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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Widowhood Evaluation Time



Recently I was reading a blog of a woman whose husband died within a few months of mine. I don’t read her much anymore because her plight usually brings me down and that’s sad because we go way back to when we both blogged at a stroke support site. Back in those days our caregiver stories tracked almost the same in terms of the heavy load each we carried and length of time we carried it. Now, she says she misses her husband more, not less than in the beginning of her widowhood journey. She says that everything reminds her of her husband and that makes her feel even lonelier. She’s stuck in grief, she says, and is wondering if she needs counseling.

A person commenting on the post said she is a widow in her seventh year out and she feels the same way, she still cries every day and she’s lost friends because she can’t move on. I have to wonder, though, if after so many years can you still call it grief? Perhaps a different label at that stage of the game would define the problem better and if it were me, I'd start with a lot of blood work to make sure a seven year-long depression doesn't stem from a chemical imbalance. These two widows’ stories make me wish there was a magic pill we could take to make everything okay again. Some would call that an anti-depressant and that may be a necessary tool for some but, in my opinion, after a while most widows need to pull that Band-Aid off and let the healing process happen on its own. Pills and alcohol just postpones the emotions one needs to move through to reach acceptance. At least that’s my layman’s theory.

One thing my friend wrote about I can truly relate to. She said she went from being a caregiver without a moment during the days to waste to being a widow who drifts from day to day wasting a lot of time. It’s a restless feeling to have so much time on your hands and it’s a feeling that still plagues me more often than I’d like. Guilt comes with the idleness. I have chosen to fill much of that time with whatever activities catches my eye in the senior community. Not that my way of coping is any better than anyone else's but we all have needs and I need to talk with someone other than the dog from time to time. Even if it’s mostly the 'shallow acquaintance' talk I find in my travels, there are times when the banner goes to a deeper level and the mystery of when and where that can happen is all I need to keep me going. Sure, I still miss my husband and think of him often. Sure, there are things every single day that remind me of him. But those memory triggers, now, are strangely comforting. They remind me that I was once loved deeply and I was important to the happiness of another person. Not everyone near the end of their life can say that. One thing we can all say, though, and say with conviction is the past is past and we can’t bring it back.

Just suppose we could bring the past back. Would any of us do it if we truly could? If we knew in doing so we couldn’t change a thing that happened back then? Not the outcome. Not the words we said or didn’t say. Not the painful parts as time marched us to the same ending as before. I wouldn’t. I would not want to see my husband go through his stroke again just so I wouldn’t feel lonely or restless now. Nope, once was enough. As I move forward in widowhood I am able to filter out the bad or painful memories of my husband’s and my struggles in his post-stroke world and, for me, that’s a miracle brought to us through gratitude and grace. I may stumble and fall in my pursuit to put meaning back in my life again, but without that goal would any of us get back up again? Some widows apparently can’t. So I raise my glass to toast all of us widow ladies who keep on moving forward! I see you everywhere---on the internet and in my activities here on the home front. We are women and we are strong which reminds me of a conversation I had with my audiologist last week.

She wanted to know if I was dating yet. I laughed and said, “No, way!” Then I got serious and told her that I would never put myself in a position where I might have to be a caregiver again, that I loved Don and didn’t mind doing it for him because we had a long history together of supporting each other through difficult times. I also told her that in my circle of friends from the senior hall there is a running joke that guys in our age bracket are only looking for cooks, house keepers and/or nursemaids. It was her turn to laugh. Then she said if your mom died her father would find another woman right away, that he was so helpless he can’t do anything for himself. Her mother, she said, was tired from doing it all for so many years and the audiologist predicts her mom would be like me and never get remarried. We chatted on for fifteen minutes covering topics like raising boys in her generation versus mine. Just think, that concept of marrying for a cook, house keeper or nursemaid will die out---and good riddance---with the 30-something generation. Young guys, today, can do it all and in my book that’s a good by-product of the Feminism Movement of my generation. Yup, my conversation with the audiologist was one of those light banner things that turned deep and philosophical and I left the place feeling good inside. ©

20 comments:

  1. A very thoughtful post which gave me lots to think about. My husband died 11 months ago and for about six months I was a grief-stricken basket-case, crying every night as I crawled into bed way past midnight, but often unable to sleep even then.
    I, too, had been a caregiver - in my case for the previous four years, and intensely so for the last two of those years. Even so, for the first six months I'd have given anything to have my husband back. I persuaded myself he would not have died if I'd been a better caregiver. He died of pneumonia which he contracted while having a respite stay in a nursing home for a few weeks so I could take a much-needed break. He was there two nights only before being admitted to hospital. So while the family all thought I was some kind of heroine for the care and devotion I provided for years, I felt nothing but guilt and sadness at having taken that break. I was sure that he’d not have died if he’d stayed home with me. But of course, he was deteriorating steadily and it was only a matter of time.

    I don't know when everything turned around for me, but it did. As my emotional wounds healed over, reason seemed to resume its rightful place in my life. Like you, I decided to fill some hours with pastimes - even though at first I was just going through the motions. Now I can hardly relate to the person I was for the first months of widowhood. Oh I still get a little tearful now and then - yesterday, for example, I finally sold the jazzy blue walking-frame that my husband had used in his final years. And as I watched the woman who bought it for her husband walk up my driveway with it, going to her car, I almost raced after her to get it back. I was once again seeing my husband going up that same drive on the walker.

    But in the main, I'm rebuilding my life, devoting more time to enjoying my beautiful little grand-daughter, singing in a community choir, doing French and joining the local garden club. None of this comes close to replacing a loving 35-year partnership with a soul mate. But like you, I am thankful every day that I had the love and devotion of a good man for all those years. And I'm not the least bit interested in trying to replace him. Having learned the difference between romance and a long-term relationship with a like-minded man, I don't feel the least inclined to pursue the former. Nor could I ever take on the role of caregiver again – which means I could never say 'for better or worse', and nothing less than that would appeal to me. My life is definitely not as fulfilling as it once was, but it's still a life. And it's worth living.

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  2. Chartresue, I'm sorry you lost your husband and it sounds like your first 11 months were fairly typical of most of us. And I'm so glad you're making progress in your healing.It takes time and a few ups and downs as you're experiencing. Thankfully, the down times get farther and farther apart.

    I took that caregiver, 'what if' guilt trip too but in time I was able to get off that train. In my case my husband had ingested food into his lungs that got infected causing all kinds of lung problems to develop over the next few months. It's a common way for people with strokes to die. But in my caregiver mind I should have been able to prevent it.

    I love your last paragraph. That is so elegantly written and expresses my thoughts exactly.

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  3. what an amazing insightful post! i hope that i have finally moved on a bit, well i know i have. it was very hard at first but easier now. my days are chock full of fun but some nights are long and lonely. i do date a bit, not often but some and i must say it's wonderful. i have chosen to date someone younger but that's only because that is who i was attracted to, age does not matter to me. there are no guarantees. you could have to look after a younger person, i know a 21 year old that had a stroke. i hope your other blogging buddies find peace and comfort i their lives. i am trying in mine, very hard!

    smiles, and hugs,

    bee
    xoxoxo

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    1. You sure do manage to keep busy, Bee. Being proactive in widowhood is so important, in my opinion, and I know you work very hard at finding peace and comfort. We can't wait for someone else to come along and dig us out of grief.

      Where you live, dating younger guys is probably more common than up here in MI. More power to you if it makes you happy! My older brother found a lady friend and they are very happy with the arrangement. To me, it sounds like too much trouble to open up that whole can of emotions. Maybe in time I will change my mind but I doubt it.. LOL

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  4. I've not gone through any of this. I don't want to either. Hubby and I always say we're going to go together. I like that idea even though it's not very realistic. You and Miss Bee seem to have it together. I do know there are some folks that just live in the past and never move on. They are depressing to be around. I feel for them, but have to remove myself from that depression. Life can be so hard and cruel sometimes.

    Have a blessed day my friend. ☺

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    1. That's always car crashes where you both can go together. LOL

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  5. Lovely post, Jean. My husband and I are still together, married 42 years, and so far in good health. We are grateful and very aware it could all change in an instant. I watched my mom, the stalwart and strong one in our family, sink into depression after my dad died. She heroically tried to move forward but her sadness overwhelmed her at times. Eventually she moved closer to me and my family and did much better with family around and a new home to make her own. Everyone has their own timeframe, their own way of moving forward, and I admire how you have navigated this difficult life transition.

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    1. Moving closer to family is a huge step to make and I'm glad it worked out for your mom. I know I will do that someday, but I'm not ready to move to the sticks just yet. Everyone does have their own time frame for moving forward but it's still way too tempting to compare grieving differences. I'm exhibit A in that crime.

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  6. Really ... sadness and grief (and what if's) never go away. Like you say ... just more up time in between. These days memories of him make me smile, most of the time. I do think counseling would help your friend blogger. It certainly wouldn't hurt! Moving forward!

    I have permanent chemical imbalance in what's left of my brain, so I do still take an antidepressant. I still go through all the same emotions I would typically have ... but my thinking process is clearer and I don't have the hyper emotions. To each her own!

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    1. I have a couple of in-laws with chemical imbalances, too, so I know what you mean about staying on the antidepressants. But for those who don't have that condition, I think the pills can be a prop that gets in the way of healing if a person stays on them too long. I don't know what goes on in grief counseling but I don't see how it can hurt to talk to a professional. That's what they're there for.

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  7. What an insightful post this is. It should be published more widely. I have a very happy life now, but the one thing that occasionally keeps me awake in the middle of the night is the thought of leaving my husband alone or him doing the same to me.

    I know what you mean about feeling at a loss after the one for whom you've been caring dies. Every minute of every day is filled to the brim, and suddenly it stops, and there's plenty of time to waste.

    I've always noticed how men find another wife fairly soon after the death of their wife, but women... not so much. When I was younger and a friend's mother was widowed, she told me, "I don't want another man. I don't want to do all that again. Know what I mean?" Of course, I had no idea what she meant, but I do now.

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    1. If I was more gutsy, I publish this post at my barely-ever-used blog at a support website for widows BUT I don't want to come off sounding critical and hurt anyone's feelings...which why it's here in the first place. LOL But I just had to write it.

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  8. This post is wonderful!!! I can't go to the Widow's website anymore. It seems some of them have made a career of their widowhood--still with the saying Hello to the urn and lighting a candle every morning and then the reverse in the evening--after many years. It creeps me out! I miss my Sweetie too. Today I got mad at him and told him he had a lot of nerve leaving me in this situation! Usually when I think of him, I just smile because I am so grateful that I had 7 really funny and happy years with him.

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    1. I know what you mean about some of those posts creeping you out. I'm not sure if that's quite the word I would use but I know I don't want to be one of those widows who seem to be locked in rituals like that.

      Do you ever get mad at his family the way you did with your husband today? It seems to me they are responsible for the situation your in more than your husband. He couldn't help dying. They made promises to pay for the big funeral they planned that you carry the burden of now. If it were me, I'd be sending them a copy of the funeral bill every year on the anniversary of his death, maybe shame them into keeping their word someday. Brave talk, but I'm not sure I'd actually do it.

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  9. Love this post. I'm a big believer in introspection. Self evaluation is so worth it. It IS scary, and we've been through enough scary experiences, so it's natural to avoid it. There is something emotionally 'stuck' with me. And now I'm seeing a counselor. For me, that is like pinning a bull's eye on my chest that says "Fatally Flawed". How embarrassing!!!

    For me that embarrassment goes back to childhood issues of shame and emotional neglect. Widowhood's a time of 'shame' and emotional neglect, too, and I believe this triggered unresolved childhood grief. Well, I don't want to make peace with so little happiness, so little love.

    We're capable of rich loving experiences, of deeper conversations, of bonding with interesting adults. Scary for me, I have to ch-ch-ch-change, to heal, to reach out to make this happen. I'm lonely and I need you guys.

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    1. What a great self evaluation! I hope your counseling helps you to resolve those childhood issues that are getting in the way of what you want in your present days. You aren't "fatally flawed" though. No one is who wants to work as hard as you do at changing the statuesque.

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  10. Your discussion of remarriage brought back memories of interviews I did with widows 20 years ago as part of a larger research project on the lives of single women. Most of the widows did not want to marry again, although many did want a romantic involvement with a man again. A favorite fantasy was the "separate houses" relationship -- someone you saw regularly, had a sexual relationship with, took vacations with once or twice a year, but who also left and went home leaving the widow with some solitude and independence. -Jean

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    1. I'll bet if those same interviews were done today you'd get the same results.

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    2. Jean: You are so logical and sensible. I am too but you have me beat. As usual, thanks for the wisdom.

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    3. Thank you. I like to think I'm logical. The jury is still out on the sensible part. LOL

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