Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 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 double-ass ugly. Comments welcome! Jean

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Entering the Third Year of Widowhood


A year ago when I was at the end of my first year of widowhood and on the threshold of my second I wrote the following words: “I acknowledge, now, that the second year of widowhood is not going to be sunny stroll on other side of a tunnel door that I had imagined. It’s not going to be a tar pit, either, holding me in place. It’s going to be a step by step climb as I rebuild my life and find me again---the woman who is sometimes wise, sometimes silly but always wanting to honor what Don and I had together by striving towards being as upbeat and lacking in self-pity as he was. The first year I just came through, what was that all about? Most widows would answer ‘survival’ and I’d concur.”

Since in my mind I had labeled the second year of widowhood ‘the rebuilding year’ it seems fitting that I should pause as I approach the second sadiversary of Don’s passing to take stock of whether or not I accomplished anything that could be classified as success in rebuilding my life. Honestly, the answer is complicated. On one hand I certainly made (and will continue to make) a valiant effort to network my way into forming new friendships and/or developing a new way of living without Don at my side. I joined the Red Hat Society and the historical society, I started volunteering at the museum and I went into overdrive signing up for events, classes, day trips and lectures at the senior citizen hall. Winter has slowed down that effort but my master plan is still in place waiting to resume with spring. On the other hand as I took part in all those social outings, lectures, and luncheons this past year it felt more like pleasant diversions or busy work than building blocks to a contented and happy life. Where is my niche? I always knew where to find that sweet spot before Don passed away. It got lost and I haven’t found it yet. Oh, well, as I’ve often said since becoming a widow, “Fake it until you can make it!” I know of no other way to change the status quo than to keep working towards that rebuilding goal---any goal that keeps the pity parties away.

Most people would call it ‘major progress’ that in my second year I also didn’t avoid any social situations because I didn’t want to go alone, a first year bury-your-head-in-the-sand commonality amongst widows and I did my share of that in year one. I’ve gotten braver by design and determination. The hardest part, though, is when I have a good time, then come home to realize that I have no one to share my joy or excitement with. Oh, cut the whining, I can almost hear you saying, that’s why personal blogs and diaries were invented. Dear Diary, I’m so proud of myself! Today I actually had a great time at the senior luncheon.

What else can I point to and claim as a second year success as a recovering widow? Somewhere along the line, last year I quite crying over songs on the radio. This was a big issue for me in the first year and part of the second. I couldn’t get in the car and go anywhere without the Prime Country channel making the tears flow and I couldn’t force myself to change the channel either. I suspect I needed the purging of tears mixed with memories that the music brought to the surface so I could get back to enjoying my memories as just good memories minus the pain. Somewhere along last year, I also quit talking to Don’s ghost, a positive thing I’m sure the professionals would say but I still kind of miss feeling his presence in the house. It was oddly comforting. And another mark of a widow moving on? I finally claimed my husband’s La-Z-Boy as my own. (Although the dog still thinks it’s his property and I physically have to evict him from the chair on a daily basis. He’s a stubborn little bugger.)

Former broadcast journalist Jane Pauley was on TV recently talking about her new book, Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life and one statement in particular jumped out to me: “You don’t have to do it right the first time.” She was talking about baby boomers redefining retirement but much of what she was saying in the interview could apply to widows struggling to reinvent our lives. She talked about how it doesn’t have to be a straight line to get to your goal. Okay, point taken, Paula. I need to stop being impatience with myself when the building blocks to my future seem to be taking their sweet ass time coming together. Experimentation is necessary and good when life changes are needed. You really don’t have to get it right the first time. How could I have forgotten that?

It wasn’t necessarily true for me but I understand, now, why so many widows say the second year is harder than the first. At the end of our first year, most of us have accepted our losses and are no longer fighting against them with denial and/or avoidance. The legal and logistical stuff is in place and we say to ourselves, “This is it, this is my life now.” That can be daunting and depressing to know the status quo can’t change unless we put a lot of effort into reinventing ourselves. We need a road map to do that and have discovered that we’re in charge of drawing one for ourselves; no one’s going to do it for us. It’s been called the ‘second year slump’ and from what I’ve read in other widow blogs and have experienced firsthand this winter, it’s real. But when you think about that word---slump---it should give us hope. The widowhood recovery process can’t have a slump without a raising of spirits and/or emotional growth at the end. A slump is a temporary dipping from the trajectory, not a death-spiral nosedive.

Slump or no slump, finding myself is still on my agenda but in my coming third year out from Don’s passing I hope to take the pressure off myself---that almost desperate need to make something change or happen sooner rather than later. “Seek contentment,” yup, I picked the perfect mantra for my 2014 New Year’s Resolution and for my embarkment into my third year of widowhood. I want to learn to enjoy the experimentation without worrying about where it’s leading me. ©

12 comments:

  1. YES!!The feelings I had when I named my blog. I figure if I keep going onward and upward--ever forward, I will be all right. You are a positive person--taking charge of your life. I am the "wait and see" slug. But I am happy and most of the time content. I has occurred to me today that, I find I have more days that I don't think of Fred, then days that I do. It doesn't make me feel guilty--I suppose that in itself, is an accomplishment? Who know? Journey on Dear Friend.........

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  2. Judy, I would count that as a second year accomplishment...not feeling guilty about having days when you don't think of Fred. There are days when I don't think of Don either. I can't say I'm happy, happy but I'm not UNhappy if that makes any sense. I was at a luncheon today and sat next to a four years out widow and she said for her, it didn't all come together until near the end of her third year. She's in the process of building a condo and feels like she's turned a corner on the past.

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  3. Where would I be without your journey? Here on this blog you are so Technicolor, so vivid and 3-D. Jane Pauly has a really good point - how liberating. The only report card we owe anybody is to ourselves, and it needs columns for 'exploration' and 'sidebars'. those journeys we take that don't add up to anything, that don't have to.

    Hugs to you on this second anniversary. I'm so proud to be your online friend.

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  4. Thank you!

    I thought of you this morning when I discovered an art exhibit of a painter named Aleah Chapin. She did a series called 'The Auntie'---nudes of women over 50. I can't get over how spirited and free those models were and now talented Ms. Chapin is. http://www.aleahchapin.com/GalleryMain.asp?GalleryID=113157&AKey=6R4J7T2G

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    1. Wow. Her artwork is amazing - she clearly loves and admires these older women. I love the one she's standing in front of... hmm 'age before beauty'? She is turning the whole idea of beauty on its head!

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    2. When I read about the exhibit I expected it to be depressing...kind of like when you see photos and paintings of homeless people, But the artist really captured their confidence, friendship and spirit. I loved the colors she used!

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  5. Jean :

    I love your blogs reading them is so therapeutic for me, I feel like someone is writing what I felt after my stroke & loss of my job & my identity. & I am sure you will find your contentment back sooner than later since you are not afraid to step out of your comfort zones. you so prove my old peoples theory, you are nothing like some old people who are so set in their way that would not give new thing a try. I am grateful to find you at the right time when I was so ready to jump off the ledge your comments & kindness saved me

    Asha

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  6. This, my dear, is a wonderful post. I'm not a widow, but there's a lot here for me, too. I admire how you've taking the initiative in your own life. As I was reading this, I thought about how much get-up-and-go and guts it takes to put yourself out there, especially after being part of a couple for so many years.

    Love this...
    "the status quo can’t change unless we put a lot of effort into reinventing ourselves."
    Ain't that the truth.

    I saw Jane Pauley, too. She's so positive.

    "Seek Contentment" That's perfect.

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  7. Thanks Asha. I think you saved yourself. We met at a time when you were ready to turn things around and you did all the hard work it takes to do that. I think of the parallels between the losses surrounds having a stroke and widowhood often...both as a caregiver and for people like you and Don. The adjustments to a new life not of your choosing and the mourning of an old life are very much the same and I draw from my own advice and words from those days at SN.

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  8. Thanks Bella. You've had a recent loss with your dad and you were a the long-term caregiver like I was so I know we shared some of the same experiences.

    Isn't Jane Pauley great? I hated it when she went off the air.

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  9. Good for you for working through this slump and putting it into perspective with the "peaks" of this past year. All those activities are wonderful, but they're not the goal; they should be an instrument to contentment. So you can find contentment whether you're rushing all around or getting snowed out of the festivities. This is quite a journey, isn't it?

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    1. It sure is, Fichereader. A certain amount of my winter discontent is just plain old cabin fever and I would have had it even if Don were still here. But elements of the second year slump are present too. Next winter I will be better prepared!

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