9/30/21

reflections by sandra pesmen: moving to the middle of the bed





Sleeping in the bed you shared with your late partner can be a very difficult step. In this post from opentohope.com, journalist Sandra Pesmen, shares her personal struggle.




Moving to the Middle of the Bed
Last night, I slept in the middle of our king-size bed. It took me two years to do that. For 55 years, I shared that bed with my husband.

He never walked on water. Sometimes we broke that cardinal rule and went to sleep angry. But far more often, we embraced that bed, and each other, with tremendous joy, grateful we found mates that showed love, kindness, consideration, and selflessness on an almost daily basis. How unusual is that?

So often people reach out their hand when they hear I’m a widow and say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “Thank you,” I answer, “but I only had two years of loss. I had 55 years of gain.”

I know that not everyone has my resiliency. I lead The Widows List.com Web site (http://www.widowslist.com/) as well as several widows clubs at local senior centers, and I give motivational talks to help people learn to “Strive and thrive alone.”

Too often, these people are so grief stricken they find it hard to concentrate on anything except their sorrow. Their sadness has become the focus of their lives, and everything and everyone else is on the periphery.

I try and help them understand that life is not a dress rehearsal. We don’t get to have a “do-over.”

Whatever time we do have left is meant to be spent enjoying, loving, helping and caring for ourselves as well as others.

No one can hurry your grief or mine. No one can tell anyone else when it’s time to pick up living and begin placing those loved ones who died into a beloved memory space. All day every day, I think about my husband, silently telling him funny incidents, and asking myself what he would decide when a problem arises. His photos are on his desk in the den, on our dresser in the bedroom, and in the living room. When I talk to our grown children and grandchildren, one of them usually says, “Oh, that’s just what Dad (or Papa) wouid say.”

He is with me always and last night, after two years spent sleeping on my side of the bed, my husband’s memory finally joined me in the middle.

(Sandra Pesmen, host of www.widowslist.com, also writes the weekly DR.JOB column syndicated by Career News Service.)





9/27/21

widowhood way back when: the card carrying widowed





In part 1 and part 2 of our posts, "When the Visits Stop", we talked about ways to let others know when you need more support and attention once the visiting stops.

For a lighter take on the issue, let's look at how the widowed reached out before the advent of computers and telephones.

According to an article titled “Mourning and Funeral Usages” in an 1886 edition of Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, “When persons who have been in mourning wish to reenter society, they should leave cards on all their friends and acquaintances, as an intimation that they are equal to the paying and receiving of calls. Until this intimation is given, society will not venture to intrude upon the mourner's privacy."

The article goes on to say, "In cases where cards of inquiry have been left, with the words "To inquire" written on the top of the card, these cards should be replied to by cards with "Thanks for kind inquiries" written upon them; but if cards for inquiry had not been left, this form can be omitted."


And you thought you had a lot of paperwork!

9/23/21

explore the new world of single friends: part 2


In Part 1, we looked at one of the unfortunate consequences of losing your spouse/partner: losing some couple friends.

The best way to counteract the pain of these losses is to reach out and create new friendships with others who are single.

Although you may be initially uneasy with the idea, try the following:

a) Contact single friends you already know and get together for coffee, a movie or other activity.

b) Consider joining a group that reflects your interests or hobbies. Check with your place of worship, local Chamber of Commerce or neighborhood hobby supply stores for groups or clubs in your area. In addition to offering opportunities for potential friendships, groups can help you feel less isolated.

c) Unlike couples, who are constrained by the needs and schedule of a partner, single friends are often available and eager to join you in activities.

d) Depending on your age, you’ll probably find you have more in common with others who have been widowed.

Give yourself time but keep in mind that finding new friends with similar interests can create lasting and supportive friendships.

9/20/21

explore the new world of single friends: part 1


While you and your late spouse/partner may have enjoyed friendships with other couples, the situation usually changes once you are widowed.

Making the shift from being part of a couple to being single can be difficult. While you may choose to continue with the comfort of couple friends, you’ll probably find some of these relationships fading away.

The loss of established friendships means yet more losses to deal with at a time when you’re already bereft. It’s normal to feel hurt, abandoned, rejected, angry or all of the above.

In Part 2, we’ll offer tips on how to cope with this situation.

9/16/21

i hate the word "widow"!


As if going through the death of a spouse/partner wasn’t difficult enough, you’re suddenly labeled by everyone as a “widow” as soon as the death occurs.

Unfortunately, there have always been negative stereotypes about what it means to be widowed.

Take these examples from literature:

In order to save face in society, a widow was compelled to announce her loss to the world by her apparel. From Middlemarch by George Eliot: "My dear Celia," said Lady Chettam, "a widow must wear her mourning at least a year.”

Here’s an example of the stereotype of a widowed woman as vulnerable sexual prey from Fantastic-Fables by Ambrose Bierce: ‘A widow weeping on her husband's grave was approached by an Engaging Gentleman who, in a respectful manner, assured her that he had long entertained for her the most tender feelings.’

Until recently (in some cases, it’s still a reality), a widow was left financially destitute by her husband’s death. From the novel, Robin Hood by Walker J. McSpadden: ‘Toward the close of the same day, Rob paused hungry and weary at the cottage of a poor widow who dwelt upon the outskirts of the forest.’

Keep in mind that many of these old stereotypes probably continue to influence how you and others see your changed status. Like all aspects of a new identity, it takes time and baby steps to increase your sense of who you now are and how you want to define yourself.













9/13/21

widowed is not the same as being divorced



Ever had a divorced person say to you, “I know just how you feel. When my marriage broke up, it felt just like a death had happened.”?

Although usually well-meaning, these sorts of remarks can really tick you off!

The assumption that surviving divorce and death present similar traumas is certainly understandable. The “death” of a marriage can bring about intense emotional pain and grief. Indeed, a mourning process usually occurs in many divorces in which each partner grieves for a multitude of losses, from emotional to financial.

However, what some people have trouble understanding is the fact that while divorce, however painful, is basically a choice, death is not.

In a divorce situation, you may wish your ex-spouse was no longer around, but he or she is, in reality, somewhere out there. Still alive.

Death, as we say, is final.

9/9/21

back to school after the loss; part 2: teenagers


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

In Part 1 of these excerpts, we suggested ways to ease your school-age child’s return to the classroom. There are, however, some important differences to be aware of with teens.

Because it’s not uncommon for teenagers to react to the death of a parent with behavioral problems at school such as poor performance or truancy, it’s important to:

a) Talk to your teen about what’s happened and how it’s affected them.

b) Listen to his/her fears and concerns and be reassuring but truthful in your response.

c) Ask your teenager if he/she would like you to inform the school or any teacher about the death. This is to ensure that the teacher will be understanding of the change in behavior and school work.

d) Let your teen tell classmates and friends in his/her own way, if they prefer to do so.

Remember that no matter how much they pull away from you because they’re adolescents, there are still times they need to depend on you.

9/6/21

back to school after the loss; part 1: children


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

Following the death of your partner, your child is probably anxious to return to their daily world, which provides a much needed source of support for them during this time. In addition to the stability it provides, school is where friends and teachers can offer an ear for feelings your child may hesitate to share with you.

1) Before your child returns to school, contact his/her teacher and the school counselor. Discuss how they can tell your child’s classmates about the death prior to your child’s return. It’s important the teacher be aware that your child’s loss may stir up fears in other children about losing a parent. The teacher might also explore with your child and his/her classmates how to respond supportively when your child becomes sad or tearful.

2) Prepare your child for how to react to people at school. Rehearse simple ways for him/her to respond to other children’s questions, behavior, etc.

3) If being at school becomes too overwhelming for your child, arrange ahead of time for you or another adult to come pick him/her up during the day.


In Part 2, we’ll discuss ways to support your teenager in returning to school.