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

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Three Full Years a Widow



The third sadiversary of Don’s passing is coming up soon and I don’t know how to feel about that. I do know that I’ve let him go and I am at peace with where he’s at. But I still think of him daily. How could I not? I often feel him still around me. It may seem overly dramatic to quote a well-known poem here but I’m going to do it anyway. It was printed on the remembrance cards handed out at Don’s memorial service and sometimes when I read it, it speaks so softly to me I can barely hear it; other times it shouts out, ”Listen, widow lady!----”

I give you this one thought to keep –
I am with you still--- do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am a diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grains,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the sweet uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
The soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone,
I am with you still in each new dawn.

Many widows know exactly what I mean when I say sometimes I feel my deceased husband around me. It’s a palatable feeling that probably comes from having known another person so well, you know exactly what they’d say and feel in any given situation. But I’m willing to believe it could go deeper, more mystical than that. If a 3-D copy machine can make real, three dimensional things like car parts---and they can---then why can’t the universe turn three dimensional living beings back into energy forces that can’t be seen? If Man can build a ‘magic machine’ like that then why should we put limitations on what Mother Nature can do? Spirits on another plane of existence? Why not? 

At my first sadiversary I pronounced that my first year of widowhood had been all about survival and as my mission statement for the second year ahead, I proclaimed it would be a year for rebuilding a social life as a single woman. My success at that mission was a mixed bag, given the fact that often it’s a hollow feeling social life that I created with no deep attachments formed. But I get out of the house, see people, and have a little fun here and there. I don’t stay at home doing comedy acts in the dark on the off chance they might entertain a ghost in the house. Recently a fellow blogger posted a comment about my failed attempt to find a few close friends that is worth repeating in this post. Jean from Step Into the Future wrote: 

"After my marriage ended when I was about thirty, I went through something similar regarding friendships. I kept trying to create a single ‘best friend’ pair bond that would have all the emotional characteristics of a good marriage -- one person that, above all others, you can confide in and rely on in the world. It took me many years to realize that friendship is different from marriage and that I need different friendships for different aspects of my life, needs, and interests. It can be an uphill battle, though, because I think our culture is always telling us that meeting our needs with many relationships is inferior to meeting them with just one primary relationship.” 

She is one smart woman and I’m so glad she shared those wise words here. I get it now, you can’t replace a soul mate like he/she was just goldfish floating at the top of the tank.

At my second sadiversary (a year ago) I wrote a new mission statement: To seek contentment and I’d give myself a C+ on reaching that goal. I have lots of room for improvement but I don’t have to hang my head in shame. I didn’t stand still emotionally this past year while taking up space here on Widowhood Lane. I feel calmer inside, more in control of managing my expectations. Less desperate because I realize, now, that “being alone in the world” is a false perception that I’d nursed to perfection since Don passed away. It was never true. Family, old friends---they’ll be here if I truly have a need. They can't walk my walk, but they'd be here....

This week I’m at the dawning of my fourth year of widowhood and I’m still working on a mission statement for the coming twelve months. The fact that I don’t have one might actually be a good sign? Maybe deep inside I know I no longer need a mission statement to motive myself to put one foot in front of the other when I get up in the mornings. I’m tying up loose ends from the past and I’m moving forward into the future. But make no mistake about it, Don may not be here physically but he is woven to the fabric of my life. For better or worse, that will never change and that is something that all widows understand. ©

This is my favorite photo of Don. It was taken in 2003, a few years after his stroke, when I had a Red Hat Society party at the house. It was at the tail end of the party after half the women had left when he came wheeling out of the bedroom where he'd been the whole time. One of the ladies still there made him an honorary member. I like the photo because it shows his great smile, twinkling eye and sense of humor. He couldn't say (or write) more than 15-20 words back then but there is no denying that he could still communicate with his expressions.

24 comments:

  1. Mission Statements don't work for me because I usually fail and then I beat myself up--kind of like New Year's resolutions. I'm back where I started before I met Fred and yet...I am way beyond where I was in personal growth. I guess it took 7 years of being with someone who truly loved me and thought I was great, to make up for the 60 years before that of feeling like I wasn't worthy or deserving and...just plain stupid. So--being with Fred changed my life and I guess that is why, more than grief, I just feel so grateful. When I get that feeling that he might be near, I just say, "Hi Sweetheart," and I smile and I can almost "hear" him smile back.

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    1. Every time I think about the miracle of you finding real love after so many years in unhappy relationships I am filled with gratitude that it finally happened for you. You are such an accomplished person in so many areas of your life, I don't know how you can doubt your worth but years of oppression can do that to a person. Next time you feel Fred near-by tell him to look up Don...if they haven't already met walking their beloved dogs.

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  2. I'm sure you are spot on. I can't imagine life without my husband and neither of us are spring chickens, but I know if one or the other departed the remaining one would be doing what you are doing and the one remaining would have the other in their heart for the rest of their life. Very well said.

    Have a fabulous day. :)

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    1. Thank you! I can't remember ever thinking about what life would be like without Don...not even after his stroke. I'm sure it must have been in the back of my mind someplace but as they say, one day at a time. I think it's human nature to take our spouse's for granted.

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  3. Jean :

    sometimes I am so jealous that you had that kind of love in your life. how beautiful is to be loved so immensely by some one & to love them in return so much. My wish for me will be that. I know its sad anniversary but so proud of you that you are making best lemonade possible in your life.

    Asha

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    1. Asha, you are and have always been (since we met on the stroke support site) a firm supporter of whatever I do. I really appreciate that and since I know you so well, I want to tell you something: I'll bet many women don't realize how good of a marriage they really have until it's gone. It wasn't all romance and roses with Don and me, but we always and I do mean ALWAYS supported each other in good times and bad. From what I know about you, I firmly suspect your husband has that same kind of supportive nature toward you and THAT is far more romantic than getting roses and candlelight. I remember telling you once that if he doesn't buy you flowers on Valentine's Day to buy them for yourself....celebrate your self-worth. I bought myself a tiny heat-shaped box of candy and a rose this past week for V-day.

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  4. Jean :

    you are spot on. I guess I am conditioned by all those romantic novels & movies I read & watched while growing up that don't see what is so obvious is there right in-front of me. Sometimes I realized having stroke opened up my eyes & showed me what real love looks like, but like dog's curly tail I go back to my old thinking. I need firm reminders like yours from time to time. So thanks. Now I will get myself busy with my stroke anniversary & valentine date combo plan since he won't do it lol

    Asha

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    1. I look forward to hearing about it, if you don't post it on Facebook come back here and let me know what you did.

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    2. Palpable. It is true for me. Thank you for your blog. You may not realize how many people you help by baring your soul. I've never done a mission statement for the year ... I'd end up like Judy feeling like a failure if it didn't happen as predicted. Honestly, I'm happy to have simply survived. I'm trying to make the most of what his memories give me. Which is why I hope I can continue my Maui adventures for a while longer.

      He is everywhere here.

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    3. It never bothers me or makes me feel like a loser to not fully realize a mission statement or New Year's Resolution. I look at like if you set your bar high and only make it half way, well, maybe you wouldn't have even made it half way without the statement or resolution to encourage you to keep moving.

      Before you leave Maui you should photograph every single that brings a good memory with the goal to do a photo essay book based on your memories of what you photograph...just in case you don't make it back again.

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  5. What a terrific happy fellow to have had in your life. Good to know he's still appreciating you from afar : -)

    I totally agree that 'being alone in the world' is a false perception. I see from Jean's comment you quoted, that I'm still trying to create that 'best friend' bond. Don't know where I'll come out on that one, but this goal enlivens me. I believe that what we envision can happen. Actually, come to think of it, I'm relating to myself in a new way - as best friend forever. Guess I've gotten impatient LOL

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    1. I've given her comment a LOT of thought and I so agree that is what I was unknowingly looking for when I set out to find a few good friends. But I when it comes right down to it, I don't want to ever be 'marriage-like close' to another person again so I've been looking for something I really don't want.

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  6. What a beautiful, inspiring, hopeful, courageous post this is about your widowhood/personhood journey. I think you are absolutely right about the "energy field' thing -- quantum physics suggests there are parallel universes all around us and death may be just shedding the body we see and moving into a spiritual plane that is "right there". Your Don was a handsome guy and I love his smile and twinkle. Keep on keepin' on, Jean. You are a light for us all.

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    1. You're just saying all that nice stuff because we have a mutual admiration society going between our blogs and you don't want to be the first to break the chain. LOL But thank you!

      I wish I was smart enough to understand quantum physics. I had a hard enough time finally understanding how the 3-D copiers works, and when I finally did it was disappointing to have the mystery taken away. That doesn't take anything away from the people who are smart enough to build machines like that. Smart is smart.

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    2. Jean...long ago I gave up saying things I don't mean. :) I don't understand quantum physics either but people I know and admire sort of do and I take what they say (the parts I find comforting) and go with it. And 3-D copiers are sort of weird and miraculous -- I actually had to look up how they work cuz I couldn't fathom it when I saw a story line about it on Grey's Anatomy (TV -- where I go for all my information. Ha)

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    3. LOL Grey's Anatomy is definitely a conservation starter.

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  7. Jean,
    This is a beautiful post and filled with hope. You've come a long way baby. I'm happy to have followed part of your journey. I watched and read with admiration as you picked up the threads and moved forward. In this post, it seems that you recognize how far you've come. I hope so. That photo of Don says so much. What a connector he was. Speech is such an important part of connecting with others, but look at him. Anyone can see and feel his intent... to spread the fun.

    Congratulations on surviving the last three years, and here's to thriving in the next three. You're the best.

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    1. I know I will survive and thrive. I survived living nearly 12 years with a man who couldn't talk, walk or write so I know I can survive a lot worse things than widowhood.

      I'm not sure if I've ever shared this here but he actually lives on in the form of videos of him taken at a local college. They are now part of text book series of videos that speech pathologists all over the country study. The author came in from Chicago on the recommendation of the college professors where Don and I went twice a week for 6 years...he was a guinea pig for their students to work with. They normally only keep clients in the program for 2 years but they kept him 6 because the professors said he taught the students so much about communicating a wide range of emotions, etc., with non-verbal facial expressions and body language.

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    2. That says so much about him. I'm sure the students benefited from his presence in the program, and Don probably did, too. Not everyone could continue to contribute after going through such trauma.

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    3. He loved going because he got to interact with the 25 or so students in the speech therapy department. I got to watch through a one-way window. LOL They got to practice what they learned out of books and I got to talk to the professors as she explained things to observers in the room.

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  8. Your post was very moving - as always.

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    1. It's a topic all of us widows could and do write movingly about. But thank you!

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  9. Wonderful photo of your husband. I would ask, what would your husband want you to do? What could you do that would make him smile? I ask this of my sister who lost her daughter a few years ago.

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    1. I think he would agonize even more than I am over what I should do. He was the procrastinator in the family. He would want me to do what I want to do.

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