After Susan’s many months of illness, I was consumed with the day-to-day of the situation. Then she passed.
A few weeks after the dust settled, I’m pushing the shopping cart in the supermarket, and it finally struck me that I’m shopping for me and me alone. That’s what I’ve started calling the “alone moment” when you realize it’s just you now.
The “alone moment” can occur often, and I’ve come to expect those moments as part of the grieving process. They are constant little jabs to remind you that the life you had is over.
What we’re all left with is fighting through the “alone moments” and confronting the new life we now lead. I see in this forum that many are uncomfortable with the feeling of loneliness. Here are some things I’m doing to push back on this emotion.
Your Family and Friends Are Rooting For You
You may not realize it, but everybody that loves you is outwardly or secretly rooting for you to find happiness and fulfillment. The people that love you are watching you. Not in a judgmental way, but they are hoping to see you come through it all at some point. People who genuinely care about you also know that this will take time.
I’ve learned that you can’t underestimate this kind of love and support.
Put Something On The Calendar
My late wife was a travel agent. One of the many things she always said was, “Let’s always have a trip on our calendar.” It’s SO true! Once you’ve planned some kind of trip or scheduled an event, it lifts you. Half the fun of planning a vacation is in the planning.
Looking At All Your Options
Being alone is not the option we wanted. But it’s now the option that we have.
In Fred Colby’s book “Widower To Widower” he writes, “My belief is that, for us to move forward, we need to know that we do not have to leave anyone behind.” That’s excellent advice. I’m always going to carry my wife’s love and memory with me as I go forward doing things that I want to do.
Having said that, what I’m about to share sounds counter-intuitive. One of the things I enjoyed doing when I met Susan was aviation. I had picked up my pilot’s license a couple of years before I met her. But I gave it up for love. She was genuinely concerned about me flying and one day looked at me with those big green eyes and asked me to give it up for her.
Without going into all the details, there are several things now that I would like to do and experience. Breaking 90 on the golf course is one. You probably have deep down inside a few things you want to try.
Once you find yourself considering all of your options in this new life, then I promise you will feel less lonely and more like seeing the real you again.
Look for Larry’s column every other Thursday. You can write Larry at email@example.com.
Widower Ed Hersh (Texas) shares a powerful letter he wrote following the passing of his beautiful bride, Shellie. Ed’s letter speaks volumes about the plight of the 2.7 million widowers in America. He has authorized me to share it with you below.
“It was very nice of you to call me yesterday afternoon. You sounded perplexed when I told you that I am still on a roller coaster. I thought that writing might be easier for me to attempt to share what I am going through and how my life has been permanently impacted.
“Loosing Dad and Shellie a month apart of each other has been more than most people can handle, myself included. You know that Dad and I were very close. Shellie and I were married just months short of 25 years—an accomplishment by all standards of today.
“In May, Jonathan graduated college, an event that Shellie had been looking forward to for the last three years. It was one of two goals she set to live for when she was diagnosed in April, 2008. Watching Jonathan march in procession and receive his diploma was both joyful and tearful. The dinner Shellie and I planned in Dallas went on as planned, but not without tears. No way could I have had a party at the house to honor Jonathan having just lost Shellie.
“Life as a single parent is not easy as I’m sure you have heard from Belinda. Being a single parent of children who have lost their mother is even more difficult. We will go through life celebrating more graduations, engagements, weddings, births and bar mitzvahs—all joyous but without their mother who died at a young age.
“After being together for 25 years, I am now without my partner and lost. Marriage is the joining of two halves to make a whole and I am now half again. Who am I and what do I want? I don’t know.
“I am alone, don’t want to burden my sons and am lonely, yet not ready for large social gatherings. I go to shul weekly for Kaddish for Dad and Shellie, yet I leave with an empty and unfilled inner self. I have seen counselors and rabbis. Yet I am unable to truly communicate and receive the words of solace that I seek. Had I only lost one I would have had the other to truly comfort me. Now, there is no one. I am told that it takes time and I’m sure that that is true. My world has turned inside out and I am searching–for what I don’t know, but am told that I will know when I find it. Friends and acquaintances can not understand, not that I expect them to, but they have abandoned me for many reasons: not knowing what to say or my regressing inward or not wanting a single person in the mix or whatever, I don’t know.
“Anyhow, I did appreciate your call and thanks for listening.
THANK YOU Ed for sharing your words with those who turn to the Widower’s Support Network for understanding and comfort.
If you have followed my writings over the years, you may know that I am a glass half full type of person. Long ago, I learned to own what yours to earn and move forward with life.
The year 2020 has been unlike any other I have experienced in my 63 years on this earth. I probably have spent more time reflecting on my life more profoundly than any previous year.
There is perhaps no other aspect that I have reflected on more than taking a deep dive into the current “state of my own private union.” Let me explain that statement.
As a person who works from home, still follows strict social distancing protocols, and lives alone, 2020 could have created many challenges. First, I am pleased to be employed.
A little over a year, I was “unretired” by a great opportunity that came my way. Returning to the workforce gave me a nice balance of intellectual challenges and social interactions with others. Returning to work also made the time that I spent solitarily at home far less than without the opportunity of going to the office. Then came COVID. Just when I had a new rhythm to my life, I am thrust back into solitary confinement.
I am very thankful that over the years, I have made my home a place that is appointed with most of the amenities I need to entertain myself. While I miss seeing family and dining at restaurants, I am not having as tough of time adjusting as many people I know are having. I have taken a deeper dive into listening to more music, turning off the TV, participating in zoom chats and meetings, and have even indulged in ordering my groceries online.
But as human nature goes, I often wonder what it would be like to have someone to share this more intimate of times. I am, however, very happy to report that I have not jumped into a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. I am so very happy for those of you that have found love again. I will continue to live vicariously through you until my lightning bolt falls out of the sky!
While standing by in wonder, I have also grown to appreciate the relationship I am forging with myself. I have engaged in a deeper level of self-care, more generous than I have provided for in years. I have contributed to a soon-to-be-released book, and I have spent more time dealing with my health. I have discovered I spend too much time on social media, but I have learned to live without attending baseball games. Any travel plans have been placed on hold, but I have resolved to check travel off my bucket list as soon as I can safely do so. I attend church services online, and I have created a very primitive home gym.
I cannot help but wonder what it would have been like sharing this time with my Robyn. It would have been tough on her, as she was a very social person, and while she loved me, she did not like me underfoot excessively. It would have been a challenge, to be sure.
While the title of this article is All Dressed Up and Nobody to Love, it may have started with thoughts tinged with a bit of melancholy; it has been transformed into a story of empowerment and discovery. I have realized in this process, that despite the obvious love that I have for family and friends, I have discovered a new love, myself. Meanwhile, while fate takes its time in revealing itself, I am going to continue to concentrate on growing with my new love, me!
As always, I welcome your feedback. I also continue to be grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all. Until next time.
Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at my newly redesigned thedebriefgroup365.com; there you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widow Support Network.
I have had an interesting two weeks. Last Saturday, one of my best friend’s wife died from Glioblastoma. If you know this beast, you know it is a terrible diagnosis with a brutal prognosis. Over the past several months, we have spent a lot of time on his porch, talking, drinking wine, and sharing experiences as caregivers as well as survivors.
Last week, I had the privilege of meeting with two young widowers for lunch and coffee. Both men are raising young children, have important jobs and have lost their wives in their 30’s and 40’s. I appreciated listening to their stories of loss and discovering their new normal. We had the opportunity to talk about reinvention, renewal, rebirth, and restoration. These are young men with a lifetime of children to raise, dreams to fulfill and hopes to achieve.
Last night, I received news that my longtime friends’ wife, who has been doing well battling lymphoma, just learned that a recent PET scan shows recurring and new cancer growth. I will be on the phone with him later this morning. He was a pillar for me during my journey. His presence did and does show up daily. He even traveled from Seattle to Indianapolis for Joyce’s celebration of life service.
I have shared before about how grateful I am for people who have showed up for me during my journey. I appreciate the occasional card that just says
“hey…thinking of you “ or a phone call from a friend who wants to come over, sit on the porch and eat donuts. Recently, I have been most thankful for a friend who reached out several months ago on Facebook. This person, who I have known since 1993, has become a real ray of sunshine to me. These people showed up and continue to show up.
I believe, at the end of the day, we are called to show up. We are called to just be there for each other. If there is any group of people that should be sensitive to the unspoken needs of others, it is us. We know that no one walks in our shoes but us. We also know that there are a lot of people out there who are fighting their own battles, especially in these crazy times of corona virus, politics, natural disasters, and 2020 in general.
I am going to start to try to look for places where I can show up. I want to look for opportunities to simply connect with people who need it. I want to be there to hear what my friends are going through. Thankfully, we do not have to know all the answers. That is for a professional. All we must do is encourage, support and listen.
I have learned that my load is considerably lighter when I help someone else lift theirs. It’s a tender and fulfilling part of life. I hope you look for opportunities to be there for people who just need a sounding board or listening post. It is good stuff.
Be well, brothers. Choose Joy Today.
Jim Winner’s thoughts appear every other Thursday. You can write to him by Private Messenger.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1 and Matthew 27:46
All marriages end in death or divorce. My wife and I talked about our deaths a few times, back when we were both healthy. We sometimes joked about being each other’s “first husband” or “first wife,” never imagining that there might ever be a second spouse for either of us, or that one of us might live alone for many years. We assumed we would both die in old age within a year or two of each other, as our parents had. But now it has happened, and she is gone. Her cancer reappeared, and she died at age 64.
Death always seems sudden, even if it was expected, because it’s so different from all other changes: it is so total, and it’s irreversible.
I learned that I am “widowed” when I offered to give blood in my wife’s honor soon after my wife’s funeral. When I tried to register as a blood donor, the young man asked, “Marital status?” I was confused. I looked down at my wedding ring and stammered, “My wife just died.”
“Widowed,” the young man said and checked that box on his chart. I felt a little dizzy at that moment and I thought about my new marital status for a long time. Before this, I had been either “single” or “married.” I never expected to be a widowed man.
Your wife’s funeral may have seemed like a blur at the time, and you may remember only a few details now. You had to make some decisions in a hurry when your wife died, especially if she died unexpectedly and suddenly. You may be unnerved now by some of the decisions you made then while you were in a state of shock. But be kind to yourself. Remember that you were in an unnatural condition: you had lost your “better half” or maybe your better three-fourths. “Better half” is a good expression, especially now. It says something important about marriage and about losing your wife. You really were two parts of one living thing: your marriage.
C.S. Lewis said that losing your wife isn’t like having your appendix out or being hospitalized with pneumonia: you get over those and they are forgotten. Losing your wife is like having a leg amputated: you don’t get over that. It is such a huge change that it tends to define who you are for a long time, possibly for the rest of your life.
What do you need to learn about being single again? In what ways is this different from being single when you were younger? What challenges do you see ahead? How is your world different from that of a widow woman?
When I became a widowed man, I wondered what to call myself. “Widow” is usually applied only to women, but why can’t a man be a widow? Why accept the implied accusation when you are called a “widower?” You didn’t cause your wife’s death. “Widowed” is a better term, but of course she didn’t do this to you; it wasn’t her choice. I like to call myself simply a widow or widowed, or maybe better, a “widow-man.”
More has been written about widows than about widowed men, so recovering from loss of a spouse might seem like “women’s work.” But you are now doing some of the hardest work of your life, recovering from her death. This is not for the faint-hearted.
Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, “WIDOW-MAN,” every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s Thursday. That means its time for WSN-MO Dating and Relationship Coach, Christine Baumgartner. This week, Christine writes WSN-MO members an open letter.
Grieving Feels like a Roller Coaster in the Fog
I’m grateful to be writing to widowers with my thoughts on grieving and on dating after loss. My experience is personal (I was widowed six years ago) and professional (my coaching practice includes widows and widowers).
I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for the pain, confusion, and hopelessness that came with being a widow. I was already an experienced dating and relationship coach when Tony died. I knew lots about how to help others (and myself) with questions about dating, long-term relationships, and spouses. But in 2012, I found out I knew very little about widowhood.
Since then, I’ve met many fellow travelers on my journey. And I’ve learned a lot. Personally (through a variety of widow groups) and professionally through my coaching practice.
From that terrible moment when I found Tony dead on the floor, my life started feeling like I was on a roller coaster in the fog.
This roller coaster had many unexpected ups and downs. And because of the “fog” I couldn’t see the ups and downs until they were right on top of me. And then, of course, I’d never be prepared for them (I imagine many of you can relate to this whether your loss was sudden or after a long illness).
At 18 months, I started to see more clearly (like watching a movie) the ways I’d maneuvered through that first year on the roller coaster.
I could see how, on that first day, part of my brain had clamped shut with strong and large padlocks. But even then, I “knew” that someday I would need to unlock those locks. I trusted that I would know when to do this (and it wouldn’t be soon).
What I now know is – I locked down the part of the brain that wasn’t ready yet to process the horrible trauma around Tony’s death.
Because of the lock-down, I was able to slog through the necessary papers, taxes, legal stuff, and other things. The lock-down gave me more access to the part of my brain that needed to stay very conscious of how much I could actually do every day and how much I couldn’t.
However, the lock-down also blocked the good things, like the sound and sight of my husband. Not that I didn’t realize he was dead. And I didn’t actually expect to see or hear him in person. What I was missing (and this truly surprised me) was I couldn’t replay any of our conversations in my head.
I couldn’t even imagine the scene I experienced so many times of him walking in the door after he came home from work. My memories of his voice and his face were locked up in that same place.
I just had no idea how exhausting grieving could be. To me, it felt like running a marathon with a huge, wet, wool blanket on while carrying bags of bricks. Therapy, family, and friends (yes, it’s taken a village of support) have been a tremendous help. I’ve come a long way in my six years of widowhood. And I’m looking forward to being a support person through your journey.
1. The services offered by Christine, herself a widow, does not include “dating or matchmaking services.”
2. Christine will NEVER have direct access to WSN-MO’s Facebook page. All postings will be facilitated through WSN-MO.
3. WSN-MO members can ask questions of Christine (even anonymously via private message to me) on our Facebook page which I will forward to her. You can also send questions to me at herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com. Following, I will then post her responses.
Widowers are vulnerable. Very vulnerable! In fact, according to research performed by Dr. Justin Denney of Washington State University, widowed men have a 1.6 to 2.0 times the risk of death by suicide, compared to otherwise similar married men, and they’ll do so within two years of their wife’s death. Still, other research suggests the rate may be even higher. And that’s just the beginning. Widowers have an increased rate of diabetes, hypertension and more.
Widowers are at risk of being diagnosed with depression, which can negatively impact virtually every aspect of their lives. From raising children to maintaining their career, handling personal finances to ongoing relationships with others, and yes, dating, the challenges are many. Sadly, few men are equipped to handle any of these.
“If we’re all going to die, why is it that we are so ill-prepared to deal with it?” said John Von Der Haar (68) who lost his wife Mary Jane in 2013. Good question.
While there is no cut and dry answer, there are clues we can point to which have contributed to the problems widowers face.
Social Norms About Men and Grieving
From the time little boys are learning to walk, they are repeatedly told how “boys don’t cry” or “Be a man!” Much like our fathers and grandfathers who came back from wars, and rarely spoke of their days in uniform, many widowed men don’t believe they are allowed to cry or grieve outside of the shadows of our society. It is as though they are seeking permission to grieve. Until they feel they can, they hold their feelings mostly to themselves, offering common phrases such as “I’m OK, just leave me alone with my thoughts.”
When family, friends, and colleagues leave a widower alone, they are contributing to the creation of an environment that is likely to make the widower’s grief more challenging to navigate. Frankly, it is the worst thing that can happen.
Widowers and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Master Sergeant Chris Sweet – USAF (ret) has worked with military personnel who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. When asked if he thought widowers are at risk of a PTSD diagnosis following the loss of their spouse, Sweet said, “Absolutely.”
Sweet should know, he lost his wife Danielle (30) who contracted Leukemia in 2009, after the U.S. Air Force deployed her to Afghanistan.
According to Sweet, “All of the symptoms PTSD sufferers experience are exactly what I went through following the passing of Danielle. It’s no different.”
Men need a purpose. To provide, protect and love their mate. When a wife dies, many men seem to lose their reason for living, providing the basis from which other problems can grow.
Limited Support and Resources for Widowers
With so many problems facing widowers, you would think there would be a host of self-help materials available for them. I felt so too when in 2008, I visited a large box bookstore retailer following the death of my wife, Michelle to pancreatic cancer. “Mister, we don’t have a damn thing for you.” These were the words spoken to me by the clerk after he had searched his store’s database for available titles.
The fact is, the publishing industry has abandoned men by their refusal to publish books which address the needs of men. Men don’t buy books,” multiple publishers have told me. My response: “Men certainly can’t buy what isn’t on the shelf.”
The Widower’s Journey – A Book For Widowers
For all of the reasons cited and more, I elected to leave my 38-year career in banking and dedicated my life to the comfort and support of widowers. After nine years of research and writing, I published The Widower’s Journeyin 2017.
The Widower’s Journey is a self-help book for widowers and those who love them, featuring the candid advice and best practices as expressed by over forty contributing widowers. The book’s contributors hail from across America and represent a cross-section of social, economic and geographic backgrounds, as well as a variety of circumstances surrounding the passing of their wives. Supporting the contributing widowers is a team of experts from the fields of law, psychology, sociology, financial planning, religion and more.
If you are a widower, or should you know a widower that you want to comfort or assist, The Widower’s Journey is the perfect guide to give them. Available on Amazon.com in paperback and in all digital formats.
Widowers Support Network (WSN)
You will also find additional support available at Widowers Support Network, (WSN). There are four ways to access the resources WSN makes available, all of which are free.
“Register” on the WSN website at www.WidowersSupportNetwork.com. Loaded with helpful information, and a BLOG on its homepage where you are invited to present your personal questions or share one or more of your best practices with our community of widowers and their supporters.
“Like” Widowers Support Network on Facebook. Registered members on our website (#1 above) are invited to have their deceased spouse “Remembered” during the anniversary month of their passing on this Facebook page complete with your spouse’s photograph.
Join Widowers Support Network – Members Onlyon Facebook. A private men’s only group page where widowers, caregivers and subject matter experts support one another. All participants must be males.
“Follow” us on Twitter @WidowersJourney– An excellent source for more healing resources.
By completing all four steps, you will receive numerous comforting suggestions, time-sensitive grief recovery tips and best practices from widowed men and various experts.
My father’s birthday was a couple of days ago. He would have been 91. He died in an auto accident nearly ten years ago. He’s been on my mind a lot this week.
As a young boy, I remember the bookshelf in his office. It was filled with books from Norman Vincent Peale, Og Mandino, Dale Carnegie, and Earl Nightingale. For you youngsters, these were all great motivational writers from the 1950s and ’60s who stressed the importance of positive attitudes in all areas of life. My dad was in sales and marketing in one form or fashion his entire life. He had the most positive attitude of anyone I have ever known.
I couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13 when he insisted I read books by the above-referenced authors. I tried to understand terms like enthusiasm, persistence, dedication. That’s not exactly the subject matter young boys are interested in. I remember sitting in the living room with him, trying to talk to me about the importance of always having a positive attitude. I remember him speaking about how things would happen in life that we can control, and things will happen that we cannot control. “No matter how bad it gets,” he used to say, “never give up your dream.” Many years later, I once watched him in a courtroom where a judge ruled, in a big way, against his company. He looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “it’s only money; we can make more.” In the best of times, he was humble. In the worst of times, he was positive. He had faith in God and in his own ability to succeed, and he did.
I got to looking at some of the books from those long-ago days. As I was looking through names and titles, I found myself going back in time 50+ years to our conversations on the living room couch. I’m once again reminded that some things never change.
Earl Nightingale’s works were my favorite. I’ve enjoyed being reacquainted with his books this week. I found a few quotes that apply to us all.
One of my favorites is, “We all walk in the dark. Each of us must learn to turn on his own light”. That resonates with me. While the darkness of grief may not have been what he was referring to, it certainly applies.
I know from reading many of your posts that some dear brothers are in dark places these days. I hope and pray that you find your light. Light can come in many different things and forms, but it’s out there. Don’t stop looking for it.
My other Nightingale favorite is “Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now! Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how precious time is. Enjoy and savor every minute.” That friend says it all. Words written over 50 years ago are more important today than ever.
People often tell me they’re proud of how positive I am and how well I am doing in this life journey. I appreciate their sentiments and now really appreciate those long-ago conversations on the living room couch with my father.
Thanks, dad! I guess I was listening.
Jim Winner’s thoughts can be viewed here every other Thursday.
Quarantine allowed us to take some time off from worrying about our appearances. However, to some people, it was a daunting task. One of the good things to come out of this forced time-out is that many people started to understand the value of such workers as hairdressers, nail technicians, masseurs, waiters, and so many others.
Recently, a letter written by “a grateful customer” who thanked a hairdresser for the way she treated his wife during a haircut went viral. The man revealed that his wife was living with dementia, and the way Sara, her hairdresser, treated her was touching. I think it will touch you as well.
Here is the letter: ________________
June 27, 2020
I have waited a long time to pass this on to you.
My wife and I came in for haircuts shortly before Christmas of last year.
My wife was suffering from dementia, and you treated her as if you had been working with dementia patients all your life. You let us sit next to each other, and when it came time for her cut, you turned her chair towards me so I could watch her expression as you cut her hair.
It turned out even better than I thought it would. Sadly, she died in March. And that haircut was one of the last, best moments of her life. She felt so pretty. She visited the mirror in her bathroom several times during the day and would come out beaming.
To see her so happy was priceless.
Looking back, it was likely one of the dozens of haircuts you gave that day. But one which revitalized a woman’s sense of self and her singular beauty. I hope you always realize the power of your profession.
It’s so easy to take things like that for granted.
A grateful customer
To the world, we are just one person, but to that one person, we are the world.
It’s OK. I am crying too.
Larry articles can be found every other Thursday here on WSN-MO. You can send private messages him on Facebook.