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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Widowhood Is What You Make of It



Every now and then, there are messages on Facebook from members of a Widows’ Group. They are mostly asking advice – plus a short answer or two. I am not a member of the group and have enough sense, barely, to refrain from joining.

Now, I have done a lot of counseling, especially with young marrieds and teens as well as parents of my school children. I honestly love most people and basically just “counsel” by doing a lot of listening, asking a few questions, and trying to guide people to find their own solutions. My degree is in education, not psychology though I’ve taken a ton of psychology courses.  However, there are some areas I feel at least partly qualified to discuss. Giving advice is often dangerous simply because we are all different. Becoming a single person after years of being a team can be scary, if you want to hear the truth.

After my husband of forty years died, I tried to continue the same activities, with mostly the same people. It simply didn’t work. At parties or neighborhood get-togethers, people were kind and polite. They spoke, asked how I was getting along, then wandered off. I soon found myself speaking to the hostess then slipping out the nearest door, heading home. It was such a relief to just get back home even though entering a big house, after dark, alone, was kind of eerie. I tried to go back to church but that was too lonely and sad. I have two wonderful children and two great brothers but they lived in other areas.

Every person and situation is so different that in order to try to help, I’ll just tell you what worked for me. The most important and helpful thing I did was to change churches. There was a small, Episcopal church only about five or six blocks from my house. I could drive there in five minutes and the parking was very convenient. For the first time in my life I was just me ------ not Bob’s daughter; not Don’s sister, not Tony’s wife, not Dee’s mom etc. Once I got used to that, I loved it. I did not want to “run” anything -- just be a member.  People were nice and I made friends fairly quickly. Oh, I carried my bean salad and homemade brownies to the suppers and carried my homemade soup to the sick people because I enjoyed doing that.

Taking courses that interested me, at the college nearby, allowed me to be around nice people without having to feed them or do their laundry. I got into a couple of boring courses so I dropped them. I avoided single men in my age group.

It was nice to be able to change some things around the house to suit me, without having to consult Tony. For instance, I painted over the dark paneling, in the den, and upgraded the outside sprinkler system.

A good security system was comforting as was my sweet dog. I kept up with my regular checkups.

Yes, I cried sometimes but less and less as time went on.

I mostly stopped going out after dark except to church rarely and to a long time friend’s for an early dinner. I’ve always enjoyed going out to lunch and I usually went out a couple of times a week. I read books a lot, especially when I needed something to do in the evenings.

Talking about my husband seemed to make the grief worse so I mostly didn’t. As a friend used to say, “Everyone has their own sack of rocks” so I’ve always tried to listen instead of complaining.  

Of course there is a lot more but basically what I was able to do was prove that I could live alone, something I’d never done before.  Now that I’m nearly 81 years old, my daughter, grandson and I live together.  There is another chapter in my life and I am quite content.

[below, me and my cousin Frank, who is more like a big brother to me]