Taking Stock in 2023

January 25th marked the seventeenth month since my wife of 51 years transitioned to the Other Side.  I recently reviewed what I have gone through during that time—what has worked for me and what has not.  I should say at the outset that I am in a much better place than I was a year ago.

The single most helpful thing I have done for myself to heal is to be a healer to others.  This time last year, I began working as a hospice volunteer, working with men who are caregivers and widowers.  That was not only a distraction; it was a very healthy distraction.  In the past year, I have been a bereavement companion to six men who are widowers and one who was a caregiver until his wife passed away last month.  Since his wife’s passing, my role has shifted to working with him as a widower.

Next, I would have to say that meeting with an excellent grief counselor has benefitted me greatly.  We have been meeting bi-weekly for a year.  She is not prescriptive, and she rarely offers direction.  However, what she does very well encourages me to talk about various troublesome areas.  She asks gentle, probing questions that get me to open up.  It is a safe place for me to do this.  Most of us men have difficulty talking to friends, co-workers, or family members about our pain.  I have had many emotional meetings with my counselor, and each time I felt better for having met with her.  We are taking stock of my progress a year later, and I think we are in a good place—much better than last year.  If you don’t have a grief counselor, I highly encourage you to do so.

Another beneficial activity has been support groups.  I participated in one during the first six months of my loss.  It was marginally helpful, and I was the only man.  I knew there had to be a better experience elsewhere.  Ultimately, I found that group.  In fact, I co-facilitate that group with the Bereavement Coordinator at the hospice where I volunteer; there are 20 members of this group, six of whom are men, four of whom lost their wives in the past six months.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how communicative these men are.  Everyone benefits from their comments.  They have become very friendly with each other (and me).  The women in the group benefit from hearing men discuss their grief experiences.  We hit a home run with this group which meets every Tuesday for eight weeks.  We’ll schedule other groups throughout the year.  I support meeting weekly; I find it to be a good practice as it allows momentum to be gained and maintained.  All of the men have openly stated how helpful this group has been to them.  Try this out.  Try more than once if necessary.  If the groups don’t work out for you, consider working with a grief counselor.

In 2022 I launched my purpose-driven life.  Having purpose through giving to other widowers who suffer as I did has been very therapeutic and gratifying.  I wish I had a widower assigned to me as a companion who had previously walked a mile in my shoes.  I’m the first man in my town who performs this service for hospice bereavement coordinators.

Last year it was time for me to begin getting out just for myself.  I reconnected with my church and joined a men’s group that meets every Friday.  I also joined “Meet-Up” groups that focus on my areas of interest.  That has been gratifying and enjoyable.  I’ve met several new people I now call friends.  My son had encouraged me to “build a new tribe, dad,” which is what I have done.  One such group is a travel group.  We will be taking a Danube River cruise in June.  I’ve met at least twenty new friends through that group.  The other two groups meet to discuss philosophical and theological topics.  Again, I’ve met new people there who are now in my new tribe.

In the first month of 2023, I am actively engaged in meeting new people—women and men– and will follow this path wherever it leads me.  Like I said” in my last column: This is my “breakout year.” It has taken me seventeen months to get here.  I still have a long journey ahead of me, but it is getting better by the month.


Michael Burroughs is the author of Moving Mountains and Before Onboarding, both available on Amazon.  He is retired and living in St Louis, Missouri.

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