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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Morning: Third Christmas Without my Husband


Days before my first Christmas without Don I wrote a post titled Where Have you Gone, Christmas? and it started like this: “In a year of firsts for widows, probably the hardest first is not the same one across the board. Some might say their wedding anniversary; others might say the birthday that can no longer add a number to an age, still others would name Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Eve. For all widows the holiday season, as a whole, is full of painful reminders of long standing family traditions that can never be the same again. Each holiday song heard in a store, each light on a neighbor’s house, each card in the mail screams, 'He’s gone, he’s gone!' Happiness is all around us and even the friendliest festivities only magnifies our loneliness. We are alone even in a crowd. But in the wake of what happened recently in Newtown, Connecticut, my loneliness at Christmas time pales and it almost makes me ashamed to even be writing about it. But I write when I have things on my mind. I can’t help myself.”

So here I am, two years later knowing that I’d be less dramatic should I be asked to describe widowhood grief at this point in my journey. Christmas cards don’t screaming at me anymore. The neighbor’s holiday lights don’t annoying me. I can sing along with Christmas carols coming from the car radio. And even though I got blindsided with tears at the senior hall Spirit celebration, it’s been a pretty good holiday season so far. But---and this is a BIG but---the Newtown parents of the shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary are weighing heavy on my mind once again. Why? I keep wondering how much of a setback in their healing process they’re enduring because of the school shootings in Pakistan last week where 132 kids and ten teachers died in a horrific massacre. 

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Everything is relative, isn’t it, when talking about the human condition. We all differ in our feelings, with no universal truth or validity to back them up. My mom was good at drilling that concept into me at an early age. “You think you have it bad,” she might have said if I complained about doing a chore, “kids on the other side of world carry water for their families from wells a mile away.” “Eat your carrots! Children in China are starving to death.” As an adult I can say to myself: You think your widow’s grief is bad, try being a parent of a child killed in a mass shooting. Everything IS relative when we allow ourselves to see own circumstances compared to those less fortunate than we are. There are always people who are lower down on the chain of human suffering and I am grateful I am able to see that. Thanks, Mom. Thanks Oprah. Gratitude. Jeez, do all roads lead back to those two? That’s a joke only fans of Motherhood Guilt and Oprah will likely get. 

I ended the 2012 post quoted above like this: “And how will I survive my first Christmas alone in the shadow of what happened in Newtown? I will watch Miracle on 34th Street, bake myself some bacon wrapped chicken and be profoundly grateful I got 42 years with my husband. I will also shed a few tears for the parents in Connecticut and everywhere else on earth who will never get to see their precious children grow up.” This year all I’d have to do is change the words ‘bacon wrapped chicken’ to ‘turkey legs’ and I could almost write the same ending word for word for this post. Christmas isn’t for mourning Don (or anyone else like my dad who died on Christmas day). Christmas, for me, is about appreciating how truly lucky I was to have had Don and Dad in my life for so long. I can’t be sad about that. I can’t moan and groan about how snow will likely keep me from going to my family’s Christmas Eve party. Well, I could but it would be a terrible waste of time and energy that could be put to better use. A better use like rekindling the belief that goodness will one day triumph over evil, then we will truly have peace on earth, good will towards men. Amen. Can you tell it’s Sunday morning here at the Church of Jean? ©
 
NOTE: Most people will recognize the stanza above as part of a Christmas carol named I Hear the Bells on Christmas Morning but how many know the song was originally a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow? Written during the American Civil War, he was inspired to write the poem after his son, who had joined the Union army without his blessing, was wounded in battle and Longfellow’s wife had just died in a fire. One might rightly say that grief created a carol that people have enjoyed in varying forms since 1872 when it was first set to music. If you know the carol you'll know that even in his grief, Longfellow found hope for the future which is why the carol has endured.

An old friend shared this with me. It's truly beautiful.


15 comments:

  1. There is so much evil in this world. So much.

    Have a blessed Sunday. :)

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    1. Not so much that mankind can't one day overcome it. I have to believe that to believe in blessings.

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  2. My grief scale certainly got recalibrated a few times over the course of my life. Sadly, mothers who lose children are experiencing a grief they dared not imagine would come home to roost. My Sunday thoughts? In order that a grief so large does not permanently eclipse our soul, a greater love within us needs to grow around it and dwarf it. A worthy challenge for us all, one that has its different course in each of us. I've heard it said an older widow has their past taken from them, a mother has her future taken from her. But it's not that clean; we had futures taken from us, too. Anyway, I now have your perspective - gratitude for many, many years of love, laughter and compromises!
    Many blessings to you. Peace on earth and good will toward us all : -)

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    1. I love and agree with your Sunday thoughts! Peace and good will right back at you,

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  3. So much meanness in the world. I had to give up watching the news. Somehow reading it is less traumatic for me. If only there were a Good News Only channel. If. It is such a tiny word that holds so much meaning. If only Mr. Ralph were here! Sure do miss that man ...

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  4. I honestly don't understand why there isn't a Good News Only channel. There sure would be enough viewers to make it thrive, I'm sure of that. But then again, we have a movie channel like Hallmark that only shows a feel good, sappy movies and people make fun of that and its viewers. The same would probably happen to a GNO channel.

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  5. Yes--3 years, me too. Sometimes it seems less than that and other times, it seems like years and years since I've seen Fred--or maybe that I only imagined our life together?

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    1. I know what you mean about wondering if you've only imagined your time with Fred. Sometimes my memory plays tricks and I think, "Did it really happen that way or is that the way I wanted it to be."

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  6. I wanted to reprint the next and last stanza. It is more optimistic. I was not familiar with the poem.

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

    Also my theory about good news is that goodness is not news. Most of us go through our daily lives in a 'goodly' manner being respectful and polite and helpful and that is not news. News has always been what is not ordinary and sadly for many years that has meant the evil and bad aspects of society. Unfortunately for those people who watch and listen to news regularly and often it may mean that it clouds and distorts their perspective so that it appears that the world is evil and mean. But honestly most people live and ordinary kind and decent life.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. I like what you said, Leze, about good news not really being news. It makes perfect sense and that's something we need to be reminded of from time to time.

      We haven't lost our optimistic view and faith in humanity as a whole, if we had that song never would have endured all these years. And the fact that Longfellow wrote is soon after losing his wife and his son was severely wounded says he didn't either, he saw the good as well as the bad.

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    2. Meant to thank you for commenting!

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  7. this is a beautiful post and i love the comments as well. for me the holidays aren't my worst times. charlie and i never really did much after the kids were grown, neither of us much cared about it. we didn't exchange gifts for christmas, birthdays, whatever. we just got what we wanted when we wanted it instead. for me breakfast is the worst, he cooked breakfast every morning, his favorite time and meal. i can't eat the things he made now in the morning. only later if i really want eggs or something. have a great day my friend. paste on that smile. i always do too!

    hugs, bee
    xoxo

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    1. Thank you. I thought this post might be a little on the dark side for the holidays when I first wrote it.

      The way you feel about breakfast is the way I feel about pizza. But it's so much easier to avoid pizza than breakfast foods that I love, by the way.

      Don and I weren't big on exchanging holiday gifts either. Don would buy whatever he saw through out the year that he thought I might like (or gifts for our two mothers as well). His theory was we didn't know how long any of us would be around so, give it when you find it.

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  8. In my neck of the woods, when I was a kid, it was children in India who didn't have enough food to eat. That seemed to be the popular choice. :) Now, I hear my DIL, who was raised in Tajikistan, tell her kids that there are children who do not have enough food or water to drink.

    I think of those families who've lost children or grandchildren, too. It is such an un-fillable hole, and this time of year highlights all hurts.

    I'm glad to hear that you're doing better at this time of year, in some respects. I know it's never the same as it was. I guess it's a new normal.

    I did not know that "I Hear the Bells on Christmas Morning" was written as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I should have known that. Remember that poem, "I'm a poet and don't know it, but my feet show it. They're long fellows."

    I hope this holiday will be better than your last and that next year will be even better. Ever forward.

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    1. I've never heard the part about "....but my feet show it. They're long fellows." That cracks me up. We used to say, the first part (I'm a poet and didn't know it) quite often in my family, whenever we'd accidentally say something in rhyme.

      I AM doing better this year, thanks for caring.

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