There is a feeling of fall in the air. Depending on where you live, you may have noticed the nights are feeling a little cooler, and the morning air is feeling a little brisker. Where I live, I have also seen the leaves on the trees are starting to lose their spring/summer green color. One thing is for sure, the last of the “Summer” holidays is upon us. That means different things to different people.
With fall approaching I have to do something I have been dreading, I have to take my son back to his apartment so he can continue college. I am ashamed to admit that a small part of me wanted his classes to be online rather than in person. I tried convincing myself that this hope stemmed solely from a concern for his safety. The truth is, I was only kidding myself. I wanted him home with me longer. I wanted someone home when I get back from work, I wanted someone home to eat with, and I wanted someone home to have conversations.
Recently, I accepted the fact that I will soon be alone. This made me think about a co-worker that I have been talking with at work. This friend has alluded to the fact that she is open to having dinner together sometime. I did not think about that as an option at the time because I had my son at home, and we had each other for company. Besides, I wanted to spend every minute I could live with him. Now, I face eating alone, which is why those passive hints from my co-worker resurfaced. It sounds like it would work out perfectly. She is alone after a break up in her relationship, I will be alone, and it is worth considering. Or is it?
After my thoughts started to get more serious about asking my friend to dinner, I became overwhelmed with emotion. What is the passion that is pouring over me? After concentrating on this feeling, I discovered its origin. What I am feeling is guilt. What I did not understand is why I was feeling this.
You may have experienced this feeling too. In my situation, I am just at the beginning of sorting out these feelings. The reason I wanted to mention this is that if you have felt this emotion, do not feel alone. It comes with the territory. I felt as though I would be cheating if I did ask this person to dinner. It is my opinion that after years of marriage, you will feel like you are cheating on your late spouse. In reality, I know it would not be cheating. I know she would want me to have company and companionship.
When the time is right, we all have to decide between being open to finding a new friend that may lead to a relationship. What we do need to remember is that there is not a set time for this scenario. It may even be that we decide we don’t want that type of companionship, and only you know if that’s your case. However, one thing we do know is that you need to be open to this, and it isn’t cheating. The only cheating that happens by hiding from others is you cheating yourself out of a possible friendship. Be strong, my brothers.
You can reach Chris at email@example.com
Suzanne used to tell me that she enjoyed cleaning the house. She would say, “I don’t mind cleaning the house if you will… (insert chore here).”
Over this past weekend, I celebrated the first anniversary of moving into my own house. I moved in four days after the first death anniversary, so it was a pretty eventful time.
At that time, I also owned a rental property here in my town that housed a family of people I knew. The family included my regular house cleaner, her husband, and their two sons.
They used to come to clean my house twice a month. It was great for me because I didn’t have to do much. And the house was regularly clean, tidy, fresh, and relaxing.
Then, after CoVID hit, they had to stop coming. Now, they no longer live in my rental house, and they can no longer do the cleaning here. My regular cleaner has been ill. She had cancer a number of years ago, and although I do not know the whole of the story, I believe it has returned.
Since March, I have been responsible for cleaning my own home. It’s the first time that I have indeed been in charge of cleaning the whole of a house. And, in all honesty, I cannot for the life of me figure out what Suzanne saw in it. It’s a major pain!
So, today I have a new cleaner coming. It is a milestone for me since I have not had anyone who I haven’t known come to the property to clean. It will be something new and different.
Back when Suzanne was ill, I tried to get a cleaner to come to the house, so it would be clean and tidy when she came back from chemo and other doctor’s appointments. Right now, I would be overjoyed to have that opportunity again. I would love for someone to come and clean the house so that Suzanne didn’t have to even if it meant she had to find another chore to choose for her to perform.
But like the house itself, and my new life in it, this will never happen. I am in the first home that I have ever owned without her. And it’s the first where I have my own cleaner and keep the house as I want it, not like Suzanne would have had it (it’s far too messy too much of the time for her liking). But still, I wonder if she would have liked to keep cleaning this house had she and I moved here together.
Would she still want to clean the house if she knew we could afford to have someone come and do it for us instead? Would she prefer to have done it herself, or would she have let someone else do it?
I know her. She would have cleaned before the cleaner came. Suzanne would never let anyone into the house if it were a mess, not even the cleaners. And guess what? I spent last night cleaning and tidying tonight in anticipation of the cleaner coming this morning. Just like Suzanne would have done.
Jeff Ziegler insights appear every two weeks, here on WSN-MO. You can write to him at Jeff.firstname.lastname@example.org. Cell: 1-415-623-8772. Email: email@example.com LinkedIn Profile URL: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffziegler
Often, our gift to this world–the thing we are here to do–is the thing we tend to fear or dislike the most. Scary how that works. I wanted to be a writer. Here I am writing a blog, not a book.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I used to ask pretty much everyone I knew. For Suzanne, it was a criminologist or a forensic scientist (long before becoming fashionable or used as source material for TV shows, movies, and real crime dramas).
Suzanne was many things in her lifetime. Her bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s in criminology never really contributed much to her career. Fate intervened. She assisted on a “criminal profiling research project” at the UK’s Home Office before we got married. It was the first and last time she ever worked in the field. She worked as a relocation agent, a case manager for the Crown Prosecution Service, as a baker, an advocate for surrogacy and adoption, and as a catering manager.
Suzanne was a wonderful friend to so many. She was a very open and gregarious person. Her smile would light up a room when she walked in. But she struggled with a purpose in life until only a few months before she died. She found yoga. She trained and qualified as a yoga instructor just days before her final diagnosis.
In the months after she died, I struggled to find meaning and purpose. It took me a long time, but once I found it, I really dove in.
The struggle to find purpose and meaning in life is real. So many of us stick it out in dead-end jobs, struggling to make ends meet. We have had great relationships, but our spouse/partner is dead, so now we struggle to find new people to share our life. I am on a new path. A journey of discovery, and that means being open to the infinite possibilities available in any given moment.
My role now is to pass on the lessons I have learned as I continue to walk on this journey. A Native American legend describes two paths we can choose to take through our life–a red path and a black path. The black path is the road most of us take (and the one both Suzanne and I traveled for most of our lives). It’s the path that requires little thought and even less “presence.” The red path is the path of consciousness, presence, meaningful existence–living from a purpose.
As Frost described it, this is the path less traveled by:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
Jeff Ziegler insights can be found every two weeks here on WSN-MO.
You can write him at Jeff.firstname.lastname@example.org
Cell: +1-415-623-8772 | e-mail: email@example.com
LinkedIn Profile URL: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffziegler
Have you ever felt guilty or maybe even startled at a smile on your face? If you have, there is no reason to feel any shame. Let me explain. As my wife and I battled her disease, there where many times that I felt guilty about being able to do things she could not. I will not go into detail, but the guilt I felt was intense, and it was painful. I thought that once she passed, the guilt would pass with her. I was wrong. A few weeks after she passed, I was having a conversation with a friend from high school. He and I have always been the kind of friends that could pick up where we left off even after not talking for months. He has always had a happy perspective on life. Well, after talking for a few minutes, something happened, and it was startling. I smiled and laughed! I caught myself. I will never forget that moment because it was a significant event in my new life. I asked myself, “What are you doing?”
I wanted to share my smile and laugh story for a couple of reasons. It took much thought and self-reflection to conclude that it was okay to smile and laugh. Besides, the guilt I felt needed to be addressed. Please understand, when a widower is freshly dealing with their loss, these feelings are a major concern and not digested and proceeded the same way they are after a few months after the loss. At that time, I felt guilt, and for me, I think I know why. I felt that it was far too soon to smile and laugh.
One thing is for sure during or journey of grief, and I feel all of us brothers will agree, there is not a set time frame for any of this process. It is okay that some things take longer for others, and other things happen quicker for others. It is a wonderful and blessed reality that we are unique and deal with certain things better than others. The reason for this being a good thing is because we are band together and can use our unique abilities to help those that are in need in those areas. Nonetheless, one thing is for sure, if you find yourself smiling or laughing, don’t feel guilty, cherish that moment. There is no guilt in happiness.
Please welcome Chris to our outstanding team of columnist. Chris lost his wife Christine on 1/13/20. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
My wife and I slept in a king-size bed in the final years of her life. After her death, I continued to sleep in that massive bed, but always on my side, not hers. It was a comfortable bed, but I found I was swimming all over it at night, and it was hard to make such a large bed by myself. Changing the sheets seemed to be more work than it was worth for me alone.
About four months after my wife died, I looked at that king-size bed one morning, and for the first time, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to keep using it. I could use one of our other beds. I winced at the thought, wondering what my wife would say if she came home and saw that I had changed things without her permission. Where would she sleep? It took me half a minute to realize she wouldn’t be coming back to catch me disturbing our bed. Emotionally I didn’t feel that I should be making a change without her permission even though mentally, I knew that it was okay. I went ahead that day with a major bed-moving operation that ultimately led me to the twin-size bed that now suits me best.
Several other times, I have wanted to make a change in the house or my schedule and have felt I had her permission to do so. Fortunately, my wife was quite practical, so it’s easy for me to picture her approving and endorsing some of the changes I have made. But there are still things I leave as they were, out of respect for space she still occupies in my mind. She liked things this way, and I can still enjoy them for that reason.
Many widow-men probably need to feel their wives’ permission to make changes, especially in the first few weeks or months. Of course, we know that it is we who must grant the permission, but we are more comfortable with those decisions when we feel our wives invisibly agreeing, may be smiling and nodding from where they are. My wife’s name was Darlene, so I sometimes ask myself, “WWDD” (what would Darlene do)? I often receive assurance about an action by asking that question, and I have been diverted from disasters in the same way.
Small household changes are one thing; new relationships, especially with women, are another. Some men never feel they have permission to see other women, to say nothing of remarrying. Others make this transition smoothly. Still, others can do so because their wife told them she wanted them to remarry. You will have to listen to your mind as well as your heart in these matters, and you may need to listen for your wife’s voice for her counsel.
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 email@example.com
I just got back from a trip to Oregon. I had the privilege of spending ten days with my 34-year-old daughter. It was wonderful. Spending time with an adult child is a rewarding and meaningful experience. We shared many long conversations when we discussed some real hard life topics. Us dads all know how precious those times are.
Everywhere I went, I saw people wearing masks. No question, it’s a necessary sign of the times. It’s something we must do until we figure this corona-virus out. I don’t know about you, but I miss seeing the face behind the mask, I miss enjoying the smile of the person I’m talking to. I miss the expression on a person’s face. I want to know who’s behind that mask. I want to know what they’re feeling. I want to see them, not just a piece of them.
I believe we tend to wear different masks as we journey through the grief process. I know in my early stages of grief, for the first few months after Joyce’s passing, I tended to try to take on a lot by myself. I admit that I tried to mask a lot of how I was feeling. I’m very fortunate that I have friends and family who kept reaching out to me during that time. It’s easy to shut ourselves off and try to tough it out. That won’t work. We want to “man up” and not let others see our real emotions or situation. I think this is particularly true in the first several months after a loss. That’s when we’re most confused and tend to internalize everything. That won’t work either.
Masks can offer protection from the unwanted. Masks can serve as a filter, literally and figuratively. Masks can also hide what we don’t want to share with others.
I see all kinds of ads on Facebook for masks. Who would have ever thought they’d be the must-have fashion accessory for 2020? But then again, 2020 hasn’t exactly gone the way anyone expected.
When it comes to the physical masks, I’d recommend that you follow whatever protocol keeps you compliant and makes you confident, comfortable, and keeps you and those around you safe.
When it comes to emotional masks, I’d like to suggest that we are much better off not wearing them. When someone you trust and care about asks how you are, tell them. Be honest. They’re asking because they care. Share the good, and share the bad. Not even your closest and trusted family member, friend, or ally can help or support you if they don’t know what you need. And if your phone doesn’t ring, don’t feel bad if you’re the one reaching out. Trust me; your closest friends want to help. They want to be there for you. They don’t know what you need unless you tell them. For many of them, this may be their first grief experience as well. Help them be better at what they so desperately want to do, to help you.
So, wear that mask when you need to, but know when it’s time to take it off.
Jim Winner’s thoughts can be found here every other Thursday. You can write him c/o WSN.
Today is a cool, clear, and beautiful Indiana summer day. As I write this, I am sitting in my courtyard, listening to the birds sing. The flowers are in full bloom, and kids wave to me as they ride their bikes by my house. It all feels right. I feel good. But wait. Is that ok? Is it alright to be happy? Should I feel guilty because I feel good? I know that answer. So do you. But if you’re like me, sometimes a little reminding is in order.
During Joyce’s illness and prognosis, she had many opportunities to share her hopes and wishes for my life after she was gone. Those of you who have had these conversations know they are extremely difficult, hard to listen to, and even harder to accept. But accept them we must, because that reality is here. I would dare to say that each of our wives had the same wish for us. That wish was simple. It was for us to keep living. I remember the day Joyce took my hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Keep living. Don’t stop being happy”. As I look back on that conversation, I marvel that even in her final weeks and days, she was worried about me. I know many of you who are reading this are nodding in agreement because your wives said the same thing to you. For those brothers whose wives passed away suddenly, you know they also had the same wish. You were happy with your wife. Their wish was for your life to continue. They wanted you to find your happiness. They wanted you to keep going.
I do not believe that anyone can bring us happiness. Our happiness is our responsibility. If we aren’t happy with ourselves, it’s not reasonable for us to ask someone else to make us happy. Not only is it unreasonable, but it’s also a recipe for disaster. As I continue my journey, I have come to understand that there’s room for grief and happiness at the same time. Those two words are not mutually exclusive. The grief process we go through relates to what was lost and what never will be. At the same time, the quest for happiness involves what is and what is yet to be. Friends, the good news is there’s room for both.
I endeavor to choose happiness every day. Please know I don’t say that flippantly. I am mindful of how much time I spend watching the news. I am intentional in the tone of the conversations I have with my friends and neighbors. I always wave back and stop to talk when I see those kids on their bikes. I invest in the rebuilding of my life. I choose to smile even when I don’t feel like smiling. Dale Carnegie once said, “If you act enthusiastic, you will become enthusiastic.” I believe that is especially true for how we deal with happiness.
We all have people and things that make us happy. Make time for both. Maybe yours is time with family and friends, walking, reading, cooking, building things, or playing a round of golf. Whatever allows you to focus on something positive, and in the future, I encourage you to do it. Thank God, we can look to the future without ever sacrificing the memory of the past. That’s a real blessing.
I hope you choose happiness today.
These last couple of months, while we have been sheltering in place here in California, I have had the pleasure of joining in on a zoom call and playing poker with a group of friends I have known for many years. These aren’t just friends; they are my fraternity brothers from my days at UC Santa Barbara (which ended four years before I met and married Suzanne).
Some of these brothers knew her. Most did not because despite being close in college, we all went our ways—and I lived abroad for nearly 20-years after college, so I did not see many of them (other than on Facebook) for many years. There were exceptions, but not many.
Seeing and spending time with “the boys” has been refreshing. It has made me relive some of my youth—remembering all the awful things we used to do, like drinking, cussing, teasing, etc. But it has also been an excellent opportunity to reconnect more deeply. To bring together brothers who shared experiences in college that shaped us into the men we became.
I have been able to play every two weeks for the last two months, except for when my new partner came out from Kansas City to visit two weeks ago (after travel restrictions to California were lifted by her work). It has helped to keep me sane at this time when I have not seen or able to connect with people in person.
At times during the games, we do get serious and start chatting about deeper level emotional and spiritual things (while we are playing)—of course, that’s in between the teasing and the banter. And it seems that so many of my brothers keep asking me about finding passion and purpose in their lives.
The thing is, in my life, and my most recent experience as a widower, I’ve seen so many people make the same mistake I used to make: stay in dead-end jobs with low pay solely for the sake of “security,” wasting years of their lives doing something they just don’t love. To me, that’s just backward.
Why do we waste so much time sticking with stuff we don’t genuinely care about? Is it the money? Is it recognition? Is it the health benefits? Is it truly for “security?” I just don’t know.
Of my fraternity brothers, I am one of the very few that is genuinely “self-employed.” And I love what I do. No, I don’t get health benefits, and I don’t want or ask for recognition. Nor do I have much security. But I do get to do something that I am genuinely passionate about and care about. I get to serve and help other widows and widowers.
And I wonder why we aren’t all doing something that we truly love? And I think of all the times I wish I could have been at home with Suzanne, working on something I was passionate about and loved to do instead of wasting all those years complaining and moaning about dead-end jobs and long commutes.
I’m considering putting together a free program on how to get unstuck from the thinking that is holding us back from being happier and living our purpose and passion. Would this be of interest to any of my fellow widower brothers? It seems to resonate with some of my fraternity brothers, and let’s face it; you guys are my fraternity now.
If this seems like a good idea, then please DM me with your thoughts or message me here in the group. Or, if you have any other ideas for anything better, then please let me know!
Jeff Ziegler can be seen every two weeks here on WSN-MO. You can write Jeff at Jeff.firstname.lastname@example.org.