or just being able to share life’s experiences together.  As you grapple with adjusting to a sense of yourself without a partner, you may discover difficult feelings surfacing when you’re around couples.

“Why is my spouse gone, and they still have theirs?”

You might feel somewhat guilty about the envy you experience in these situations. Such a reaction is normal and very understandable.

“Look at that couple argue! Don’t they realize how short life is? They should appreciate every second they have together. If only…”

Many become angry and resentful when the pain of his or her loss is stirred up by seeing other couples’ fighting or bickering over what appears to be petty problems.

We’ll discuss more about this in Part 2.

1/28/21

reflections: quotes to get you through the the new year

1) In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
- Albert Camus

2) Courage is like love; it must have hope for nourishment.
- Napoleon

3) We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.
- Martin Luther King

4) If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.- Milton Berle

5) The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.
- Al Neuharth (founder of USA Today)
I
In
I

1/25/21

recognize your progress!


While you’re in the midst of grieving for your spouse/partner, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and at times defeated by the burdens of new tasks and responsibilities. Caught up in the day to day struggles of surviving your loss, it may feel discouraging to think about how much still lies ahead of you.



It’s important however, to pause and notice how far you’ve already come since the death. Try to remember how you were functioning a week, a month, or months ago.

-  Picture yourself as you were back then.

-  Consider all the little steps you’ve achieved since those earlier times.

-  What challenges have you faced and managed to deal with?

-  What strengths have you discovered within yourself that you never realized before?


Now give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

You might also consider recording your progress on a device or in a journal. It’s a good way to keep track of how far you’ve come.

1/21/21

when adults lose a parent; part 3: more ways to cope



In part 2 of our excerpt from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do?, we discussed how losing a parent can affect your relationship with your surviving parent. We offered some suggestions for understanding and coping with
this situation.

MORE WAYS TO COPE

Here are some additional tips:

- Inheritance issues can open a nasty can of worms. In some families money equates love, so possessions can symbolize to members how your late parent felt about them. Try to enlist a neutral person to mediate any family discussions about this emotional subject.

- If possible, talk with your sibling(s) and evaluate what each of you can realistically do. If one of you lives far away, that person may still be able to pay for household help or other services and stay in touch on a regular basis with your parent.

- Have a frank discussion with mom or dad about how you can help. Keep expectations realistic and try to focus on specific tasks, such as helping with paperwork, shopping or home maintenance chores. Reach out to other trusted family members (such as cousins or older grandchildren), neighbors and family friends for assistance with chores. Others appreciate the opportunity to provide support in specific ways.

Have you discovered other strategies that help? Please share them with us.

1/18/21

when adults lose a parent; part 2: ways to cope




In Part 1, we discussed your reactions to losing a parent.

Our excerpt from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? continues.

Ways to Cope
As you attempt to cope with your own feelings, you may find that your relationship with your surviving parent changes in other ways.

In addition to helping with funeral arrangements, you may be called on to assist your already overwhelmed parent deal with health and/or financial problems. Under these circumstances, your mom or dad can seem uncharacteristically dependent and clinging. They may also have expectations of you that can feel burdensome or inappropriate.

Trying to manage all of the above in addition to your own family and work demands can stir of flashes of anger and resentment, which you may feel guilty about.

Take a deep breath and keep in mind the following:

- Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time. Each member of your family had a unique relationship and history with your late parent and their reactions to the loss will often reflect this.

- Respect the fact that the mourning process (yours as well as your parent’s) is difficult and takes time.

- Although mom or dad appears overwhelmed and not their usual self, this is temporary. She/he is an adult and still your parent. While some assistance is appreciated, mom or dad does not want to be treated like a child. Most surviving parents worry about becoming burdens to their children even under these temporary circumstances and don’t wish to relinquish their customary role in your life as providers of love and support.

Learn more ways to cope in Part 3.

1/14/21

when adults lose a parent; part 1: your reactions





This week’s posts are excerpts from Chapter 23, "I Lost My Parent", from our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition.

Your Reactions


Losing a parent, indeed, both parents, is to be expected in life. When this happens though, it can shake your world in ways you never anticipated.

While you’re feeling abandoned (no matter how old you are) by your late parent, it’s natural to turn to your surviving parent for comfort and reassurance.

You may discover, however, that he/she is unable to provide support because of his/her own grief. Their preoccupation and withdrawal can feel like one more abandonment.

You may react by:

a) Becoming excessively anxious about your surviving parent’s health and/or safety.

b) Trying to assume the role of your late parent by taking over many of their tasks and responsibilities.

c) Pressuring your mom or dad to quickly dispose of “painful reminders” or sell their home right away and move closer to you.

d) Becoming impatient, annoyed or angry with the way your parent is coping with the loss.

e) Expecting your own spouse or partner to always be supportive and understanding of your situation.

f) Quarreling with your sibling(s) over who does what or who gets what.

g) Withdrawing.

In addition, you may struggle with guilt, remorse or other emotional unfinished business from your late parent’s final illness or circumstances of death.

In Part 2, we’ll help you understand changes in your relationship with your surviving parent.

1/11/21

reflections: quotes on facing the challenges of a new year



1) Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.
- Bernice Johnson Reagon

2) You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

- Eleanor Roosevelt

3) Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson


4) Mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths.
- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe


5) It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up again.
- Vince Lombardi


1/7/21

5 simple resolutions for a new year

Give yourself a big pat on the back!

You’ve just survived the holidays, one of the toughest times for anyone grieving a loss. Now you’re probably looking ahead and wondering how you’ll ever make it through the next twelve months.

Here are five suggestions to help gently ease you along the bumpy road of bereavement:

1. Remember to keep any resolutions realistic. You’re not your usual self while you’re grieving, so be gentle with yourself.

2. Set at least one small, “bite-size” goal every day, such as tackling a couple of tasks. Be sure to reward yourself after each effort.

3. Think back to the person you were before you married. Can you remember any hobbies or interests that you might have set aside due to family responsibilities? Consider participating in those former activities once again. Local adult schools or community groups offer many opportunities to freshen up your skills.

4. Reach out to others more often. Make a new friend. While widowed groups offer the chance to meet others who can relate to what you’re going through, there are opportunities in your neighborhood such as clubs and organizations that can also be great sources for meeting people who may share other interests with you.

5. Consider all the self-imposed barriers you’ve put up over the years about what you can and can’t do. Now is the time to confront those old beliefs about yourself. Slowly begin to tackle a few of the things your spouse used to handle, such as minor household repairs or cooking.


If you can put even one of the above resolutions into action, you’ll be giving yourself the gift of greater self-confidence with which to face the new year.

1/4/21

a new year; what's ahead for you?



The holidays are finally over.




Congratulate yourself on having survived.



As you look ahead to the coming year, what do you feel? Dread, anticipation or a combination of both?

Depending upon how recently your loss occurred, you may experience dread if:

1) This will be a year of firsts, i.e., first birthday, wedding anniversary, and/or other special occasions since the loss.

2) You are wondering where to turn for support.

3) You ask yourself, “How can I put my life back together now that my partner is gone?”

If some time has passed since the loss, you may be facing the future with anticipation as you:

- Think about ways to enlarge your circle of friends, (you may have lost some, especially couple friends, now that you are widowed).

- Re-define how you see yourself. What strengths have you gained and in what ways are you more confident?

- Consider trying new activities, which are good ways to gain both of the above.

Recognize that while so much in your life has changed due to your loss, you can trust yourself to learn how to weather the changes and challenges in the year ahead.

In our next post, we’ll suggest 5 easy and practical resolutions you can make for the coming year.