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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Widow's Christmas Letter


In my family I have a bit of a reputation for writing self-deprecating Christmas letters. It started on a whim a dozen years ago after I had gotten a holiday letter from an acquaintance who had listed month after month of things like: “In January we spent several glorious weeks on the French Riviera where we ____.” (Fill in the blank and let your imagination run wild when you do. She claimed to have done just about everything a tourist could do and then some.) By the time I got to December my eyes were crossed from reading about her “fabulous” travel adventures, her “fabulous” new house and her “fabulous” fashion finds. I can’t say I was jealous---that’s not in my nature---but I did find the comparison between her life and my newly acquired caregiver life to be laugh-out-loud funny. So I sat down and dashed off a letter that went something like this: In January we were pleased to host a gathering of red cardinals at our bird feeder and in February we were SO excited that we were able to get the oil changed on the Blazer then dine across the street at Burger King.

I sent off copies of that letter to a few people in the family who I knew had a good sense of humor and thus my annual holiday letter was born. My mailing list, since then, has grown every year and I didn’t even miss last year, my first Christmas without Don. I duped that letter’s theme to be: "sharing what I’d learned about widowhood." I won’t reprint the whole thing here but the next paragraph will give you an idea its tone:

“I’ve also learned that many widows have an overwhelming need to review their entire relationship with their dearly departed and to talk endlessly about their suddenly single challenges. And since so many people around us get alarmed (or bored) when we appear to be locked in the past and/or locked in the process of grieving, we either start bottling our words up inside or we talk to ourselves or we write. I did the latter and started an online, public blog/diary titled The Misadventures of Widowhood. Okay, correction aka confession here. If total honesty is required in Christmas letters---and I think it is, Christmas being a holy holiday and all---I’ll have to admit that I also spend a great deal of time talking to myself, to the dog…and to Don’s ghost. Yes, call me a crazy old lady but I do think he’s haunting the house. How else do you explain things like a battery operated candle that sometimes turns itself on and, no, it doesn’t have a sensor eye to activate it. I’ve looked for one a half a dozen times. Maybe a vibration from a truck going by causes the battery and bulb to make contact? I don’t know but why accept logical explanations when ghost guessing is more fun?”

Back to 2013. For contrast and tracking widowhood progress, here’s a short excerpt from the letter I mailed out a few days ago with my Christmas cards, my second holiday season without Don in my life:

“Summer put me in overdrive trying to find a social life that didn’t involve coupon clipping and double checking the thread count in my bed sheets. I went on several day trips through the senior hall where no one really cares where we’re going so long as the bus has an on-board bathroom. I joined the Red Hat Society, the Sculpture Park and Gardens, the Historical Society, several senior hall groups including the Movie and Lunch Club, the Life Enrichment Lecture series and their monthly luncheon/entertainment programs, plus I joined the Crusade Against Injustice for Fruit Flies.”

Christmas letters are a little like "literary fruitcakes." They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea---to write or receive. I don’t blame any first year widow who doesn’t want to send out cards, let alone include notes or letters inside. You have to be true to yourself. If you can’t do it, don’t. But I’m a letter writer by nature and last year I felt like doing a little sneaky educating about the grieving process---at least about MY grieving process. And you know what, I think it made a difference to let my family and friends know that it was perfectly okay to mention Don around me, that I actually craved those conversations. Over this past year, no one treated the topic of Don like an elephant in the room nor did they look at me cross-eyed or with pity if I brought him up like so many other widows report happens to them. And that was a wonderful gift I accidentally gave myself via the power of a widow's Christmas letter. ©

11 comments:

  1. Very cool. I always send a Christmas letter, but only to people I rarely see. Last year I sent nothing--no cards--no letters. I was overcome with Fred's death and two best friends death and usually my letters are humorous--I just couldn't find it last year. This year was better though and so is my letter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sounds like you're making progress too, Judy, since last year. I'd be seriously shocked if anyone actually expects a first year widow to write cards or letters.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah ha! I'm actually putting one together ... although it will be a New Year's card (or maybe Valentines). I've always enjoyed it in the past and writing the blog/diary, I think I can use some photos and a few words without sounding tooooooo melancholy. Stay tuned, though!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good luck with that AW. In past years I've always liked the idea of a New Years card/letter better than a Christmas card/letter but I only did it one time.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've received a couple of Christmas letters, but I've never written one. The ones I've received were as you described, info about their travels, the accomplishments of the kids, etc. I like the idea of writing one with a humorous slant.

    ReplyDelete
  6. There's a lot of resources about writing Christmas letters on the internet, Bella, if you or anyone else wants to try writing one. I review my day planner before I start just to see what jumps out to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I did Christmas letter, I always included significant world or national events. Interesting perspective on the past year!

      Delete
    2. I have a relative who does that, AW. I like all Christmas letters and I would have especially liked yours. I love your blog, by the way.

      Delete
  7. Sounds like a gift that keeps on giving. Very clever of you! And so glad to hear it's so healing.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh, yes. I remember this. Now you have me thinking about it, but I fear that I'd enjoy writing it more than my peeps would enjoy receiving it. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every year I get out my old letters and review them before starting my new holiday letter. I keep worrying I'll repeat myself.

      Delete