2/28/21

when anniversary reactions sneak up on you



We've all experienced them: things are going along okay when out of the blue you're suddenly feeling sad or depressed. You can't understand what's hit you. Everything seemed fine and these emotions just don't make sense. Or do they?

Stop and take a minute to ask yourself:

1. Is it the anniversary of a month, day or event that had significance for you or your spouse? While holidays are expected to be difficult, days that represent the "last time" or "our special experience" are just as emotionally loaded and often less obvious as sources of pain.

2.Have you recently revisited places that were special for you or your spouse? Even if it's a different time of year, locations can also trigger feelings of loss.

3. Is the anniversary date/revisit about to come up or just past? One reason these reactions catch us off-guard is because their timing is often unpredictable or unexpected.


By taking the time to recognize what is triggering these emotions, you can reduce your confusion and anxiety. Consider making a small gesture to mark the occasion, such as lighting a candle or just talking about the anniversary with someone you can trust to understand. 

2/25/21

too much too soon; part 2

In Part 1, we talked about the period following your spouse/partner’s funeral, when all the attention from well-meaning friends and family can start to feel overwhelming.

When that occurs, try to remember the following tips:

Pace yourself. People will understand that under the circumstances, you need to gage your capabilities on a day-to-day basis.

If you feel the need for quiet or solitude, it’s okay to say so. Let others know you appreciate their company but recent events have left you depleted and you need to take time to retreat.

If others invite you out for a meal or other social occasion, you may be reluctant to decline due to fear of losing more connections in your life. People will understand if you explain that you aren’t sure from one day to the next how you’ll be feeling and will have to let them know closer to the event.

Keep in mind that during this difficult period, your needs and comfort are important! For now, it’s okay to make them your top priority.

Also remember it’s important to have others in your life and not to isolate yourself.

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.

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.

too much too soon; part 1




In the initial weeks following your spouse/partner’s death, you may find yourself swamped by well-meaning family, friends and others anxious to show their caring and support. Phone calls, e-mails and visits can provide a welcome cushion from the shock and pain of your loss.

There may be times however, when all the attention becomes overwhelming.

Keep in mind that others tend to feel helpless when a death occurs. The calls, visits and invitations help them feel less so. You might suggest they help with small chores such as marketing or helping sort paperwork.

Your comfort level, however, is what’s most important, however, so help others to really “be there” for you by gently setting some limits.

Look for tips on how to set limits with others in our next post.

2/18/21

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?

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: 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.

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

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.

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

when will this be over? part 3: i can't imagine being on my own



In Part 2 of these excerpts from our book Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?, we discussed ways to know when your period of mourning is over.

“Will I ever get used to being on my own?”

Try to remember the time before you had a partner.

Think about what you were like and how it felt to do things on your own.

Now ask yourself:

1) What dreams and ambitions were set aside because of marriage and its responsibilities?

2) Did you used to adapt to changes more easily?

Now that you have the wisdom and experience you lacked at an earlier age, can you see how your abilities have grown and developed with time?


Please share your thoughts with us.

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.

when will this be over? part 2: when will my mourning end?



In Part 1 of these excerpts from our book Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?, we looked what influences the length of your mourning period.

“When will this be over?”

We can’t stress enough the importance of listening to yourself. If you don’t try to rush the process or let others pressure you into “snapping out of it”, you’ll know when the period of acute mourning is over. Most people tell us they know they’ve reached the end of the mourning period when they are:

· No longer preoccupied with their loss. This doesn’t mean they no longer think about or miss their spouse/partner, only that they’ve found a place inside themselves for that loved one.

· Ready to begin making new attachments in their lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean dating or finding a new partner, but rather feeling like they can risk closeness to other people again.

· On the way to creating a new sense of who they are. You used to be the other half of a couple, and now you aren’t. When you marry, you blend yourself into who your spouse/partner is, in order to become a couple. The length of your marriage and the age at which you married will affect the extent to which your sense of identity is based on being part of that couple.

In Part 3, we look at some important questions to ask yourself .

2/1/21

when will this be over? part 1: how long will i be in mourning?





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

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.

The hopeful news is, if you don’t try to jump out before the ride ends, and if you have someone (or a group) beside you for support, the dips will come less frequently, and you’ll recover more quickly.

“How long will this ride take?”

In most cultures of the world, the period of mourning is traditionally one year, however, the answer is different for everyone.

How long yours lasts depends on:

1) Whether your spouse/partner’s death was sudden or expected and the circumstances of his/her death. An expected death generally gives you time to do some anticipatory grieving. A death caused by sudden and/or unusual circumstances will take longer to mourn, because there was no chance to prepare for the loss.

2) The emotional climate of your relationship with your spouse/partner. Troubled marriages tend to take longer to mourn.

3) How you’ve mourned previous losses in your life.

4) The ways you’ve observed family members mourn, which gave you (rightly or wrongly) a model of how to grieve. Was it important to appear “strong” and unemotional?

5) Whether you’ve lost anyone else recently. You may feel overwhelmed by “still another loss.

In part 2, we’ll offer ways to know when your mourning period is winding down.

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.