Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Holidays

Widower: Helping A New Widower on Father’s Day

If your dad recently became a widower, there are ways you can help him on Father’s Day.

Fathers who are newly minted widowers on Father’s Day are apt to be in the throes of intense loneliness, self-doubt, and possibly caught up in regrets and self-recrimination. This can lead to self-isolation and depression if not addressed.

Their children can use Father’s Day as an excuse to insert themselves into their father’s life and provide much needed (though often resisted) love and support. Unlike a holiday such as a wedding anniversary, the new widower may not be severely impacted on Father’s Day, but the wife’s absence cannot be ignored.  Loneliness, especially at this time, can still trigger other severe emotional and physical responses which further aggravate existing symptoms.

I believe it is dead wrong for their children to avoid honoring and celebrating Father’s Day due to a sense that dear old dad needs some space. What he likely needs (though maybe loath to admit it) is some loving company, some emotional support, encouragement, and the message that “we care for you and we are here for you.”

The clueless and sometimes insensitive dad you have known in the past may well be finding his more empathetic and vulnerable side, allowing you “IN” in a way not even dreamed of in past times.

Their children, while suffering too from the loss of their mother, are likely in a better place than their father, and therefore better equipped to be the one reaching out and offering support. They are likely to find their relationship with dear old dad changing through this transition, to one of increased responsibility in many areas. On Father’s Day, that might take the form of being the one taking the lead.

So, my recommendation is that you reach out to dad and engage him during Father’s Day in a way which helps him to break out of the cycle of emotional and physical issues he may be experiencing. He will appreciate it, and you may just find your relationship with him growing in unexpected and wonderful ways.

Categories
Faith/Religion Holidays Loneliness

A Widower’s Christmas Wish List

by Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey 

From as far away as Australia to the British Isles, from Canada to Nigeria, the Widowers Support Network hears the cries of men who mourn the loss of their wife, their soul mates, their partners in life.  Widowed men don’t ask for much, never have, never will.  After all, men who mourn are expected to “get over it,” right?  You know, be a man. Macho if you will.  Unfortunately, that’s not the way it was meant to be.  

It is said that to grieve, you first must have loved.  For without love, grief does not exist.  To have loved is among life’s greats joys.  As such, it is unrealistic to think one who once loved doesn’t grieve when it is lost.  And with grief, comes sorrow, tears, fright, despair, pain, loneliness, depression, aimlessness, and more.  Each of these behaviors is dangerous.  At times, life-threatening. Yet for some reason, widowed men continue to be held to a different set of expectations vs. widows when they experience the loss of their beloved spouse.  

Following a speaking engagement in Connecticut, it hit me.  “Men don’t think they have permission to grieve.”  This is why they retreat to the shadows of our communities to mourn in private, many in total despair, for they wish not to be viewed as less of a man, then society would have them be. How sad for the widowers of the world; our fathers, brothers, uncles, nephews, grandfathers, neighbors, and colleagues. 

In the Gospel of John (John 11:1–44), we learned of the story of Jesus’ dearest friend, Lazarus of Bethany, also known as Saint Lazarus or Lazarus of the Four Days.  Jesus loved Lazarus.  When Jesus wept after he learned of Lazarus’ passing. So painful was Jesus’ loss, he decided to perform one of his most prominent of miracles in which he restored Lazarus to life four days after his death.  For those of the Christian faith (and I invite others as well), ask yourself; does anyone see Jesus as less of a man for his tears?  Jesus’ reaction to the loss of his beloved friend reinforces the view that grieving is a natural extension of one’s love for another.

As we approach Christmas when all of the Christian world celebrates the birth of the Christ child, and presents are so bountiful, do so with a new awareness of the plight of the widowed man. You may know a widower who you are contemplating purchasing a gift.  But what does one gift to a widower? The answer lies in this article.

From around the world, widowers have shared with me a listing of the gifts they would truly love to receive. Don’t worry about the cost. The presents widowers seek won’t cost a nickel.

Categories
Holidays Loneliness

Valentine’s Day Healing Heart

By Herb Knoll

Author of The Widower’s Journey

Valentine’s Day, 2008, will forever live in my heart as well as in my mind’s eye. The day began when I was awakened by a noise coming from what seemed to be the vicinity of the kitchen.  As I approached to retrieve my first cup of coffee of the day, I found my beautiful wife Michelle busy working on her latest project: making pretzels sticks dipped in various flavors of chocolate; each stick beautifully wrapped in heart-themed cellophane, with a red or pink bow.  “These are Valentine’s Day gifts for your staff,” she said.  “Employees always like getting gifts from their boss.”  I didn’t know it at that precise moment, but Michelle’s efforts to spread joy among my team at work would be the last thing she did in our home before being admitted into a hospital for the last time, later that same day. Michelle lost her battle with cancer twenty-one days later on March 7, 2008, a dark and rainy Friday evening in San Antonio, Texas.

Surviving holidays as a widower, especially as a new widower, is always tricky.  As an advocate for widowers, I have noticed how most widowers have one or two holidays that are harder than others to deal with, for they are laced with cherished memories that are more valuable than the Crown Jewels of England. For me, Valentine’s Day is one of those days. With perfect regularity, February 14th is always sure to give me pause, as each year I’m reminded of the sixteen years I celebrated it with Michelle. 

For many widowers, Valentine’s Day delivers an endless barrage of love symbolism, perhaps never to be experienced again. From chocolates and flowers for their lady to memories of a warm wet kiss or a loving glance from across a room, the expressions of love around Valentine’s Day are inescapable. Valentine’s Day reminds many widowers of the emptiness they may have become accustomed to living with daily, even if for only a brief second when their grief of yesterday assumes its role at center stage in one’s thoughts. 

Following Michelle’s passing, I assumed I would be a bachelor for the rest of my days.  It was about that time I decided to celebrate Michelle’s life by living mine.  Two and one-half years after Michelle’s passing, I met and fell in love with Maria. We were married twelve months later off the coast of Italy during a ceremony onboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

Does this mean I never think about Michelle anymore?  Hardly.  I am proud to say I was married to Michelle as I am to Maria today.  Today, Valentine’s Day reminds me that the human heart can mend and is capable of loving more than one person over a lifetime. If a widower is seeking companionship, a life partner, or perhaps more, he should have hope that such joy may well be awaiting its discovery by him.  And it is likely to occur when he least expects it to do so. 

I understand that some widowers, including those who, like me, may have discovered love again, have lingering difficulty in dealing with the visible triggers of grief Valentine’s Day presents. For them, please permit me to offer a few suggestions.  

1.  Spend the day with your children or with members of your extended family, preparing your wife’s favorite recipes.  Once made, enjoy a family meal with each other while allowing each family member to share stories about your wife.

2.  Spend some time working on your family tree, capturing memories about your wife for future generations to enjoy.  You may even want to write your wife a letter and insert it into your family tree’s archives.

3.  Spend time with your grandchildren, perhaps taking them on a day-trip to show them their grandmother’s favorite park, the home of her youth, or where the two of you met.  And be sure to take the little ones to their grandmother’s favorite restaurant and buy their lunch while you’re there.

4.  Focus your expressions of love on to others.  From volunteering for the Red Cross or your local veteran’s organization to spend some time assisting those served by your wife’s favorite charity. 

5.  Volunteer to babysit for another couple so they can enjoy their Valentine’s Day as much as you enjoyed yours during years past. 

6.  Be strengthened by reading scripture (1 Thessalonians 4) that speaks to Our Lord’s promise that we will one day again be reunited with those that we love. 

Just because someone dies doesn’t mean the love they shared with others did likewise.  This Valentine’s Day, go out and celebrate the time you were blessed to be with your beloved wife.  And when you lay your head on your pillow later that evening, be sure to tell your deceased wife you love her.  Go ahead.  She’s listening.