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Moving Forward

Returning to Your World

Nyle Kardatzke

WSN; Widow-Man with Nyle Kardatzke, PhD.

Your wife’s death, her funeral, visitors, and necessary follow-up activities probably kept you away from many of your former, usual activities for a while. Your life had to go on, but it seemed strange, very strange, at first. You probably wondered more than once when or if your life would return to “normal.”

My son said it was eerie to return to his hospital work after his mother’s funeral. People weren’t sure how to react to him at first. Soon “business as usual” took over, and everyone was relieved. His colleagues all needed to feel “normal” again. If you are currently employed, returning to work after your wife’s death may seem strange at first. Your relationships with others may have changed in subtle ways.

When I returned to church after my wife’s memorial service, it seemed like a big hurdle to me. As retirees, the church was one of the main places my wife and I met people. Her memorial service was on a Saturday, and I didn’t go to church the next day or for a few weeks. When I did return to church, it was easier than I expected. I don’t remember where I sat or with whom, only that it was easy and comforting to be there again.

When my wife and I had free time, we were usually homebodies. Our professional lives kept us so busy we didn’t have time or inclination to socialize much with other couples. Our social life was mainly through our families, church, and work.

Some married couples are socially involved with other couples, which sometimes changes painfully when one spouse dies. I know several widows who have been hurt and angry when the married couples they had previously enjoyed socially no longer invited them for dinner or travel. Perhaps being widowed seems like a threat to the marriages of the other couples, or maybe the problem is merely having the right number of place settings at the table.

By now, you probably realize there’s no going back to your life as it was when your wife was still alive. You’re in a new life now, on a different journey. Those places that now feel awkward or difficult to visit will take on a different appearance after a time. This part of your life is like going through a passageway: you will come out on the other side.

My wife has been gone ten years, and she’s still with me emotionally and in memories of things we did together. But my life has changed and settled into a few new patterns. As you travel into your new world, you probably will find new friends and new uses for your time. It’s not the life you expected, but it can be a rich, full life. Even your status as a widow-man will open new opportunities for you. Proceed with caution but move into your new life with expectancy.

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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 thewidowman@gmail.com

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