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
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