Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Suck Your Thumb Stage of Grief

They say there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I don’t know where I’m at on that scale. Either I haven’t started the stages yet or I breezed through them because I can accept what’s happened without anger. And there was no bargaining at my husband’s death bed. He was too worn out for bargaining with the gods of fate to keep him any longer. I had him 11+ years longer than I should have and for the most part they were good years in terms of personal growth and bringing laughter and joy into our daily lives. But this time, with his pneumonia and respiratory failure, it was time to say goodbye. If there was a stage of grief called the sit-in-a-corner-and-suck-your-thumb stage that’s where I’d say I’m at right now, 13 days into widowhood.

Today I had on my job list to clear everything out of the bathroom that was Don’s. It took me all morning---including the timeouts to lie on the bed and stare at the ceiling. I ended up saving his Stetson cologne and even dabbed enough on me to smell like I took a bath in the stuff. I couldn’t help it. When I open up the bottle it’s like I’m smelling the essence of his soul. Well, that might be a little melodramatic to claim that, but I think most people will agree that certain scents go with certain people and Don was a Stetson man.

At their website today I learned that Stetson is a name that “embodies the authentic heritage and spirit of the American West. It’s individuality that can never be tamed or fenced in. Authentic style that telegraphs who you are without saying a word. And confidence that comes from knowing there's nothing you can't handle. Stetson Cologne," the website said, "carries on this legacy with fragrances for men and women that represent the pride, passion, and confidence of the pioneers. See, the real, true West," they claim, "isn't a place at all. It's a state of mind.” Wow! All that in a little bottle of spicy, gold liquid. But you know what? Don was authentic and confident, full of passion and a rugged individualist. And, oh, did he love the West! How ever he found the cologne many years ago, he definitely fit the stereotype Stetson wants their product to project.

I can’t say much for the taste of Stetson, though, which leads me to my little tip to other widows: always wash your hands after taking a bath in your husband’s cologne. You never know when you’ll be inclined to sit in the corner and suck your thumb. ©

4 comments:

  1. I thought I had written a longish comment on your first post in this new blog, but in fact it never materialised. I must have pushed the wrong button when trying to 'send'. I think what I told you was that I am thinking of you and your grief. And with my husband, who has advanced primary progressive aphasia, currently in hospital suffering from pneumonia, I feel a lot of affinity for your plight. In our case, his aphasia is developing into a mild sort of dementia -- well, mild at some times and quite severe at other times. I have felt such a sense of loss for such a long time, that I've always thought that the ultimate loss, when it eventually comes as it probably will, may not be quite as bad as the normal grief associated with death. But just from this agonising week of waiting and watching by his bedside to see if the drugs will be able to help him, I now know that this is not so. In no way will my life be better when he's not a part of it. Friends and family often suggest gently that I might like to consider putting Allen into a nursing home. And I am both appalled and amazed by that suggestion. Even in a state of mild dementia, my husband remains my best friend and a wonderful companion. Life as a carer is certainly not easy at times, but we are still life partners and I love having him around, no matter how 'out of it' he sometimes may seem to be. And I know from his responses to me that he certainly feels much happier and more secure with me than anywhere else. But you are now at the stage of moving on. And as you do that, you can rest assured you made those last years of Don's life something quite wonderful, and without you that time would certainly have been bleak for him.

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  2. Thank you so much for the reply. I will keep you and your husband in my thoughts and prayers while he's in the hospital. I don't think others can truly understand why caregivers to a spouse with severe aphasia can feel such a strong sense of responsibility beyond the norm in caregiver circles. We are, after all, our loved ones only voice in a world lost to them.

    Stay strong!

    Jean

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  3. Oh yes, that is so true. My husband moved to a rehab hospital today, and though it's a lovely small facility with a great staff, and one we know well from his several periods there as both in-patient and day-patient, even so I hated leaving him there, alone in his bed when I left after helping him with his supper. I know only too well how lost he will feel as he tries to understand what's happening around him, and how he may wake up confused and frightened by the new surroundings. And he's now in a standard 2-bed room without the nursing attention he received in the previous hospital's special 4-bed ward for patients with cognitive and dementia issues - with a permanent nurse in the room at all times to help these special patients. But here, he will probably not even remember what button he has to push to call a nurse. And yet well-meaning friends say to me: Oh, you can have a little rest now that your husband's being cared for in hospital. But in fact, I'm only truly at ease when my husband is here at home with me, so I know he's safe and feels secure. When I walked into his hospital room this morning, my husband looked up and gave me such a wonderful smile, then opened his arms and managed to say: "You are wonderful; you are truly amazing." Then he hugged me and nearly cried. He is my husband, but he is also becoming my child. And it's as you said so well: the world, or much of it, is lost to him. But I know I can help him to still feel comfortable in it.

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  4. Moving to a rehab hospital...that sounds like good progress with treating his pneumonia. What a wonderful way to be greeted when you got to his room. It's moments like that that make caring for someone with aphasia so rewarding because we know it wasn't an easily said, throw-away line.

    But in a standard hospital room I understand why you'd want to and need to be there as much as possible, to make things easier for him and the staff. The analogy that he's become your child is something I can identify with as well. My husband could only talk in mostly nouns and not always the right noun for what he wanted to say. You get very protective and want people to find the same, caring person underneath the language disorder that you see. Not to mention the frustration you can save your husband by being his voice. Forget the words of well-meaning friends. With luck they will never be in a position to understand first-hand.





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