WSN: Widow-Man with Dr. Nyle Kardatzke
“Oh! How I hate to get up in the morning!” Irving Berlin
I’m finding now, ten years after my wife’s passing, that I’m having a more challenging time starting my day productively than in my earlier years of widowhood. It’s a lot harder than when I worked full time and got up at 5:30 most mornings for exercise, reading, and prayer. My advancing age must be part of it. The unreal conditions of the COVID-19 crisis and political tumult in 2020 may be taking away some of my reasons for starting early.
Starting the day is a challenge for many men and women after the loss of a spouse. When you awaken in the morning after a night in bed, you may feel shaken when you remember that you are alone. It may take some practice to discover the best way to get yourself out of bed, especially if your wife usually awakened before you.
Just getting up can be a problem. I sometimes pray before even getting out of bed, asking God to guide me and shape my day. That little prayer of humility and dependence on God is sometimes all I can manage. I have found that he does answer that prayer, and he makes my day more effective than it would have been. I give him thanks each morning for the previous day, the life he has given me, and the sleep I had in the night, even if it was imperfect.
If you typically eat breakfast with your wife, you may find it hard to eat breakfast alone. Since she left home early, I usually fixed yogurt and fruit for my wife to take to work with her, and I ate a fried egg on toast while leaning over the kitchen sink. In the years since she died, I usually sit down for breakfast and often eat after 9 a.m. I never eat at 6:30 and dash off to work now.
If breakfast is a problem for you now, one solution may be to find something nourishing you can eat quickly when ready to eat, such as a granola or protein bar with a coffee or orange juice. A high protein shake can reinforce your simplest breakfasts. If you are a bigger breakfast eater and can cook, it is a good idea to continue to have your oatmeal, pancakes, or bacon and eggs and start your day strong. Many men choose to eat breakfast out, even if they are not widow-men. If doing so gets you up and out of the house in a better mood, do it.
If you function well without breakfast, accept that as a gift and start without food.
Healthy morning routines are essential. Exercise in the morning can help your day go better, even if you do only a little. Walking is the ideal exercise, especially if you do nothing else.
Personal care is vital in the mornings, perhaps especially when you don’t feel like it. I shave at least every other day now in retirement, which makes me feel fit and presentable. Don’t let yourself “go to seed.” You will notice it, and so will others. The intentional practice of morning personal care routines will help you start your day well.
As part of my morning routine, I take time to pray, read a chapter in the Bible, and often write in my journal while I have my first cup of coffee. I don’t write in my journal every day, but I do it often enough to follow some of the important threads of my life: my children and grandchildren, other family members, crises in the world, and memories of my wife. It takes only a few minutes to make a journal entry, and it can be as helpful as a conversation with a friend.
Reading something substantial in the morning can strengthen you and prepare you for the day ahead. I suggest you read something of more lasting value than the morning news. Many men find solace in the Psalms or other parts of the Bible. Find something that inspires you and an amount of reading that is natural and helpful for you. Not all of what you read will seem meaningful each day; just keep reading and watching for gems that you will uncover.
You are in a new world now, and your path into each day has changed. Some mornings will be difficult. On other mornings you may feel anticipation and hope about your new life. Build on the good days and remind yourself that the down days are natural and to be expected. Then go and take on the day.
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