FROM ONE WIDOW TO ANOTHER

A widow may be what we are, but it is not who we are.

FACT: There are more than 100,000 widowed people in Oklahoma; 800,000 people become widowed each year in the U.S.

Many friends and family say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.” In shock, struggling with deep grief and overpowering waves of loneliness and confusion, leaving us unable to think clearly we don’t know what  we need.

Friends stopped trying to reach us when we didn’t answer the phone, not realizing that Iwas in the middle of a crying jag and simply could not talk. When I didn’t return calls because I did not feel like talking friends and family assumed  they must be bothering me, so gave up trying to stay in touch. When the cards and the phone calls stop and offers of help become few and far between, I wondered if I said or did something wrong.

Friends who have never lost a loved one may avoid us widows.  It isn’t that they don’t care. They simply may have no idea what to do or say  to someone  who is grieving. They are terrified of making us cry by saying the wrong thing or mentioning our husband. Yet, I want  to hear people mention him; to know that they remember him and that he hasn’t been forgotten.

A chance encounter at the grocery store, we both feel awkward. I force a fake smile, decline offers of help reassuring them that I am doing just fine and keep the pain  inside. Taking me at my word it is assumed that I am doing well  and don’t need help. (THEREIN LIES THE PROBLEM!) 

Believing I must be strong so others aren’t forced to see my pain and sorrow and pity me, I put  on a big act to appear normal. I stay  so busy to fill the void, that people around me are convinced that I am doing well. My smile further convinces everyone that I am ok. However, when I am alone, I am often in a heap on the floor sobbing. Only another widow would know the truth and realize the excruciating pain I am in. I can’t even clean my house or cook.  Every day is a struggle. Yet I don’t want to be a burden or whine or complain or have anyone know that I still continue to grieve. I don’t want to appear weak.

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We must be honest and clear about what it is that we need when someone offers to help. Well-meaning family and friends who truly want to help aren’t mind readers. If we insist that we are “fine” they  may feel that we really are ok. This may leave us feeling irritated that “nobody helps”.  If complete strangers or the widowed clerk at the grocery store  seem  more concerned than  friends and family, it may be that being less than honest about ones needs makes everyone believe that we are alright.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF GRIEVING: Many  widows don’t understand the importance of grieving. Grief is a wound that needs attention in order to heal.  Attempting to avoid it only makes it worse. Unexpressed grief lasts indefinitely and will blindside us at moments when we least expect it, taking us on an emotional  roller coaster. After the loss of a beloved family member some who have not allowed themselves to properly grieve suffer ever after. Suppressing emotion can have long term, destructive consequences  manifesting as physical symptoms.

Once we decide to face those  painful feelings openly and honestly, for however long it takes for the wound to heal, the raw, all-consuming shock and intensity of grief will soften.Gradually, at our own pace, we find that we are  slipping back into the routines of daily life. It is important to remember that all the unbearable feelings of pain and fears, of being unable to function any more, are normal.

ANSWERS ABOUT GRIEF

HOW LONG DOES ONE GRIEVE? While there can be pressure, often from well-meaning family and friends, to attain “closure” by the time a year has passed the truth is that grief doesn’t necessarily conclude at the end of one year.  Dr. Anthony Komaroff, Harvard Medical School responded that even after 51 years the anniversary of his dad’s death is a sad day.

GRIEF, WHICH DIFFERS GREATLY FROM ONE PERSON TO ANOTHER, IS A PERSONAL PROCESS. Everyone grieves differently; coping, adjusting and healing in their own way, on their own timetable. No one should tell you how you should feel or act after your loved one has passed. There is not one “right” way to do it, nor such thing as a timeline.

Give yourself permission to grieve. Don’t push yourself. Take all the time you need, however long it takes for the wound to heal. Listen to your heart. Don’t try to be brave and strong. Don’t be something you’re not ready to be. Cry when and where you need to. Be patient with yourself.

The length of time the loved one has been gone does not make a difference in the grieving process; grief takes it’s own time. Perhaps if people were not made to feel they had to get over it, life might be easier on them. The only people who think there’s a time limit for grief have never lost a piece of their heart.

The more important someone was to your life, the more opportunities there are for both happy and sad reminders. A familiar scent, song or likeness may trigger feelings of grief. Remember this is entirely normal.

Love is stronger than death so you will always have that special place in your heart and never forget about you loved one, even as you begin to enjoy new things that make you happy.

Welcome comfort wherever you find it, but most of all take good care of yourself. And if you need a break from grieving, that’s OK, too.

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” ~Washington Irving.

 We grieve with hope  (I Thess 4:13-18)

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 ARE YOU FORGETTING THINGS? DOES YOUR MEMORY SEEM BAD?

Don’t worry about it. During a stressful event, such as grief, catecholamines suppress activity in areas at the front of the brain concerned with short-term memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought. (Simply put: our brain protects us by affecting our memory when life is overwhelming or too painful. You may find that you don’t have the ability to handle difficult tasks during that time. In great pain and feeling deep loss and sorrow you  cannot comprehend or think as clearly as you normally could, yet, you are  immediately called upon to start making important decisions.)

Left alone to grapple with financial and legal questions you now have the worry of getting rid of all of the things they collected over the years. Where and how does she start to get rid of it all? There is much needing to be handled in a very short period of a time.

Not thinking clearly your decisions can be very flawed and based on just getting past the loss. Making major life decisions or missteps, while in shock, can prove complicated or perhaps impossible to undo years down the road.

You may feel  lost, alone and worn out. Fatigue, anxiety, and stress can affect your health. Physical illness can also affect your memory.

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DEPRESSION, COMMON IN WIDOWS, IS A NORMAL AND APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO THE LOSS OF A LOVED ONE.

To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. Grief is a process of healing and depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way  While depression feels as though it will last forever it’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness.. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone.

Overcoming Depression: Research has shown us that while exercise is the last thing a depressed person wants to do physical activity is a powerful tool in treating depression.  Getting the body moving helps boost the recovery process because exercise  helps by releasing mood-elevating hormones. These hormones relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being to lift spirits. A simple walk, a bike ride, yoga or a harder workout can ease agitation, anger and depression. 

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ANGER IS A NECESSARY STAGE OF THE HEALING PROCESS

At first, grief feels like being lost, with no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone and your anger has no limits. Quite often family and close friends become a convenient target. We may turn our rage toward someone we love because they don’t understand the true pain and loneliness or see exactly what we need help with or they don’t behave the way we expect.

We may come to resent the ones who step up to help during the period of time when we aren’t thinking clearly. While still in our foggy state of mind we assume they are being pushy and focus our anger on them.

The anger can extend past family and friends, to the doctors, inanimate objects, and complete strangers.  We may be angry with ourselves that we could not save him.  Anger, which is tied so closely with grief, may even be directed at our loved one who died, when rationally we know the person is not to be blamed. Emotionally, however, we may resent the person for causing us pain or for leaving us. We feel guilty for being angry, and this makes us more angry.  We may even be angry at God.

Suddenly we have a structure with our anger toward someone else. The anger becomes a bridge; a connection from us to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing. We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. Anger is just another indication of the intensity of our love. http://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief

Caring family and friends may amaze you and at times even annoy you. The important thing to remember is that they cared enough to help. Hold tightly to them.
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ONLY ANOTHER WIDOW WOULD UNDERSTAND 

It is impossible for anyone, including a therapist, to understand what we are going through or how to respond unless they personally have experienced the death of a spouse.. When it is difficult to put into words another widow understands. Someone who has been through it, and known the absolute depth of despair, can provide comfort and hope, by assuring the widow that what she is feeling is normal. No amount of therapy is going to be enough unless a widow has other widows to talk to.

“SMALL GROUPS” OF KINDRED SPIRITS

Whatever we say, in a small group of widows, somebody has experienced something like it and that helps us to feel safe. We can talk honestly about everything, confiding our true feelings and thoughts we won’t share with others. We cry as we share tears when talking of the unrealized hopes, dreams and expectations for the future and now the journey through life after death of a spouse.

Amazing conversations happen and a lot of healing takes place when we connect with other widows. We become each others mentors and good friends as we share  advice, confusion, pain, sadness, anger, friendship, hopes,  suggestions, family happiness, love, laughter dreams and a deepening faith.   “Small groups” are volunteer driven; minimum time is required from pastoral leadership.

HELPING OTHERS HELPS US

We learn from those who have been down a similar path of loss and grief that our feelings are normal and that we are not going “crazy”. Although we all have different stories and a different journey we all have one thing in common. While circumstances may be different, the feelings aren’t and we find that by helping others we are helped with our own healing.

Viktor Frankl, in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”,  says that if you cannot escape suffering, dedicate yourself to a cause, a person, or a goal.Living to help others gives meaning to our suffering. God will provide the strength to help others.

We’d love to hear your comments that can help other widowed folks.

Click to see all on this site about widows

WILL YOU SPEAK UP FOR THE WIDOWED?

 Purple heart Facebook: A Heart for the Widowed

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This entry was posted in A heart for the widowed, Inspiration, Oklahomans helping Oklahomans, Senior Citizens, stress, Tulsa, Widow, Widowed, Widower, Widows and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to FROM ONE WIDOW TO ANOTHER

  1. Alice says:

    There is a place you have to find for yourself that no one else can go
    to with you. It’s a place where you have to sort through the sorrow and
    pain and find some peace and comfort for yourself. No one can give you
    this. It is a lonely place but somewhere you can gnash your teeth,
    shake your fist, and cry out why.

    It’s a place where you have to find that starting place of being just
    one – not a married couple anymore, not having a partner to share your
    life, or not being a caregiver who has set yourself so completely you
    aren’t even sure of your purpose anymore.

    I can sit here now after almost five years and see where for my husband
    “going home” was a release from all the pain and sickness. It’s a
    place where he is with others who have gone before and he is bathing in
    God’s light for eternity. What doesn’t happen is in even knowing this –
    the pain of separation is palpable and overwhelming. For me – I lost
    him yesterday – even now. Moreover I miss him no less and love him no
    less.

    For me I had to find that starting place where I would move forward not
    just for myself but for him too. I go on for both of us. Daily in my
    walk I try to carry with me lessons I learned from his illness and
    taking care of him for 3 years before he passed. They were lessons in
    priorities, strength, compassion, and love. When he died I believe I
    loved him more than ever and perhaps that’s why I was able to let go of
    him and tell him it was okay to go on. I think I finally was able to
    put my selfishness aside of trying to keep him with me and love him
    enough to release him.

    In the case of my husband and myself we had gone through horrendous life
    changing events just prior to him becoming ill. Together we were
    dealing with all of that and then his illness. There was so much chaos
    in our lives that his illness only compounded the difficulties we were
    facing. This was the worst part for my husband not his illness
    but the fact that he wasn’t able to help me cope with all the trials and
    tribulations happening in our lives.

    Life changes on a dime. Don’t let anyone tell you how long this will
    take to deal with your anguish. It is different for everyone. I don’t
    think you get over it – you just reach the point of acceptance.

  2. Pingback: Starving Widows in Oklahoma! | Tulsage.com

  3. Pingback: A Simple Act That Can Touch a Widow’s Heart | Tulsage.com

  4. Dawn says:

    A few more links on this blog that might help: https://tulsage.wordpress.com/widows-and-widowers/.

  5. Jay says:

    1.) need a way to connect widows so they will want to be involved. Many refuse to go to a “support” group. They need widow to widow. (Men are asking for widower to widower.) A Valentines banquet is a great way to start.
    2.) Share with them about the memory is affected after the death of a loved one as a way to reassure her you have other things to help. This is something that worries a widow.While it is normal her doctor will put her on anti-depressants, which makes it worse.
    3.) they need other widows who will listen
    4.) the loss of friends remember them and remember their husband
    5.) need help with how to do things that husband always took care of .

    You ask a widow what is hard for the and they will not tell you . Put them in a group of 3-5 other widows an they’ll talk and be relieved they aren’t the only ones dealing with loneliness, depression, grief that goes on for years when other think they should be over it. Some say the second yr is the hardest. Non-widows may talk about closure but ther is no closure. If there were they would not care.

    • Ellie says:

      To be healthy – laugh more and get sleep. Laughter can reduce stress, improve immune system, even relieve pain. (laughter yoga.org) laughter clubs . Laughter is a way of coping and dealing with difficult situations. It has real benefits on a clinical level.

  6. Carolyn says:

    A marriage divinely inspired…

    When her husband died of cancer in 1979 after years of illness, Marjorie Holmes, a tractor salesman’s daughter from Storm Lake, Iowa became the widowof a top executive with the Carrier Corporation after 47 years of marriage. She imagined she would soon be back in circulation but was not above asking for help. “Each day,” she reports, “I would stand on my terrace and say, ‘Please God, send me a wonderful man.’ ”
    New Year’s Eve 1980 Marjorie, then 70 found herself sitting alone in her Manassas, Va., home, writing down the qualities of her ideal man.He would be healthy and devout,successful, intelligent, well-read—a man who liked to talk and to listen. He would be sexy, ardent and—well, why not?—her dream man would love to dance.

    On the same evening, some 300 miles north, Dr. George Schmieler, 71 alone in his Pittsburgh bedroom, aching with despair over the loss of his wife six months earlier, sorted through her knitting. Beneath an unfinished afghan, he discovered a book his wife had been reading, I’ve Got to Talk to Somebody, God by Marjorie Holmes. The author’s comforting words were a balm to his broken heart.

    Six weeks later he traced Holmes through relatives, called her unlisted number She agreed to meet him. “I didn’t know what to expect,” says Holmes. a striking six-footer who turned out to be devout, healthy, successful, intelligent, sexy, ardent, nimble in the art of conversation and an apprentice Astaire on the dance floor….and who had a rich and pleasant voice.

    The night they met, he thought she was “pretty cute”.” She wasn’t wild about his gray Vandyke beard, but during a quiet dinner she began to realize, when he sang to her, that here was a most unusual and uninhibited man. When he had taken her home, he opened pulled out a collection of family pictures, explaining that he had been a faithful husband for 44 years.

    Schmieler persisted, surprising her four weeks later with an armful of roses and sweeping her off to the Maryland seashore for a romantic vacation. She realized “he was an honorable man, and I was very much in love.” They married on the Fourth of July, nineteen weeks after they met. “We are convinced that this was the work of God,” says Holmes. “We’re two people who were absolutely right for one another, brought together under unusual circumstances.”

    Epilogue: In March 1984 Guideposts published a story entitled Widow and Widower. Elizabeth J. Haile of Fern Park, Florida said following Marjorie’s example wrote a list. Almost within days she had a delightful evening with someone from her church congregation and before the week was out they were discussing marriage.

  7. J.B. says:

    Everyone has problems and learning to share them is essential. Hiding pain requires an enormous amount of energy; sharing it is liberating. ~ Carly Simon

    Talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems.

    We may have this great loss, but we can always reach out to each other in love, understanding and compassion. ~ From Beyond The Tears Guideposts Magazine January 2015 By Melissa D’Arabian, as told to Celeste McCauley, Senior Editor.

  8. Paula says:

    Board certified in internal medicine, geriatrics and hospice and palliative care Dr. Chandini Sharma said in a recent article:

    When people who successfully lived their lives into their 90s and 100s were asked what was the secret to healthy aging, most share the same truisms: They somehow learned how to manage their stress well. They either had a strong sense of family or had a strong circle of friends, or both, with whom they were able to unwind and shed their worries of the day.

    Many worked well past their retirement age. Work, when not stressful, is a key element of engagement. It can be for income or voluntary. It makes you get up and look forward to something in the day. That is a “must have” in the story of every centenarian. Everyone needs a purpose to get up in the morning. To be one to say, “Thank God it’s morning,” rather than, “Oh God, it’s morning.”

    Being engaged with the family or community (religious, spiritual, friends, neighborhood or volunteer organizations) is cardinal. It eliminates social isolation, the root cause of multitudes of ailments.
    Knowing that there is always someone there for you in the time of need — was a stress-shedding security. This sense of belonging and sense of being needed is far more important to healthy aging than getting regular medical checkups.

    Certain lifestyles lead to longevity more than individual habits. Such as:
    • Incorporating walking into a lifestyle rather than doing exercise certain times a week goes a long way and would be more sustainable, and is inexpensive.
    •A sense of humor also goes a long way. Most centenarians who age well have a great sense of humor and are able to laugh at life’s idiosyncrasies, rather than feel impaled by them.
    •We are what we eat. Centenarians exemplify that clearly. They were brought up in an era of no processed food, and most ate out of their gardens.

    • Brenda says:

      Getting involved! Putting effort into things makes you love them https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkaWYKlnli0

      Why should they just sit in their home…most people keep to themselves and didn’t know much about their neighbors so a monthly get-together, inviting residents for tea and homemade desserts. One by one they would go around the circle and share a fun fact about themselves as an icebreaker, or in case they are shy have them write it on their name tag and let them just walk around an visit. Share special interest, trips they had taken, former careers, where they lived in the past, hobbies, etc.
      Give out birthday cards, anniversary cards…(people might donate birthday and anniversary cards they bought and never sent)

      How about widows making a book for children who are “aging out” of foster care and have never had anyone teach them the basics of running a home— some of us got in high school or by having a mom who taught us. (How to fold fitted sheets, how to make a bed, how to read a measuring cup, do a budget, etc) The book could be put on a blog, as young people will read a blog (they all have smartphones) and with a blog you can keep adding to it as people come up with more ideas. It could be linked to youtube videos to help. This might be a project for an Eagle Scout to take on-to set it up on a blog

      Struggles can be our greatest blessings. What I do today is important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it. Sometimes the things that hurt us are the things that make us. Don’t ask anyone to do something that you haven’t done yourself. Why would anyone be willing to invest in you if us aren’t willing to invest in ourselves?

      Learn all you can by doing things yourself .People learn new things every day. Trying something new and different is the best way to add enthusiasm and years to your life. Adult education classes-youtube, college degrees in their 80s. Check out these three to get info on going back to school. Some are free!

      https://tulsage.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/world-class-universities-colleges-offer-free-courses

      https://tulsage.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/education-and-schools-for-seniors-1012

      https://tulsage.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/baby-boomers-going-back-to-school

  9. T.D. says:

    Do not choose to sit down and grow old in the shadows.

    Gratitude helps us to see what is there, instead of what isn’t.

  10. Terrill says:

    Many couples split responsibilities, with only one of them managing the money. That’s a mistake, because if the money-managing one dies (as often happens, because men generally handle finances and also have shorter life spans than women), the survivor may suddenly be struggling to learn where all the money is and how to manage it. Couples are best off when both parties know what’s going on with their finances and make decisions jointly. ~ http://staugustine.com/news/business/2016-07-01/motley-fool-july-2#

  11. Bart says:

    It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. -Chuck Palahniuk, novelist

  12. Tristan says:

    This should be the motto of every follower of Jesus Christ: Never stop praying, no matter how dark and hopeless it may seem. -Billy Graham

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