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, July 2, 2013

Four Widows and a Block of Cheese


This past weekend I went out of town to a 50th anniversary party for one of my cousin’s. It was a happy event for a wonderful, giving and kind couple who has contributed nothing but goodness to the world. I was in her bridal party and it’s a telling statement regarding the disproportion of women to men in my age bracket that when we lined up for the reenactment photos all four of us bridesmaids were still alive but only one of the groomsman was still kicking around. But what I found fascinating was, quite by accident, I ended up sitting next to a stranger who’d been widowed within a few weeks of me and for most of our adult lives we lived within three blocks of each other. What are the odds of this chance meeting three hours out of town? I only knew three people at this event---the celebrating couple and the bride’s brother---but I didn’t feel out of place or lonely. Like magnets coming together two widows found each other and the common threads running through our lives.

Then the next day I went to a baby shower and was talking to yet another widow---this one is under 35 with young three children. Her husband died from an overdose of prescription drugs just a few months after my husband died. She looked much happier than when I saw her at Easter and her future looks bright. She’d moved closer to her core family, got a new job and a new boyfriend that she says is a serious relationship, and her kids are settling nicely into a new routine. I hope she takes it slow with the new guy but then again, why wait if you’re lucky enough to get a second chance at love? The past is past and we can’t have it back. Speaking of luck, both the young widow and I won good luck bamboo plants playing baby bingo. How cool is that?

Have you ever heard of the book, Who Moved My Cheese? I picked up a copy at the senior center for a quarter but I’d read about it on the internet back when I was looking for grief support related stuff. The book is used by a lot of corporations that are trying to motivate their employees not to resist change. It’s a short parable featuring two humans (Hem and Haw) and two mice (Sniff and Scurry) who all lived in a cheese station connected to a maze. When their cheese came up missing the mice quickly scurried off through the maze to look for more while the humans grew hungry and depressed mourning the loss of their cheese. They were afraid to go back out into the maze---they’d been in the cheese station happy and content for a long time---so they kept waiting for someone to bring their cheese back. They even grew angry at the unfairness of having what they valued taken away. Yadda, yadda, yadda---you get the picture and I think most of us widows can see how this parable could be applied to the grieving process. The block of cheese in the story is, of course, a metaphor for what we want to have in our lives.

Sniff in the parable represents the kind of attitude that some of us have regarding unwanted changes our lives, those who see the changes coming before they get here and are prepared when it happens. Scurry represents the kind of person who didn’t see change coming but springs quickly into action when it comes along. Haw represents the kind of person who takes a long time to read the hand writing on the wall, is slow and scared to move foreword but eventually does adjust to change. Hem, represents the kind of person who stays rooted in denial and is left behind in misery. The lesson of the parable is that we humans over complicate things. Life is constantly changing. We need to change with it.

Which of the four characters in the parable do you most closely identify with? In widowhood I am a Sniff. In the back of my mind I always knew my disabled husband could die before me so I was more prepared than the young widow at the shower who lost her husband unexpectedly. She would be more like Sniff. She has  worked hard to pick up the pieces and is moving forward at a rapid pace. The widow at the anniversary party was a Haw---afraid and paralyzed in her grief early on but has since found a way to plot forward. All three of us are hopeful that at some point we’ll be able to savor the adventure of finding and tasting new cheese. And the forth widow, the one most like Hem? I didn’t see her over the weekend because she’s been sitting at home all alone, out of sight and waiting for her old cheese to magically reappear. ©


“When you move beyond your fear, you feel free.”
“The quicker you let go of your old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese.”
“It is safer to search in the maze than to remain in a cheeseless situation.”

Spencer Johnson, M.D. author of Who Moved my Cheese?

6 comments:

  1. I am a Scurry. I feel so sorry for the Hem's. They probably will never have anymore cheese and that is a very poor diet.

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  2. This is apt because my teenager ate a whole block of cheese yesterday. I'm on my way to buy another, because when the teenager is fed, everyone is happier.

    You know so many widows, Jean!

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  3. Part of knowing a lot of widows is because of my age bracket but I was thinking on the way home from the anniversary party that we could all be moving around in public without really knowing what we have in common with others if we don't make an effort to make conversation with strangers. When we make the effort it could have the power to make us feel less alone in the world...at least that's the theory I'm working on at this moment.

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  4. Others may have me pegged as Scurry, since I'm up and at it when the cheese vanishes. But deeper down, in my spirit, ties remain. I count this loyalty as good.

    I've had two whooping losses in my life. Each time I've needed 5-7 years to fully accept the fact that the feast has moved.

    --- Haw, thoughtful and thinner

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  5. I wonder if very many of us present ourselves to the world the way we really are/feel inside. We do what is expected of us---which is good in many ways, at least we're moving forward even if our hearts and minds aren't what is motivating us. As we've all heard in grief support groups fake it until you make it.

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