12/5/22

holiday greetings dilemmas






Here's useful tips on handling an uncomfortable holiday dilemma.


1) Those Who Don't Know About Your Loss

You may receive some holiday greetings that still include your spouse/partner in the address (learn more about the whole issue of being caught off guard by people who don’t know about the loss in our earlier post, Encounters of the Awkward Kind; When Others Haven't Heard About Your Loss).

If there are some friends or business associates who haven’t yet heard about your spouse/partner’s death, you may be wondering about notifying them during the holidays.

It’s okay to do what feels most comfortable. While some people prefer to wait until the stress of the holidays is over, others choose to include a separate notification along with their customary holiday cards or messages.

Not sure how to break the news?

In the notification itself, you can give a brief description about what happened.

Then add a short update about how you and the family are coping.


2) To Send or Not to Send Holiday Greetings

If you usually send out seasonal cards or messages, you may feel uncertain about doing so this year. For many, this annual ritual is an important part of the holidays, and some may even feel guilty about not sending cards.

It's important to keep in mind however, that under the circumstances it's okay to skip this or any other holiday ritual you don't feel up to because you're mourning.

Others will understand.    

12/1/22

fa la la la lost my partner


This time of year it’s all around us: holiday music.

From television to our electronic devices we’re bombarded by holiday tunes and jingles.

If you’ve recently lost your partner, these seasonal tunes can stir up happy memories as well as tears of remembrance.

Because it’s everywhere, holiday music and the bittersweet recollections that bring on tears are hard to avoid.

Rather than fighting it, we suggest you try to “go with the flow” and, in the privacy of your own home, allow a few tears.

By giving yourself permission to grieve, it will be easier to get on with some of the pleasures of the holiday season.

11/28/22

5 things you don't have to worry about while grieving


With all the changes and stress you have to cope with because your spouse/partner has died, we thought it might help relieve some pressure to know what does not require your immediate attention.

1) Responding to sympathy cards and/or other forms of condolence.

2) Staying on a diet (unless your health is at great risk), or any other non-critical lifestyle change.

3) Taking care of others feelings about the loss (except immediate family).

4) Keeping any social obligations.

5) Making major decisions about your home, finances, etc.

Remember that you’re going through a major loss and others don’t expect you to function the way you normally do.

So be realistic about your expectations for yourself and trust that others will understand.

Be kind to yourself.

11/24/22

widowhood way back when: how pilgrims progressed though loss




If you’re looking ahead to a Thanksgiving dinner that will probably be hindered by a bad case of heartburn or having to cope with troublesome relatives, consider what the original Pilgrims had to cope with.

Especially the widowed survivors.

For a look back, we discovered the informative article, Pilgrim Burials on the site www.lovetoknow.com.

According to this excerpt from authors J.C. Redmond and MaryBeth Adomaitis, “Pilgrim burials were relatively simple affairs. The occupants of the Mayflower were buried in unmarked graves because it is thought that they didn't want the Native Americans living in the area to know how small of a population they were.”

The authors go on to say, “Conditions on the Atlantic Ocean crossing were poor, at best. What little fresh food the Pilgrims brought with them was quickly consumed. There was no personal space to be had; passengers slept in hammocks, since there were no cabins for passengers.

The occupants of the ship were miserable. To make matters worse, two passengers died en route to America. They were buried at sea in an effort to stem the spread of disease. Family members did not have an exact burial site to visit and there was no time for the traditional observations of grief."

Describing Pilgrim burials, the authors go on to say, “When Pilgrims died, headstones were not erected at the burial site. No artisans skilled in carving stone had come over with the first group of settlers. In addition, there was no stone available in the area where the Pilgrims settled from which to fashion a monument to the dead. Their first priority was to concentrate on the tasks necessary for survival; even if the stone carvers had come on the trip, there wasn't any time to carve headstones.

A family wanting to erect a headstone in memory of a loved one would have to go to the expense of having one brought over from England.”

Redmond and Adomaitis go on describe burial rituals: “In the early years after the arrival of the Pilgrims in North America, funerals were a very simple matter. No funeral ceremony was conducted and no special sermon was given. The grieving family did not wear mourning clothes for a certain time after the death.

Embalming of the body of the deceased was not done. On occasion, graves were opened and reused. The bodies of a family or a small community may share the same grave.”


So enjoy the meal and be grateful that as difficult as some relatives can be, at least you aren’t stuck with them for all eternity.

11/21/22

thanks for asking, but...

Whenever friends ask you out to dinner or other events, are you uncertain about accepting the invitation? Uncertain because due to grief, you’re not sure how you’ll be feeling when the time comes to actually get together?

Here are some suggestions for handling this common dilemma for anyone who is bereaved:

* After thanking your friends for their interest, remind them that because of your loss, every day has it’s ups and downs.

* Ask your friends if it’s okay to notify them a day or so ahead of the occasion, so you don’t feel pressured and have a better idea of what you’re up for.

Keep in mind that most people are very understanding.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences about these situations.

11/17/22

best ways to get through the holidays; part 2


In our last post, we suggested the best ways to cope with the upcoming holiday season.

Here are more proven strategies:

1) Contact the host or hostess before the get-together and let them know that you aren’t feeling like your usual self and may need to leave early.

2) Give yourself the first 30 minutes after you arrive to adjust to a gathering where your spouse is no longer with you.

3) Take your own car or alert a friend who is driving that you may want to leave early.

4) If you start to feel overwhelmed, you can retreat to the bathroom or take a short walk for some private time.

5) If you choose to avoid the usual gatherings, consider volunteering to serve meals at shelters, visiting shut-ins, or spending the day at a movie or health spa.

Remember: You will get through this time. We’ve found that the anticipation is usually much worse than the actual events. Be sure to plan ahead and do only what is most comfortable for you.

11/14/22

best ways to get through the holidays; part 1


Dreading the upcoming holidays?

If you’ve recently lost your spouse, the coming festivities can feel as unwelcome as Marley’s Ghost.

Here are some tried and true strategies for facing the holiday season:

1) Think ahead and try to anticipate how you’ll feel on each holiday.

2) Even if you don’t join in the festivities, don’t remain alone all day. Spend some time with a friend.

3) Considering your loss, don’t expect yourself to be as upbeat as usual. Expect some sadness as you take part in the festivities.

4) To lessen the chance of emotional sneak attacks, make some time to grieve, either on the holiday or just before it.

5) If you do choose to join in holiday activities, make some changes as to how much you do or become involved in.

Look for more tips in our next post.

11/10/22

widowhood way back when: revolutionary war veteran's benefits






If you were the widow of a revolutionary war veteran, you had better stick around a long, long time if you hoped to collect on your husband’s government pension.

According to the site lineages.com, we discovered the following about those early benefits:


July 24, 1836: Widows were authorized the pension that would have been available to their veteran husbands when they were living, so long as they had married before he left service.

July 7, 1838: Widows who had married Revolutionary War veterans prior to January 1, 1794 were authorized a five-year pension.

July 29, 1848: Widows were authorized a pension for life if they could prove they had married the veteran prior to January 2, 1800.

February 3, 1853: All widows of Revolutionary War veterans, regardless of their date of marriage, were made eligible for a pension.

March 9, 1878: The final Revolutionary War pension act authorized pensions for widows of veterans who had served at least fourteen days or had participated in any engagement.


Imagine being one of the widows who was finally able to collect benefits almost 100 years after the Revolutionary War!

Gives new meaning to the term "May-December Romance", doesn't it?

11/7/22

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 2



In Part 2 of this excerpt from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, we provide some ways to cope with the often conflicting emotions that can arise when your late partner has died due to his or her decisions.


It's important to keep in mind that your partner exercised a choice and ultimately was the only one to have the power to act on that choice.

Because it’s common for family members to blame the surviving partner for either contributing to or not preventing the death, it’s helpful to talk through your reactions with supportive people outside your family.

Due to some of the above issues, your mourning experience may be more complicated. Try to trust your own instincts about what is right for you and seek supportive counseling to help sort through possibly conflicting and confusing feelings about your loss.

11/3/22

grieving for a self-destructive partner; part 1





“No matter how many times the doctor warned him, and I begged, threatened, and tried to help, he still ignored us.”


If your partner’s death occurred as an apparent result of not following medical advice and/or complying with treatment or by substance abuse, it can seem that he/she chose to die. While the term “suicide” is generally applied to a sudden act that results in death, these situations can seem like a form of slow suicide.

After what may have been years of frustration as you tried your best to control your partner’s self-destructive behavior, he/she died anyway. As a consequence, you may see yourself as not having been valuable or powerful enough to stop your partner’s downward spiral.

You may also feel “relieved” that a painful and oppressive relationship has ended, but guilty about expressing this, especially around family and friends, who may see your reactions as “disloyal” towards your late partner.

In Part 2, we'll offer tips on how to cope with these concerns.

10/31/22

widowhood way back when: being a widow in salem


In honor of Halloween, we look back at the challenges of being widowed during the 1690’s witch trials in Salem, MA.

According to an excerpt from a paper by Mark Price about accused witch Margaret Scott:

“Another factor about Margaret Scott's character that made her vulnerable to accusations was her status as a widow for twenty-one years. Being a widow did not in itself expose a woman to suspicion.

However, Scott suffered from the economic and social effects of being a widow for a prolonged period. The most dangerous aspect of being a widow was the lack of a husband for legal support and influence.

Also, Scott, 56 at the time of her husband's death, was forced to live off her husband's small estate for twenty-one years. Often widows who were over fifty and not wealthy, were unable to find a new spouse and thus were reduced to poverty and begging. By begging, Margaret would expose herself to witchcraft suspicions according to what historian Robin Briggs calls the 'refusal guilt syndrome'. This phenomenon occurred when a beggar's needs were refused causing feelings of guilt and aggression on the refuser's part. The refuser projected this aggression on the beggar and grew suspicious of her.”

Broomsticks, anyone?


Happy Halloween!

10/27/22

beware the ghouls and goblins that prey on the widowed: part 2



In Part 1, we gave tips on how to identify and protect yourself from the ghouls and goblins, (AKA well-meaning friends and family) that prey on the vulnerability of the newly widowed.

Here are two more creatures you should be aware of.

3) Demolition Demons

Spot them: These creatures love to pressure you with sincere but unwelcome advice aimed at dismantling reminders of your former life. Under the guise of “it’s for your own good”, they urge you to give away your spouse’s belongings, sell your car, home, or other valuables, move to another city, or make other important changes…quickly.

Ward them off by: Keeping in mind that making hasty decisions while you’re grieving usually results in later regrets. Tell DD’s,“ I need more time before I make any important decisions. I’ll consider taking these steps when I’m in a better frame of mind.” If this doesn’t stop them, a simple, “Not now!” may work.

4) Creepy Crawlers

Spot them: Often a family friend or neighbor, these predators exploit your trust at a time when you’re most vulnerable. When these creeps offer a sympathetic “shoulder to cry on”, that’s not the only part of their bodies they want to share with you.

Ward them off by: Letting them know how insulted you feel and what a betrayal of trust their offers have caused. Or you might say, “You’ve obviously misread me/the situation. I’m not interested!”

The grieving process can be scary enough without these creatures. With a little caution and some assertiveness, you can send them scurrying back into the darkness.

10/24/22

beware the ghouls and goblins that prey on the widowed! part 1


In honor of Halloween, we're reprinting these hair-raising posts.



Part 1


In the days and weeks following your spouse’s death, shock and exhaustion can leave you vulnerable to certain people who are difficult to avoid.

Usually disguised as well-meaning family and friends, these creatures often unknowingly say or do upsetting things.

Here are some tips for identifying them and protecting yourself:

1. Platitude Ghouls

Spot them: Though well-intentioned, these creatures don’t think before spewing out insensitive remarks such as, “It’s all for the best”, “Aren’t you over it yet?”, “Don’t worry – you’ll find someone else” or “ I went through exactly the same thing during my divorce.”

Ward them off by: Changing the subject.


2. Gruesome Grabbers

Spot them: Usually adult children/step-children, cousins, or other relatives, these creatures swoop in while you’re still off-balance and start nosing around for “remembrances” of your late spouse. Can often be found burrowing through closets and drawers while you’re in another part of the house.

Ward them off by: Telling them, “I’m just not ready to deal with this yet. I’ll let you know when I’m up to it.” Then be sure to keep an eye on them.


There’s more in Part 2.


10/20/22

understanding your child's reactions; part 2





In the first part of three excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition, we talked about how children and teens demonstrate their grief differently than adults do.

Keep in mind that like you, children and teens mourn in their own unique ways. Some of the feelings he/or she may be experiencing but are unable to put into words include:

1) Fear of abandonment (“Who’s going to take care of me now that Mommy’s not here?”)

2) Guilt and/or remorse (“It’s my fault Dad’s dead. We had a really horrible fight the night before and he got so stressed it killed him.”)

3) Anger (“Why me? Why did I have to be the one to lose my mom? All of my friends still have their moms!”)

4) Anxiety (“I’m scared in my room, Mommy. Can’t I sleep in your bed?”)

5) Depression (“I don’t feel like playing with anybody. I’m too sad.”)

6) Longing for the deceased parent. This reflects the unreal aspect of death for children (“Who just called on the phone? I’ll bet it was Mommy calling to tell us she’s coming back!”)

7) A sense of feeling “crazy” (“Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna just freak out and start screaming at the whole world.”)

8) A sense of shame (“I’m different now and not like the other kids.”)

9) Feelings of helplessness (“Now that Dad’s gone, how will I ever learn to drive?”)

In Part 3, we’ll look at how loss has impacted your child’s world and the best ways to be supportive.

10/17/22

understanding your child's reactions; part 1



Excerpted from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition (McCormick Press, 2008), this is the first in a three part series on understanding your child’s reactions to your spouse/partner’s death.


“As far as I can tell, my daughter’s handling things pretty well since her father died. Apart from some tears and a few questions, she seems to be her usual happy-go-lucky self. I have noticed she’s wetting the bed again, though, but don’t all kids do that sort of thing sometimes? Anyway, with everything else going on, I’m just too overwhelmed to pay much attention to that sort of thing right now.”

“My son spends most of his time holed up alone in his room with earphones on while he sits glued to his computer. I’ve tried a few times to talk to him about the loss, but he just ignores me. I’m ready to give up.”

Children and teenagers don’t necessarily express grief in the same ways adults do. They may act as if nothing has happened and yet be deeply affected. While you’re caught up in the pain and upheaval of your own grief, it may be harder to understand or have patience for your child’s reactions.

For you, the mourning process is at first very intense with the loss being felt almost constantly. For your child or teen, mourning tends to come and go. This can create the impression that your child is either over the loss quickly or perhaps feels it less strongly than you do.

That isn’t true.

Remember that while adults can tell others what they’re feeling, children and teens usually chow their reactions in their behavior. Any changes or different behavior may be his or her way of expressing feelings of loss.

In Part 2, we look at some of the common reactions that your child or teen may be experiencing but is unable to put into words.

10/13/22

condolences from the clueless




Unfortunately, it’s an all too familiar situation when your spouse/partner has died and a relative, friend or acquaintance appears, phones or emails you.

In their well-meaning way, this person offers what they consider to be heartfelt and comforting words of condolence.

Unfortunately, these remarks come across to you as being incredibly insensitive, presumptuous or just plain clueless.

Here are some classics from our collection:

“It’s all for the best.”

“Well, at least he/she lived a good/long life.”

“I know exactly how you feel.”

“He/she wouldn’t want you to be sad. You have to try and be strong for him/her/the children/your in-laws/the family dog.”

“ Aren’t you over it yet?”

“Don’t worry – you’ll find someone else.”

“I went through the same thing during my divorce.”

Any of these sound familiar? For more a more extensive list of clueless condolences, check out WidowNet.org. It's a site with other helpful information for widowed men and women.

Got more remarks that have left you seething? Just click onto “Comments” and let’s hear ‘em!

10/10/22

widowhood way back when: what inspired the widowed columbus

In honor of Columbus Day, here’s some interesting information about Christopher Columbus’s personal life we found on answers.com.

After several local voyages, Columbus found himself in Portugal, “…where he married Felipa Perestrelo e Monis, daughter of Bartolomeu Perestrelo, deceased proprietor of the island of Porto Santo.

The couple lived first in Lisbon, where Perestrelo's widow (aka Columbus’s mother-in-law), showed documents her husband had written or collected regarding possible western lands in the Atlantic, and these probably started Columbus thinking of a voyage of investigation.

Later they moved to Porto Santo, where his wife died soon after the birth of Diego, the discoverer's only legitimate child.

After his wife's death, Columbus turned wholly to discovery plans and theories, among them the hope to discover a westward route to Asia.”

The post goes on to say that while waiting in Spain for royal permission to discover the New World, “…the widowed Columbus had an affair with young Beatriz Enriquez de Harana of Cordova, who in 1488 bore his other son, Ferdinand, out of wedlock. He never married her, though he provided for her in his will and legitimatized the boy, as Castilian law permitted.”

Widowed or not – never underestimate the influence of in-laws!

10/6/22

how past losses can kick in now; part 2


In our previous post, we looked at some of ways that old losses can complicate how you mourn the death of your spouse/partner.

To become more aware of the confusing, hidden influence of past losses, ask yourself the following:

1) What other significant losses have I experienced in my life? Your relationship to that loved one is what counts here. Not whether you were “related” or not.

2) How did my family react to major losses? Were we able to talk about what had happened and express feelings of loss or was the whole thing “hushed up”?

3) Do I want to mourn in a way that’s different from what I learned in my family?

4) Have I truly allowed myself sufficient time to mourn past losses? If not, is there some emotional “unfinished business” I still need to address when I’m feeling up to it?

5) Are there aspects of my current loss that stir up similar reactions to my prior loss/es?

By considering how past losses influence your current mourning, you may be able to better understand and defuse some of the distress you’re currently experiencing.

Keep in mind that the more you do the “work” of mourning, the more quickly you’ll truly be able to move forward.

And don’t forget that every tear counts.

10/3/22

how past losses can kick in now; part 1



As you struggle through the recent death of your spouse/partner, there may be other losses hovering in the background, influencing your current mourning process. Former losses can include the death of a parent/s or anyone else significant in your life.

So what? you may ask. That loss is over and done with. Why should I think about it now?

Because those past losses can now affect you in the following ways:

- The length of time it takes you to mourn his or her death.

- Your experience of puzzling or frightening reactions that don’t seem connected to your current loss.

- How complicated the mourning process for your partner becomes.

Why does this happen?

Previous deaths shape and influence how you now mourn because:

1) The ways you’ve observed family members mourn a past death has given you (rightly or wrongly), a blueprint of how to grieve. Was it important in your family and/or culture to appear “strong” and unemotional?

2) How did you yourself mourn those earlier losses? Was your grieving process cut short by circumstances or your own attempts to “get over it” too quickly?

3) If a prior death occurred recently, you may feel too overwhelmed by the additional trauma of your current loss to adequately mourn either death.

By becoming aware of these hidden issues, you'll gain more confidence over some of the puzzling reactions that may be complicating your ability to mourn for your partner.

In our next post, we’ll look at some important questions you should ask yourself to better understand the impact of past losses on the here and now.

9/29/22

lost my partner to suicide; part 3: more tips for lifting the burden off yourself




In Part 2 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?, we suggested ways you could relieve yourself of some of the guilt you and your family may struggle with as a result of your partner’s suicide.

Here are additional important points to consider:

1) Children tend to blame themselves when a parent dies, even though they may not express it openly or be aware of it themselves. Recognizing this can be difficult, because, unlike most adults, children show they’re upset by their behavior, rather than by talking. A child may especially prone to self-blame, in the case of suicide. Children need to be given simple, truthful explanations of what has happened. It’s best to tell them how it happened, or they will fantasize about all sorts of frightening possibilities. Consider having your child/children work with a mental health professional to deal with this trauma.

2) Because it’s common for family members to blame the surviving spouse for either causing or not preventing the suicide, it’s helpful to talk about your feelings with supportive people outside your family. Join a specialized support group, if there is one available. The American Association of Suicidology (suicidology.org), provides information to survivors about support groups, books and specialists. Also check out Survivors of Suicide Loss (soslsd.org) for support options.

3) Despite the feelings of shame it may bring, it’s best to be truthful with yourself and others about how your spouse/partner died. Creating a face-saving “cover-up” will only complicate and further delay working through your mourning process.

4) As clergy, in general, have become more aware of and influenced by the field of psychology and suicidology, they’ve developed more sensitivity to the issue of suicide. If you’re otherwise comfortable talking with your religious advisor, you can turn to them despite an “official” doctrine about suicide.

5) Write your feelings in a journal or as a letter to your spouse.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: If you or someone you know is seriously thinking about taking his/her own life, tell someone immediately! Call the Operator to reach your local suicide hotline and/or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org to talk to a trained telephone counselor 24/7.

9/26/22

lost my partner to suicide; part 2: lifting some of the burden off yourself


In part 1 of these excerpts from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? we discussed many of the common reactions you, as a survivor, may have experienced due to your late partner’s suicide.

Here are ways to relieve yourself and your family of some guilt:

1) Your spouse/partner exercised a choice and ultimately was the only one to have the power to act on that choice. If there was anger at you or anyone else, there were more effective ways he/she could have chosen to communicate feelings.

2) You are not to blame for something as complex as another person’s act of suicide. A multitude of factors, such as personality, self-esteem, family history, and the ability to deal with life’s stresses all contributed to your partner’s behavior.

3) You may be turning the anger you feel about your spouse/partner’s abandonment inward onto yourself. This can take the form of guilt and self-blame at being helpless to stop a suicide. It is not disloyal to be angry at people we love when their actions cause us pain.

4) A suicide note reflects only what your spouse/partner happened to be feeling at the time it was written. Try not to view it as a generalization about your entire past relationship.

Look for more tips in Part 3.

9/22/22

lost my partner to suicide; part 1


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

Part 1

You as the Survivor

“She seemed okay. Why didn’t she tell me she was feeling so depressed?”

“He often said life wasn’t worthwhile, but I didn’t think he’d ever kill himself.”

The aftermath of suicide can be especially difficult to cope with because it can leave you, as a survivor, feeling:

- Confused, guilty and self-blaming about why this act was committed or that you may have been responsible.

- Believing that you weren’t valuable and/or powerful enough to prevent someone choosing to die.
- Shamed by the attitudes and questions of family, friends and the police.

- Concerned about your clergyperson’s reaction, as some religions regard suicide as a sin.

- Worried about what to tell your child/children about the circumstances.

Expect your mourning process to take somewhat longer, because of the added burden of all of the above.

In Parts 2 and 3, we’ll offer ways to cope with all of the above.

9/19/22

surviving space-outs; part 2




In our previous post, we looked at the frustrating, but normal symptoms of forgetfulness and disorientation that follow experiencing the death of a spouse/partner.

Here are 7 useful tips for dealing with these symptoms:

1) Give yourself permission to not be your usual self for the time being.

2) If you find you’ve lost track of something, stop, take three deep breaths and mentally (or physically) retrace your steps.

3) Write down or note on your smartphone anything you need to remember, especially appointments, as soon as possible.

4) Set up various “information centers” in highly visible places, such as your computer or the refrigerator, where you can place reminders to yourself.

5) Put reminders or important information on color-coded sticky notes that you leave on your information centers. Remove them when each task is completed.

6) Keep extra sets of keys at your information centers.

7) When first scheduling an appointment, request a telephone or electronic reminder.

Keep in mind that these symptoms are temporary and even the most conscientious people become forget and disoriented after suffering a major loss.

So be patient with yourself.

And give it time.

9/15/22

surviving space-outs; part 1


This post is about…uh…wait a minute, it’ll come to me…I had it right on the tip of my…oh, yeah - how to survive those times when you can’t remember where you left something or where you intended to go or when you last ate something.

No, this post isn’t about the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease.

It’s about some of the normal symptoms that occur if your spouse/partner has recently died.

Whether it’s misplacing your keys.

Or suddenly realizing you’ve driven to some place you never intended to go.

Being forgetful, absentminded and disoriented are common reactions to the intensity of experiencing a major loss. Even with an expected loss, there’s always some shock to your system, because nobody can really predict how they’ll be affected by a death.

With most deaths, especially unexpected ones, your whole world is often thrown into chaos. In addition to the assault on your thoughts and emotions, there’s also the disruptions in your usual sleeping and eating habits as well as your ability to concentrate.

Try not to panic. Assure yourself and others that memory and concentration problems are temporary symptoms of having lost your partner.

In our next post, we’ll offer some practical techniques for surviving this period.

9/12/22

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.

9/8/22

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.

9/5/22

reflections: quotes for getting through the days; part 6

1) Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.
-Confucius

2) A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
- Laozi (Chinese philosopher)

3) Don’t count the days, make the days count.

- Muhammad Ali
4) Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.
- African proverb

5) It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
- Confucius

9/1/22

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.

8/29/22

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.