12/26/22

we're taking the rest of the week off - happy holidays!


We'll be back next week with more tips and advice.

In the meantime, please check out our earlier posts for support and information.


Happy Holidays to all!


Laurie and Ruth

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.

10/10/22

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!

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

7/28/22

reflections: quotes for getting through the days; part 4

1) No obstacle will ever leave you the way it found you.
- Anonymous

2) The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief – But the pain of grief Is only a shadow When compared with the pain Of never risking love. - Hilary Stanton Zunin 

3) Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength. - Ovid

4) I have learned that some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet are those who have suffered a traumatic event or loss. I admire them for their strength, but most especially for their life gratitude – a gift often taken for granted by the average person. - Sasha Azevedo 

 5) Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. - Bernard Baruch

7/25/22

lost your appetite since losing your spouse/partner?



Feel like nothing will ever taste good again?

Wish people would stop nagging you to eat when you just don't feel hungry?

If your spouse/partner has recently died, you probably haven't felt much like eating. It's not uncommon to feel a loss of appetite in the first month or so after a death, when your body as well as your mind is in a state of shock. Keep in mind that your appetite should slowly begin to return with time. In any case, always make sure your doctor knows about your recent loss and any prolonged problems you have with your appetite.

We came across the following article (excerpted here) and a slideshow on WebMD. Though not specifically about bereavement, they offer helpful information about coping with appetite loss due to depression and general stress:

Dietary changes can bring about changes in your brain structure, both chemically and physiologically. Those changes can improve mood and mental outlook. Here are 10 tips for eating if you or a loved one is recovering from clinical depression.


1. Eat a diet high in nutrients
Nutrients in foods support the body's repair, growth, and wellness. Nutrients we all need include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, and even a small amount of fat. A deficiency in any of these nutrients lead to our bodies not working at full capacity – and can even cause illness.

2. Fill your plate with essential antioxidants
Damaging molecules called free radicals are produced in our bodies during normal body functions – and these free radicals contribute to aging and dysfunction. Antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E combat the effects of free radicals. Antioxidants have been shown to tie up these free radicals and take away their destructive power.

Studies show that the brain is particularly at risk for free radical damage. Although there’s no way to stop free radicals completely, we can reduce their destructive effect on the body by eating foods high in powerful antioxidants, including:

Sources of beta-carotene: apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato.
Sources of vitamin C: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato.
Sources of vitamin E: margarine, nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, wheat germ.

3. Eat “smart” carbs for a calming effect
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is linked to the mood-boosting brain chemical, serotonin. We know that eating foods high in carbohydrates (breads, cereal, pasta) raises the level of serotonin in the brain. When serotonin levels rise, we feel a calming effect with less anxiety.
So don’t shun carbs – just make smart choices. Limit sugary foods and opt for smart carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, which all contribute healthy carbs as well as fiber.

4. Eat protein-rich foods to boost alertness
Foods rich in protein, like turkey, tuna, or chicken, are rich in an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine boosts levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. This boost helps you feel alert and makes it easier to concentrate. Try to include a protein source in your diet several times a day, especially when you need to clear your mind and boost your energy.

Good sources of protein foods that boost alertness: beans and peas, lean beef, low-fat cheese, fish, milk, poultry, soy products, yogurt.

5. Eat a Mediterranean-type diet
The Mediterranean diet is a balanced, healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and fish. All of these are important sources of nutrients linked to preventing depression.

A recent Spanish study, using data from 4,211 men and 5,459 women, found that rates of depression tended to increase in men -- especially smokers -- as folate intake decreased. The same increase occurred for women -- especially those who smoked or were physically active -- but with a decreased intake of another B-vitamin: B12. This wasn't the first study to discover an association between these two vitamins and depression. Researchers wonder whether poor nutrient intake leads to depression or whether depression leads people to eat a poor diet.

Folate is found in Mediterranean diet staples like legumes, nuts, many fruits, and particularly dark green vegetables. B12 can be found in all lean and low-fat animal products, such as fish and low-fat dairy products.

6. Get plenty of vitamin D
Vitamin D increases levels of serotonin in the brain. Researchers, though, are unsure how much vitamin D is ideal. There are individual differences based on where you live, the time of year, your skin type, and your level of sun exposure. Researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who were suffering from depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to improve as their levels of vitamin D in the body increased over the normal course of a year. The recommendation is to try to get about 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day from food if possible.

7. Select selenium-rich foods
Selenium is a mineral that is essential to good health. In a small study from Texas Tech University, supplementation of 200 micrograms a day for seven weeks improved mild and moderate depression in 16 elderly participants. Other studies have also reported an association between low selenium intakes and poorer moods.

It is possible to take in too much selenium so that it becomes toxic. But this is unlikely if you're getting it from foods rather than supplements, and it can't hurt to make sure you're eating foods that help you meet the recommended intake for selenium, which is 55 micrograms a day. The good news is that foods rich in selenium are foods we should be eating anyway. They include:

Beans and legumes
Lean meat (lean pork and beef, skinless chicken and turkey)
Low-fat dairy products
Nuts and seeds (particularly brazil nuts)
Seafood (oysters, clams, sardines, crab, saltwater fish, and freshwater fish)
Whole grains (whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)

8. Include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet
We know that omega-3 fatty acids have innumerable health benefits. Recently, scientists have revealed that a deficit of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with depression. In one study, researchers determined that societies that eat a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids have a higher prevalence of major depressive disorder than societies that get ample omega-3 fatty acids. Other epidemiological studies show that people who infrequently eat fish, which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, are more likely to suffer from depression.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids: fatty fish (anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shad, and tuna), flaxseed, and nuts. Sources alpha-linolenic acid (another type of omega-3 fatty acid): flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.

7/14/22

i'm not the typical partner: part 2

(Excerpted from Lost My Partner - What'll I Do? Revised and Expanded Edition)


In our last post, we discussed ways in which the loss of a non-traditional partner can differ from that of a traditional spouse.


Here are some suggestions for how to cope:

1)      Are any of your partner’s family more accepting of you? It can be a comfort to share your pain with those who were close to your partner. Reach out to approachable family members or friends.

2)      If you’ve been barred from attending the funeral, you might consider creating your own memorial gathering.

3)      Let those close to you know what you’re going through. Check for community support groups or online resources.

4)      Consult an attorney or contact your local bar association and the Social Security Administration about your legal rights and survivor benefits. While each state has different laws, some do make provisions for non-traditional partners. Even once divorced, if your marriage lasted 10 years or more, you may be entitled to your ex-spouse’s social security benefits. Don’t assume you have no rights – investigate!

Remember: it’s not important how others judge your relationship or your grief. What matters most is what your attachment meant to you and your partner. Recall what was special and cherish the bonds that brought you together. Respect your own needs and treat yourself kindly.

7/11/22

i'm not the typical partner: part 1



(This post is excerpted from Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?, Revised and Expanded Edition)



Grief for the death of a long-term partner in a same-sex or opposite sex relationship is as deep and meaningful as the grief felt in the loss of a spouse. Even the death of an en-spouse can be a painful loss.

While you, the survivor, may experience the same grief reactions as traditional partners, there are different issues that affect your mourning process and may not be publicly acknowledged or supported, such as:

·    Whether your relationship was accepted or rejected by family members.

·     Access to your partner during the final illness or circumstances of the death and/or inclusion in funeral/memorial arrangements.

·    Legal and financial complications involving property ownership, child custody or survivor benefits.

·    Emotional unfinished business, especially any conflict as an aftermath of divorce or lack of access to your partner around the time of death.

·     Lack of traditional community support systems.

Any, or all of the above can prolong or complicate a normal mourning process.

In our next post, we offer some suggestions for coping.




6/30/22

when the visits stop; part 2


In our last post, we covered what it felt like once the visits and activities following your late spouse/partner’s funeral begin to taper off.

But how do you cope with feelings (such as those of abandonment), that may arise as things quiet down?

Keep in mind that others usually take their cues from you about how much or how little interaction you want or need. Although you may find it a struggle just to get out of bed each day, please consider the following:

1. It’s okay to reach out to others. They will probably be pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call or e-mail from you.

2. Keep it simple. Suggest an activity like coffee, a meal or a movie that involves a minimal time commitment from you during this difficult period.

3. Look into widowed groups as a place to meet others who are going through similar experiences (discover many other opportunities for meeting people in our book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do?)

4. Spend some time with children and/or grandchildren. Visits can be kept short if that’s more convenient for you.

5. Although your memory and concentration are probably impaired right now, others will understand. Remind yourself that these symptoms of grief will get better.

Remember to take one step at a time and try not to remain isolated from other people.

4/28/22

widowhood way back when: widows on rooftops




An interesting architectural feature began in the days of sailing ships.

According to Wikipedia, a widow's walk (or roofwalk) is a railed rooftop platform often with a small enclosed cupola that was often found on 19th century North American houses.

A popular romantic myth holds that the platform was used to observe vessels at sea. The name comes from the wives of mariners who would watch for their spouses' return, often in vain as the ocean took the lives of the mariners, leaving the women as widows.

However, there is little or no evidence that widow's walks were intended or regularly used for this purpose.

Widow's walks are in fact a standard decorative feature of Italianate architecture, which was very popular during the height of the Age of Sail in many North American coastal communities. The widow's walk is a variation of the Italinate cupola . The Italianate cupola, also known as a "belvedere", was an important ornate finish to this style, although it was often high maintenance and prone to leaks.

Beyond their use as viewing platforms, they are frequently built around the chimney of the residence, thus creating an easy access route to the structure. This allows the residents of the home to pour sand down burning chimneys in the event of a chimney fire in the hope of preventing the house from burning down.

We wonder if those 19th century wives had deck chairs and sun block while they were up there.

4/25/22

reflections by deb edwards: dealing with anger

Contributor Deb Edwards shares some of the ways she learned to cope with anger following her husband's dealth:


There are so many emotions that occur during the grief process. After my husband died, I found myself feeling angry a lot. I created the “Mad List”, which listed in no particular order everything and everyone I was angry at. I was quite surprised at how long it was, but it gave me a lot of insight as to why I felt the way I did.

One day I took the list and for every entry I had made, I made a second entry of gratitude. It helped me to dissipate the anger and find forgiveness.

The important thing is to let those feelings out. If writing is not your thing, try exercising, talking with someone, or even hitting a pillow. Holding those feelings inside can have unhealthy results, both physically and emotionally.

4/7/22

how to ease into those zzzs; part 2






In our previous post, we looked at how your normal sleep is disrupted by the stress of losing your spouse/partner.

Now for our 7 most useful tips on dealing with that long stretch before your alarm goes off.

1) Use your bed for sleep only. If you have to get up, go into another room to read, watch or listen to something boring. Avoid mentally stimulating content.
2) Don’t look at the clock. Noticing how long it’s taking you to fall asleep can become another pressure.
3) If you’re too tense to fall asleep, get up and perform some mindless, repetitive housework, like vacuuming.
4) Write down any persistent thoughts or worries.
5) Listen to music or an audio book/podcast at such a low volume that the effort to hear will distract you from worrying thoughts.
6) Listen to a relaxation audio while still in bed.
7) Get some mild exercise, like walking, earlier in the day. If you have health issues, be sure to check with your doctor before attempting any activity.

If you find that some nights you just can’t relax enough for sleep, don't try to medicate yourself with alcohol. Instead, talk to you doctor about prescribing some medication on a temporary basis only!

If certain problems persist in affecting your sleep, consider talking them over with a trusted clergyperson or a licensed mental health professional.

4/4/22

how to ease into those zzz's;part 1


Since your spouse/partner’s death, do you feel exhausted during the day because when you try sleep at night, you:

a) toss and turn all night, unable to shut down your thoughts?

b) fall asleep, only to wake up a few hours later, unable to get back to sleep?

Keep in mind that some disturbances in your normal sleep pattern are to be expected. With all the changes, stresses and mental/physical overload you’re dealing with, it’s no wonder you can’t rest.

With time, these typical symptoms of grief will subside.

In the meantime, remind yourself that everything seems worse at night. Once morning arrives, the problem or memory that kept you tossing and turning will probably seem more manageable.


In our next post, we’ll give you our 7 best ways to make it through those endless nights

3/7/22

5 tips for staying healthy while you're mourning




Research has shown that you’re more vulnerable to physical problems following the death of a spouse/partner. This doesn’t mean that you will get sick, only that it’s important to take care of your health during this stressful period.

The 5 best ways to safeguard yourself include:

1) Informing your doctor(s) that your spouse/partner has died. Pre-existing medical conditions can be affected by the stress of coping with loss and you may need an adjustment in medication dosages or other treatment changes.

2) Making sure you’re getting adequate nutrition. Appetite loss is a common symptom of grief and can create health problems over time. Rather than forcing yourself to polish off three full meals a day, try to eating several small snacks throughout the day, including fruits, vegetables and lean meats or other sources of protein.

3) Considering vitamin and/or meal supplements. Ask your doctor about taking vitamins and/or one of the liquid meal supplements like Ensure.

4) Taking short naps to compensate for the lack of sleep at night. Sleep disturbance is a very common symptom of grief. A word of caution: Some doctors will want to prescribe sleep medications. Although this type of medication can be helpful in the days following the death, continued use can interfere with the normal mourning process.

5) Keeping moving. If at all possible, try to get at least 20 to 30 minutes a day of light exercise, like taking a walk. Mild exercise has been proven to help overall health and well-being.

Remember: grief puts you under a lot of stress both emotionally and physically. So try to take the best possible care of yourself during this vulnerable time in your life.

1/27/22

widowhood way back when: the 19th century mourning timetable



“Victorian mourning fashion,” according to Kyshah Hell, in her article Victorian Mourning Garb, “Was aimed mainly at women, widows in particular. The fashion had a way of isolating a widow in her time of need just as the Queen had done. For the first year, a woman who was in mourning was not allowed to exit her home without full black attire and a weeping veil. Her activities were initially restricted to church services.”

She goes on to describe the required stages of mourning for women:

“Full mourning, a period of a year and one day, was represented with dull black clothing without ornament. The most recognizable portion of this stage was the weeping veil of black crepe. If a woman had no means of income and small children to support, marriage was allowed after this period. There are cases of women returning to black clothing on the day after marrying again.”

“Second mourning, a period of nine months,” the author continues, “Allowed for minor ornamentation by implementing fabric trim and mourning jewelry. The main dress was still made from a lusterless cloth. The veil was lifted and worn back over the head. Elderly widows frequently remained in mourning for the rest of their lives.

Half mourning lasted from three to six months and was represented by more elaborate fabrics used as trim. Gradually easing back into color was expected coming out of half mourning. All manner of jewelry could be worn.”

“The standard mourning time for a widower, “ the author points out, “Was two years but it was up to his discretion when to end his single stage. Men could go about their daily lives and continue to work. Typically young unmarried men stayed in mourning for as long as the women in the household did. “

1/24/22

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.

1/20/22

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 .

1/13/22

important contacts after your partner’s death




In the overwhelming aftermath of your partner’s death, you may not be aware of some of the many financial and legal institutions that need to be notified. We came across this useful list compiled by Sheri and Bob Stritof on About.com Guide:

Here are some of the places and individuals you need to notify after the death of your spouse. There is no order in who to contact first.

Don't forget notifying extended and distant family members and friends, too. If you are feeling very overwhelmed, you can avoid hurting others' feelings by asking someone else to do this for you.

· Social Security Administration - 1-800-772-1213. Do not cash any checks received for the month in which your spouse died or thereafter. They need to be returned to the SSA. If Social Security benefits were received via direct deposit, you will need to notify your bank also. You also need to check on survivor benefits for both yourself and your children.

· Dept of Veteran Affairs if spouse was in the military for burial and memorial benefits.

· Automobile registration and insurance

· Work related associates

· Insurance policies

· Banks and Credit Unions

· Utility bills

· Credit cards and Loan Companies

· Organization and Church Memberships

· Landlord or Mortgage Company

· Telephone Company if you want your listing changed