Widower: Grieving Can Weaken or Strengthen Your Family

As I sank into deep grieving after my wife’s death, I became increasingly concerned about my sanity and ability to make sound decisions. At times the world around me seemed surreal, my short and long term memory became suspect, and I often just wanted to shut the door on everyone and just hide in my grief.

As I began to recognize the impacts of these issues upon me, I became fearful that I would make some bad decisions which might threaten my relationships… particularly with my two daughters, four grandchildren, two brothers, and three sisters. While buried in grief it was easy for me to become so self-absorbed with my suffering that I would forget that my family was grieving too.

I realized that I needed them more than ever now! But how could I let them know how much I was hurting, how much my thinking process was distorted, and how much my social filters were screwed up. I knew that it would only take a couple “incidents” to color everyone’s perception of me in a bad way, in a way which could threaten our relationships going forward.

My efforts to keep all the grieving to myself quickly faltered as I realized that I could not heal by myself, and that the more isolated I became the worse the grieving became. That is when I started to reach out to my family. Thank God they responded with love, support, and understanding. Over time, this gave me the confidence to re-engage with others as well.

I was fortunate to have a sister who had worked as a therapist for many years. She patiently listened to me as I verbalized the litany of issues I was confronting, and the terrible loneliness I was experiencing. Another sister who lived in the area made a point of getting me out for breakfast or dinner once in a while.  My two daughters, who lived nearby, made a point of staying in close touch, stopping by to check on me regularly, and making sure that I often saw the grandkids.

In turn, I learned to reach out to them as well. This included writing love notes from grandma to each of them (I had discussed this with my wife before she passed). We were able to share memories of her together, though this was often painful. Over the next few months the awkwardness over the topic began to diminish and we were able to gradually build even stronger bonds through the shared grief.

My sense of responsibility for my daughters and their families has only grown stronger since Theresa’s passing, and I feel that I am becoming an even better parent and grandparent. I am now much more empathetic, and more willing to assume “grandmother” roles within the family such as babysitting and taking the kids out shopping.

Gradually, as I became more grounded and more sure of myself, I was able to increasingly enjoy my new role and to find new ways to strengthen and enjoy our families. Now I feel more blessed than ever… and I know my wife would approve! 

That, more than anything, helps me to feel happy and fulfilled again.

Fred Colby, Author

Widower to Widower


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