Categories
Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health

Escaping Anxiety

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When my wife passed 4 years ago, I first experienced shock and then numbness, after that anger and depression, and after that resignation and doubts about my future without her. It wasn’t until around my sixth month of grieving that I began to experience something unfamiliar to me since my 20’s and 30’s, anxiety… and I mean full-blown anxiety.

This coincided with my re-entry into life as I began to socialize again through a Meetup.com group called the Breakfast Club. I also started to date again via online dating services. My self-confidence was nearly non-existent at the beginning, so I had tremendous doubts about my ability to meet and engage with new people. Though I could put on a good front, I would go home after each meeting or date and question my every word and action. It was worse than when I was a teenager.

Soon, I met a widow whose company I really enjoyed, and who made me feel more at ease about the whole dating concept. However, I found that I would think that I had control and then would be overcome with euphoria and anxiety at alternate times (part of the hyper-emotional response). I did not have things under control. It was months before I saw how out of control I was during this period. Anxiety is a normal part of any relationship. While in a heightened hyper-emotional state, anxiety can become overwhelming and dominate your thinking day and night.

The ups and downs, the drama, and the uncertainty about what we really wanted doomed the relationship from the start. As our relationship evolved, I experienced increasing anxiety over possibly losing her, I am sure because of the recent loss of my wife. But I also had fear and anxiety about:

  • moving too fast, 
  • saying the wrong thing, 
  • how our relationship would impact my friends and family, and
  • her deciding it was too soon to be in a relationship again, 

The anxiety only got worse as I had more trouble sleeping, causing me to spiral out of control. If you can recognize this anxiety for what it is and confront it before it ruins all your relationships, you will be way ahead of the game.

I first got some help from my therapist, and then from reading Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, which challenges you to engage with your emotions and doubts, to face your fears and self-doubts, and to be vulnerable. However, this vulnerability actually led to more anxiety in some ways. I was still dwelling on past mistakes or shortcomings and fearful of what might happen in the future.

This led me to a spiritual philosopher, Eckart Tollé, whose central message is to stay in the present and turn away from worrying about the past or future. Tollé often quotes Lao Tzu: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” 

Once I adopted some of his teachings that I thought useful and combined it with meditation, I began to calm down and learned just to enjoy the moment. You can find some of his talks on Youtube, which you may find helpful. Tollé is an intriguing character with a funny laugh and gentle way of speaking, but his messages often go to the core of feeling and thinking. (With someone like Tollé or Chopra, you don’t have to accept everything they say. Just take in what works for you and is in conformance with your own values and beliefs.)

Whether you decide to look up and adopt some of Eckart Tollé’s ideas or not, the key point is that I encourage you to look outside your normal belief systems and find ones that help you to deal with your grief and often resulting anxiety. Some may find solace in their religious beliefs, others may find help through meditation or yoga. When you go through the kind of trauma and grief that we all have had to do, sometimes the only way out is through a new path… one you have not tried before.

Learn to be courageous enough to try one. You may be pleasantly surprised and rewarded.

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Healing Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward

Is Contentment Even Possible?

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Remember that feeling of peace, that feeling of being comfortable with yourself, your circumstances, and your marriage? Maybe you were 10, 20, or even 30 years into your marriage before you reached this point. Many of us were fortunate enough to have achieved that blissful stage of existence… even if it was only for a few moments here and there.

I remember so clearly how I reached this state of contentment later in my life. It was strange, but one day I happened to look around at all that my wife and I had achieved together and told her that I was genuinely content for the first time in my life. Little did I know that a few years later, I would lose the most important part of that contentment.

After my wife’s (Theresa) passing, I felt anything but contentment. I was miserable. My body, soul, and mind were in a constant state of turmoil. I was wracked with physical pain, questioning my relationship with God, doubting myself, and experiencing delusions from lack of sleep. I was incapable of even a few moments of happiness, much less being comfortable. I was always stressed and could not relax for a moment, much less sleep.

It took many months to achieve a level where I could feel at ease and appreciate what I had with my wife. I could now enjoy the remnants of what we had built together. She was not there with me physically anymore, but she was with me always in my thoughts and very being. She had helped me to build a new better me, and that did not suddenly disappear when she died.

The children we had raised were still with me, in addition to four grandchildren. Our friends were still there the first year and often offered to help during this painful time. The life we had built was still there, and she was woven into every aspect of it.

During this journey, I had to reinvent myself (see my blog – https://www.fredcolby.com/blogs/widower-reinventing-yourself-to-live-again-1). This took time and lots of persistent effort, with a few wrong turns. As this “new me” emerged, I found that the turmoil in my life began to diminish. I made new friends, learned new skills, took risks, and tried new activities. Over time my new and more self-confident self-image began to emerge along with a gradually growing sense of well-being.

Eventually, I even found a new best friend (a widow herself) who was happy to join me on this new journey. Both of us have welcomed the other’s spouse into the relationship, and both of us are respectful of what we had during our previous marriage.

Not long after this, I realized that for the first time since Theresa’s death, I was once again feeling contentment about my past and current life. This contentment has allowed me to release the stress and doubts and fears of the previous few years, and to enjoy life again.

While I am incredibly grateful to have this new best friend in my life, I do not believe that you require a new partner to achieve contentment again. The critical elements of your sense of well-being were there before you lost your wife, and so many of those elements can still be there for you going forward.

You may have to work hard to achieve contentment once again, but it is possible, and it is well worth the effort.

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby   All rights reserved

______________________________________________

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon.

Categories
Giving Support

I Don’t Know Everything!

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WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

And… more than likely, neither do you.

One of the biggest shocks of entering deep grieving as a widower is the realization of how ill-prepared we are to deal with it… much less survive it!

And yet, widowers will often say things like: 

  • “I don’t need any help,” or 
  • “No one can help me,” or 
  • “No book, article, or blog can tell me what I need to know to get through this.” 

Often, when one digs deeper, you find that these widowers are in just as much pain and are just as lost as the rest of us.  The only difference is that they have a harder time admitting it, and just want to be left alone. I know because I felt that way for a while too.

They might also say, “Time alone can heal me.” Does anyone honestly believe that if we just self-isolate in our home that time will heal us all by itself? Or do we need something more, like: 

  • Human contact
  • Love and support from family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors
  • Grief therapy or counseling
  • Men’s grief group support
  • Hearing the experiences of fellow widowers who survived this experience
  • Activities, exercise, and projects to help us reengage with life
  • Opportunities to share our and our wife’s story

Time, together with some or all these things can help us heal. But if we just hunker down and wait for time to heal us, we will likely be disappointed. To grieve is a verb, not a noun. It is active, not stationary. If we don’t process (another verb) our grief, we are stagnant in our grief and may have difficulty extricating ourselves from it.

Grieving is an act of loving, remembering, and honoring the one we lost. The more we do all three of these active parts of grieving, the faster and better we are apt to heal.

That is not to say that we should all do it the same way or at the same pace. On the contrary, our unique grieving experience is what makes it so special to each of us. It is painful, at times life threatening, and often seems unending; but the fact that we do emerge from it, makes it another one of those growing opportunity and life experiences that makes us who we are going forward.

If we had long loving relationships with our special wives, we know that they would want us to grow and become even better men, rather than want us to sit at home moping about and wallowing in our grief. There is a time for that part of grieving, but it is not intended to be an ongoing permanent state of mind. If it becomes that, our ability to heal is greatly diminished.

So, do not fall into the trap of thinking you know all the answers and what is always best for you. Open your mind to other possibilities.  Accept that others may be able to help you, that you can learn from the experiences of others, and that there just may be a viable and healthy future for you.


© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

——————————————————————————

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Moving Forward

You’re the Boss Now?

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WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

Remember when you were young, married, and full of misperceptions about your life and marriage? Previously, in our more male-dominated society, you might have believed that as the husband, you were the “boss” in the family!

Ha! Many of us eventually found what a joke that belief was! We often learned that making solo decisions without consulting the wife came at one’s own risk. Foolishly, we may even continue to make such decisions only to find out later what a big mistake it was. So, we gradually learned to work together with our wives as a team and to concede certain areas to her leadership. This could include how best to raise the kids, planning vacations, designing the back yard, household budgeting, maintaining friendships and familial relationships, taking care of holiday arrangements, preparing meals, choosing a new home, and sometimes being the primary breadwinner. For each of us, the areas of concession might differ, but in most cases yielding control in at least some of these areas was critical to making our lives and families work.

So, now fast forward to when you lost your wife. Now what? Suddenly we are the only boss over all matters, and we may be unprepared for assuming the responsibilities that she handled so well. It is overwhelming enough dealing with her death and its many personal ramifications, but now you must fill in these gaps left by her absence.

Over 50% of us may experience a severe health challenge during the first year after losing our spouse. Is this just because of the added stress due to her loss? Or is it also because we don’t have our “boss” around to nag us into going to the doctor when we first exhibit symptoms? Being responsible for our health is often one of the areas we urgently need to assume ownership.

You may also have to learn how to manage a checkbook, take care of your household, do the shopping, maintain relationships with your family and friends, learn how to cook again, take care of legal matters, and more.

Many widowers will find themselves overwhelmed by it all, and just throw in the towel, allowing dirty dishes, laundry, weeds, stale food, bills, and broken relationships to pile up to a point where it will appear impossible to clean it all up. The level of a widower’s ability to handle such tasks may lead to isolation, discouragement, lack of self-confidence, diminished quality of life, and even depression. The worse it gets, the harder it is to pull out of it.

How do you fix it? Literally by cleaning one dish at a time, pulling one weed at a time, paying one bill at a time, and repairing one broken relationship at a time. In other words, like any major challenge you have faced in your life, you have to make the decision that you will confront this problem by starting with the first step, followed by another and another. 

In most cases, this often should include asking others for help! You might be surprised by how willing others are to help if allowed to do so and how good you will feel after they help you. This might include family, friends, therapists, grief groups, church friends, and neighbors.

Once you commit to accepting your new role as “the boss” in all things, you may find that your healing will progress, along with your newfound self-identity and feeling of self-worth. Eventually, this healing process will allow you to move forward and to find a new purpose in life.

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

——————————————————————-

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Giving Support Moving Forward Widower Awareness

Where Can I Get Help?

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WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

If you are a widower looking for help, ideas, or support, this blog is for you!

While there are very few good books out there specifically for widowers, there are several organizations around the country that can provide help or direct you to the help that you need. 

Here are a few of the key ones that I have compiled to share with my fellow widowers.

Cancer Support Community: located in many communities to help families deal with the challenges of dealing with cancer and its consequences.

GriefNet.org: an online support group that offers specific online groups for loss of spouse or partner.

GriefJourney.com: offers online grief support and resources.

Griefshare.org: offers a listing of church-based grief groups in your area.

Grief Healing: a variety of articles, discussion groups, blogs, and more to help you through the grieving process.

Grief Support Services.org: provides a wide array of online services for fees.

Hospice Foundation of America: provides information about many hospices around the country and access to online articles about end-of-life and grief.

Meetup.com: provides access to many group activities in most areas, including grief groups.

Mygriefangels.org: lists hundreds of resources, including many specific to certain types of losses (e.g., due to cancer).

Modern Loss: provides articles written by people like you and me who have gone through the grief process and have something to share.

National Widowers Association: Lists widower support groups around the country as well as various resources that are helpful such as articles and blogs.

Online Grief Support: offers online support, including online groups, information about grieving, and even After Death Experiences.

Open to Hope: offers articles and talks on grief by real people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. They have sections specific to the loss of a spouse.

Pathways: offers hospice, palliative care, and grief & loss counseling services for all ages in northern Colorado.

Soaring Spirits International: provides a variety of online resources to assist widowed people in helping each other.

The Grief Toolbox: A resource for books, articles, and resources needed to educate ourselves and our loved ones on what is happening and how to best keep going forward.

Widower to Widower: offers free blogs, resources, podcasts, and links to many other organizations.

Widowers Support Network: provides “Widowers Support Network – Members Only,” a free and private online Facebook page for widowers where hundreds of widowers from around the world provide mutual support, humor, and ideas to help fellow widowers through this experience.

If you need help during this strange and crazy time, don’t hesitate to reach out to these groups or your brothers in grieving. To go it alone is not healthy for you or others. We were not made to be isolated and alone, and that is not what our wives would want for us either. So, honor your wives by reaching out to others for help when you need it, and to help others when they need it.

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

——————————————————————————

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Faith/Religion Giving Support

Counseling – Religious or Secular?

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WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

Shortly after my wife of 45 years passed in 2015, I found myself in the deepest pit of despair. I knew that I was in trouble, and I could not find the answers all by myself. So, I asked myself, “Where can I go for help?” 

For many of us, this may lead to having to make a choice: “Do I turn to a church for help? Or, do I turn to secular organizations for help?” For me, the answer was made easier by the fact that my church did not offer any counseling support, so I naturally turned to Pathways Hospice, which provides one of the best Grief and Loss programs in the country.

However, many churches do offer some form of grief counseling to help their parishioners through the challenges which face them after losing a loved one. Many of these are happy to welcome their neighbors, no matter what their religious affiliation. Through Griefshare.org, widowers can often find churches in their area which offer support groups to help you through your grieving.

But, if you are looking for secular or non-church affiliated help, you may have to look far and wide to find local support groups. My recommendation is to first go to your local hospice and ask if they provide grief counseling or if they can recommend some organization in the area which does offer this service.

You may have to hunt around, and the online resources are limited. Here is a couple you can look at:

National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization

National Widowers Organization

If you have a strong church affiliation, going to your church counseling group makes perfect sense. It offers familiarity, a faith-based approach that supports your world view, and genuinely caring people to support you. However, there are some potential issues, such as:

  • You know the people too well and don’t feel comfortable opening up to them,
  • The group leaders are not specifically trained for grief counseling, or
  • Topics may seem to be narrowly defined to theological issues, rather than the very human issues you are struggling with.

A more secular approach may suit you better if you are just not ready to turn to God for help right now, or if you feel that the professionally trained staff at a hospice are better able to support you, or if you are not comfortable in a faith-based setting. In a secular setting, you might:

  • Feel there is not enough open discussion of faith as a part of the healing process,
  • Not be comfortable being in a group of guys and/or women in coed groups who you never met before, or
  • Long for the comfort of a faith-based setting.

The only thing I can tell you for sure is that grief groups and grief counseling can be invaluable to your healing process. So, don’t be deterred if you are not able to immediately find the right group to participate in. Keep looking if your first preference (faith-based or secular) is not available or does not work out. Try another group, another counselor, until you find what works for you.

I can tell you from experience that these groups if run properly, are wonderfully welcoming and supportive if you give them a chance. I have seen many widowers come into their first meeting with their arms crossed and their demeanor screaming, “Please leave me alone and just let me suffer by myself.” 

And I have seen almost all of these widowers come around by the end of their first meeting, often saying something like, “I did not know what to expect, but I am so glad that I decided to come. I will be back for the next meeting.” Often, they later ask why we can’t meet more than once a month and say the group meetings have been invaluable to them.

So, whatever your preference is – faith-based or secular – make a decision and find the right group for you. It can help you survive this hell-on-earth experience through support, camaraderie, and the sharing of lessons learned. Most importantly, you discover that you are not alone!

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

——————————————————————-

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Camaraderie Finding Purpose Widower Awareness

Learning From Each Other

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All widowers… you, me, the guy down the street… we all have something in common… we are going, or have gone, through hell on earth. We may have different experiences on this journey, but we also have many commonalities… especially if we were fortunate enough to have a good loving marriage.

We can support each other by sharing that which was common in our experience, as well as by sharing that which was unique to us. By seeing the different ways in which we meet our challenges, we learn that we don’t all have to do it the same way. We also learn there are many different paths to healing and to feeling whole again.

My situation was unique because of my background, culture, family, style of meeting challenges, faith, and circle of friends and acquaintances. Each of us has all of these in some unique combination, so what works for me may not work for you.

BUT, we all feel, we all loved our wives, we all go through deep and painful grieving, and we all feel like we are alone in our pain during this period. And we all come out of the experience with more empathy than we had before it. These commonalities, together with our shared experience help us to identify with and learn from each other’s experience.

We all feel as if a huge part of us has been torn away as if our very being is now incomplete. We have pain, we cry, we feel disoriented, and we have lost all sense of our place in the world. We feel lonely like we have never felt lonely before. We are desperate to have our wife back in our lives and to feel her presence again. We wander around our home lost and not knowing what to do next.

Most of us worked hard for decades to build a nest egg so that we could retire together and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We expected to outlive our wives and that our hard work would provide for her later years. Instead, we now find ourselves alone with no place to go, and in a very unfamiliar role.

It helps each to focus on gratitude for this wonderful woman who was in our lives, for the lessons we learned from her, and for the love she shared with us. As we struggle with redefining who we are we must hold on to what she instilled into us and honor how she made us a better person.

And finally, we need to discover our new purpose in life now that she is gone. That means becoming a better father, grandfather, neighbor, community member, and person. We need to learn how to turn away from negative, angry, and helpless thoughts, and turn to gratitude for the good in our lives while celebrating the wonderful memories of our past lives with our wives.

Our time left on this earth is now less than before, so the importance of making good use of our remaining years becomes even more crucial. So, I challenge all of us to ask ourselves, “What will I do with my remaining time on this earth to make it better for my children, grandchildren, community, and world? What can I do that would make my wife proud of me and what I accomplished after she was gone?”

I hope you will join me and many of our fellow widowers on this journey to healing.

Inquires can be directed to Fred Colby at colby3687@gmail.com.

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health

We Are Worthy!!

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WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

Whether quoting from Wayne’s World or the Bible, the phrase “I am not worthy” may describe how we feel at times after our wives pass away.  A ritual of self-condemnation and feelings of inadequacy often overwhelm us at this time. It is so easy to fall into a pattern of blaming ourselves or others.

This pattern may lead to self-destructive behaviors, may drive friends and family away from us, and may lead to self-isolation and growing behavioral problems.

We might condemn ourselves for:

  • Imagined or real failings during our wife’s illness
  • Outliving her (after all, she was an angel and deserved to live longer)
  • Not recognizing her health issues sooner, or not taking them seriously enough
  • Imagined or real past failings dating back decades ago

Or, we might be angry at:

  • Medical professionals for not saving our wife
  • In-laws for their behavior before and after our wife’s death
  • Family members for not being there for us when we needed them most
  • Neighbors and friends for real or imagined insensitivity

This may all lead to our feeling inadequate to:

  • Deal with all the post-death issues such as finances, funerals, notifying others, etc
  • Continue without her in our life
  • Maintain important relationships with those most important to us and our well-being
  • Build new relationships to help escape the pit of loneliness we find ourselves in

To confront and deal with all of this, we first have to decide that we DO NOT want to be in this place of self-condemnation and inadequacy. Often, the best people we can turn to gain the courage to move forward are: 1) OUR WIFE, and 2) A Grief Counselor. 

You may be asking yourself right now, “What is this guy crazy? Why my wife??”

When you stop to think about it, it makes sense. Who was your most important compass, your most important advisor, and your biggest supporter during all those years of marriage? Your wife, of course! And you know what, in thought, she is still with you, still a part of you, and still able to guide you. 

If you ask yourself, “Am I worthy? Who is the real me now? How do I move forward?” … and if you listen, you know what she would say! Heck, you are still having her participate in your real and imagined conversations anyway.

She would tell you to pull yourself together, that you are still loved, and that she wants you to live life again… not hunker down and hide in sorrow for the rest of your life. She would tell you to let go of the anger at yourself and others, to forgive yourself and others, and to get out there and meet new people and engage in new activities.

I am not saying that this is all easy. It is not! But, if you can get to this place, you can begin to heal and to move forward in a way that can be rewarding gradually. And yes, life can even be joyful again. Each of us must find our unique style of healing. I can tell you from my personal experience and those of many other widowers, whom I know personally, that it is worth the effort.

So, please accept this challenge and honor your wife by taking this first step in your healing journey, because YOU are worthy of healing and of living a full life again. And if you need help on this journey, as I and many others have, don’t be afraid to ask a grief counselor for help. There are many excellent grief counselors (often found at your area hospice or church) who can be your guide. 

© Copyright 2019 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

——————————————————————————

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Dating/Relationships Manful Emotions Moving Forward

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi

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Since your wife died, how often have you been thoroughly confused by the kindness of women towards you? How often have you, even though you know it is wrong, thought there might be something there? I am not embarrassed to tell you that I had many such instances. For example, within a few months of my wife’s death:

· I went to pick up a grandchild at her daycare, and the owner (who knew of my loss) gave me a big welcoming smile and hug… and I was confused!

· I visited with my lawyer to revise my will, and she was empathetic to me, and I was confused!

· My dental hygienist (half my age) and I empathized with each other over our losses, and I was in love!

· A female greeter at the church repeatedly smiled at me and engaged in light conversation with me, and I asked her out! She was married!

And there were more instances of similar engagements and reactions. Why do we act this way? Why do we have no clue at all after our wives pass about how to interact with other women? How can we learn again how to filter thoughts that should stay in our heads before they are expressed in words or actions?

After our loss, our social filters are all messed up. These painstakingly developed filters tell us how to interpret the world around us. They tell us when to speak up and when to keep quiet, and they help us to navigate our complex human world. Filters that are particularly weak after losing your wife can include:

· Social filters – such things as what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to say out loud in the company of others, especially women… or how to react to perceived signals from others.

· Emotional – those inbred and learned behavioral filters that help us to interpret our emotional reactions to people and events around us… or how to interpret signals from others, particularly women. This can also include our ability to control our anger, anxiety, and fear.

· Intellectual – those “thought” filters that help you to not blurt out remarks that are not well thought through, that are based upon false or biased information, or that are just trying to fill the gap in conversations.

To illustrate this state of mind, I remember a wonderful skit in the Big Bang Theory comedy series in which Billy Bob Thornton erroneously interprets signals from almost every woman he meets. If they touch him in an innocent gesture (think hand on shoulder) for as long as it takes him to say, “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,” he takes it as a sign that they are into him.

When I saw the show, I immediately recognized myself in my then messed up mental state. Billy Bob Thornton’s character carried this to comedic extremes and did not recognize the absurdity of his actions until two of the show’s female characters (Penny and Amy) confronted him about it.

Just like Billy Bob, every time a good-looking woman smiled at me, gave me a hug, or showed empathy to me… I was wondering if they liked me in a way which might lead to a relationship. This, often erroneous, thinking was further complicated by my erratic emotional and intellectual filters as well.

After speaking with my grief counselor, I learned to confront this thinking head on and to gradually rebuild my filters to the point where I was able to once again interact with women with more confidence that I was reading their signals (or non-signals) more correctly. It took months to regain this control so that I could reengage fully without fear of making fatally embarrassing errors.

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, know that acknowledging the issue is half the battle. Then you can turn your attention to dealing with it, instead of sitting there condemning yourself every time you commit a faux pas. Know that this is not something to condemn yourself for, just something else we have to “address” as we move forward in our healing process.

© Copyright 2019 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

——————————————————————————Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Giving Support Moving Forward

Reinventing Yourself to Live Again

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WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby 

When Theresa, my wife of 45 years, passed just before midnight on June 29, 2015, I lost three of the four legs that formed the foundation of my life: my wife, family, job, and faith. Only my family remained, while my faith was in crisis. To add to my sense of loss, I felt as if half of my identity had been ripped away. What remained to define me and to serve as my foundation going forward?

At first, the answer was not much. As I emerged from the deepest and most painful first months of grieving, I realized that I did not know who this new person was. Were the labels of widower and grandfather all that was left to define me? Did I want to continue as this ill-defined half-person that I seemed to now be? Reinventing yourself does not mean that the old self was imperfect or lacking, but it is a recognition that things have now changed, and you may need to adapt to your new reality.

After getting out some and meeting new people, and trying some new activities, I realized that I could redefine myself just about any way that I wanted to. Yes, I would always be Theresa’s husband, the father of my children, and the grandfather of my grandchildren… but I could be more. It was up to me; no one else could do it for me.

This led to me engaging in snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, and dancing as a way to redefine my newly active self. So often, some of us in long marriages tend to fall into a sort of complacency, which can lead to a less active life-style with few new challenges and more time spent in leisurely activities like reading, going to the movies, watching sports, etc. This gets old real fast when you are by yourself and have no one to share things with. Over time this can lead to isolation and depression if not addressed. 

To keep my new self mentally engaged, I soon joined two Boards of Directors: the local library, and Pathways hospice which had supported my wife, me, and my family through her passing and our grieving process. At Pathways, I worked with the Grief & Loss department to help launch and then co-facilitate a Men’s Grief Group, which continues to this day.

And finally, I decided to write my book, Widower to Widower, to help other widowers to survive the painful and daunting grief process. I had spent months trying to find printed materials that could help me through the grieving experience. Much to my own and my therapist’s dismay, we could find very little that was of use. She finally challenged me to write the book I would want to read. This led to me spending over a year of writing and editing, and another year of formatting, polishing, publishing, and promoting the book. (Click here to see reviews and testimonies of Widower to Widower

Eventually, all of these new activities, friends, compatriots, and positions helped me to re-invent my new self into something healthy and vibrant again. The four-legged stool was restored by reclaiming my faith, adding new volunteer “jobs” to my resume, strengthening my role as father and grandfather, and bringing new friends into my circle. Today, while I still grieve my wife at times, I once again feel alive and fully engaged with my community, friends, and family.

This new self was developed over three-years and is still a work in progress. Over time it will evolve further. I am convinced that for me, this process of re-inventing myself was crucial to my healing from the deep grieving I experienced during the early stages after losing Theresa.

Each widower will find their own way to this “reinvention” process and will do so at their own pace. It can be a noble undertaking that engages you in a dynamic and creative way.

There is no need to rush it, force it, or even fully engage with it. Allow yourself the time and space to do this in a way that meets your individual needs, background, culture, and situation. If you do, you can eventually find yourself enjoying life once again.

Widower to Widower is available at your local bookstore and online at Amazon.com

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Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which can be found on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author