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, October 21, 2017

Common Threads and the Grief Journey



Okay, I’m feeling old today. I got up at the crack of dawn if dawn came at 7:30---how often can I tell that “joke” before I hear groans coming out of my computer speakers? Anyway, I did get up at the crack of dawn to go on a leaf peeping tour. The only problem was I got to the senior center a week before the bus was due to depart for the half-day trip. I had gotten a new day planner and I had transferred the information over wrong. Since I was shiny clean with no place to go I did something that was so totally out of character and out of my comfort zone that I felt like I should check my driver’s license to see if I’m still me. What did I do? I called a Gathering Girl friend at 11:00 to see if she was free to meet for lunch. She is a person who lives on spur-of-the-moment decisions where I’m the opposite. I plan things out. Down to the minute. I live by the oven timer and the calendar. 7:30 up, breakfast and check the internet; 8:15 shower and dress; 9:15 feed, water and walk Levi; 9:45 leave the house, and 10:00 be on the tour bus---assuming I go on the right day. 

My adopted home town is conveniently located half way between BL’s house and mine so we met at a restaurant that overlooks the river. The food was good, the service was bad. At one point the waitress even said, “I don’t know why I keep ignoring you ladies!” By the time she screwed up the check we were more than ready to take our conversation and laughter out for a walk along the river. It was a perfect autumn day---bright and warm enough to make us want to savor the time spent outside and we learned of yet another thing we have in common besides our sense of humors and politics: We both bought memorial bricks for our husbands in the Recognition Plaza by the dam. So off we went to find them. 

We also discovered we both like Oprah and aren’t afraid to admit that in public. BL gets her newsletter and she told me about a recent article titled, What to Do if you are Still Grieving. The grief counselor who wrote the article (and a book called Getting Grief Right) says he tells his clients to write “an honest account of what happened to you and the one you lost. A grief story exposes the beauty, pain, and complexity of your emotions.” He recommends grieving people tell their story in three chapters---the first of which is about how you and the person you grieve met and in the second chapter we’re to write about the aftermath and circumstances surrounding the death and funeral. The third chapter is supposed to be about our lives that unfold from the funeral moving forward and he recommends keeping a grief journal. 

As I read through the article I realized that what the author, Patrick O’Malley PhD, recommends is exactly what most widows in the blog community, like me, are instinctively doing. One sentence about writing the third chapter is worth repeating here: “Although this chapter has a beginning, it really has no ending—or it doesn't end until we do. The third chapter is dynamic. It will change over time, but it will not end.” Where have I heard that before? Lots of places including from a couple of widows with more than two decades under their belts. From personal experience I know that raw grief dissipates over time, but a tiny piece of my heart also goes back to grief from time to time in the form of wistfulness for what might have been. Apparently Mr. O’Malley’s book has writing prompts to help non-writers tell their stories. He’s been a grief counselor for 35 years so more power to him if his book can get people who aren’t used to spilling their guts out on paper to do it. I have my doubts---not about it helping but rather that non-writers with new grief will stick with the project.

Another thread in my life this week is related in a roundabout way. I had lunch with my oldest niece which is like getting triple cherries on top of an ice cream sundae if you love cherries and ice cream which I do. My niece is such an accomplished, well-rounded and truly nice person. She’s a retired teacher---Special Ed for many years before switching to teaching reading in an elementary school. In retirement she started an alumni association for a small town high school. She runs their Facebook page with 1,700 followers, sets up fund raisers with her board of directors and they raise money to give out as college scholarships. They also collect and archive old photos and her latest venture is she bought a commercial popcorn machine so the alumni group can sell popcorn at sporting events. I love stories about people, like her, who have found a passion project in retirement. Listening to my niece talk I was wishing I had one. Then after reading the above mentioned grief article I wondered if maybe this blog isn’t my passion project. It may have started out as me documenting my grief journey but now it give me a purpose, a challenge, a sense of pride and most of all it prods me to get out of the house and out of my comfort zone so I’ll have something to write about. ©

42 comments:

  1. Your blog *is* your passion project, and long may it continue. I admire the consistency with which you post bi-weekly, rain or shine. As a result, Wednesday and Saturdays are red letter days for me, something to look forward to, and take inspiration from.

    I've said this before: you're a good woman, Jean R., and your integrity and honesty shines through your posts. No whining/grumbling; not afraid to go against majority opinion, and voice that opinion; and courage, in bucket loads. ~ Libby

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    1. Ohmygod, most of my courage to voice my opinions (and especially when going against the majority) comes in my blog. I only do that "live" with people I know extremely well which is why finding friends is so important.

      My dad was a great role model for integrity and honesty so when someone sees those qualities in me---that's very special! Thank you.

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    2. 'Integrity' - that's the word I was hunting for. I've known very, very few people - actually three, including you - to have integrity. I consider myself privileged to have known them. ~ Libby

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    3. PS- just realised I *did* use 'integrity' in my comment. Sorry, I've just been all over the web, on a myriad different search sites, and tired as a result.

      PS2: I also reason Mary's comment below and fully agree with *all* aspects of the marriage, including the ugly. I find that I tend to fudge over the bad parts, and over-gloss the good parts.
      ~ Libby

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    4. I think fudging over the bad parts and over-glossing the good parts is just how some of us roll. Just like some people spend all their time nit-piking all the negativity in their lives and overlook the good. For me, personality, as memories get harder and harder for me to recall I want them to be the good ones. BUT for newbie widows yours and Mary's point should be taken to heart...they do need to careful about building their spouse's pedestal too high. It just adds to the raw grief timeline, in my opinion.

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    5. I actually do the reverse, which is equally not so good. I remember the petty and not so petty arguments and the more negative parts of my husband's personality after he retired, than all the good earlier years and the positive aspects of him and our marriage. Maybe it's some kind of defense mechanism against the grief and pain of losing him even today, as my life has gone on in mostly positive ways.

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    6. Mary, your "defense mechanism" explanation make perfect sense for your reverse pedestal---we need a name for this idea! Anyway, we all deal with life's adversities differently.

      I hesitate to say there no right or wrong way to grieve, like some people say because I do think a small percentage of people do focus their grief in destructive ways...like drinking too much, misplaced angry, etc.

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  2. So glad to hear you are taking that final step to calling on one of your Golden Girls for an afternoon out. I suppose it's kind of like asking someone out on a date and being apprehensive about being turned down, but you did it, had a good time, and checked it off an invisible list. You have come a long way, Baby! Congratulations, you seem to have found a real friend!

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    1. There is that element, for sure. But I'm also not a phone person by nature. I'd rather write an email than talk on the phone. I've also been trying to figure out when I lost being spontaneous and I think not being so has always been part of my personality, but it got really bad after my husband's stroke when I had to get two of us ready to go places.

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  3. I like the grieving book idea except I'd add a fourth chapter after the first. It would be the story of the marriage itself...the good, the bad and the ugly. For a few, me included, this would complete the whole story with the ending, as said, that keeps going with out a true end.
    I think your blog is great and look forward to it always. I have thought of trying my hand at one, but don't even know how or where to start...plus I'd probably run out of things to say.
    I find, after 4 years, grief has morphed into aging concerns as I enter what a friend of mine has called "the short rows" now. I have friends, but no children, so that kind of loneliness ahead looms.

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    1. Adding that fourth chapter would make a lot of sense. If a person is on the fresh side of grief, I think you need to try whatever you can to work through the emotions.

      If you want to explore how to start a blog, here's an article that might help: https://www.bloggingbasics101.com/how-do-i-start-a-blog/ I use a free Blogger platform but WordPress is a popular one, too. If you like to write you'll find things to write about. That's part of the challenge that makes it fun for me plus I find out how I really feel when I'm forced to write in depth about something. I started my first blog around 2001 and they have morphed through different phases of my life. Aging and loneliness are my biggest concerns, now, too. It's scary!

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    2. Thanks, Jean. It's a thought. I saved the article

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  4. I am so thankful that blogging helps define who you are, because my life would be less rich if I hadn't found you through your blog, Jean. Simply put, I really like you. Thanks for being here and sharing of yourself!

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    1. Same back at you Silver, I enjoy your blog as well and you for creating it.

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  5. Your blog just may be your passion project, sharing your experiences with the gathering girls and your trip walking down river with your friend, the memorial brick for your husband and ice cream with your niece are parts of your life we all look forward to reading about, even your past experiences with Don and your feelings about his passing, we are all here as your friends, your blogging family even, and reading your passion project is a blessing as far as I'm concerned. You do it well my friend.

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    1. Wow, Jimmy, that check I sent you to leave a flattering comment really paid off. LOL

      All kidding aside, I can say all the same things about reading your blog about yours and Cindy's past and present experiences. I love the blog community! We are all passionate about sharing through writing or we wouldn't be there.

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  6. That is so GREAT that you made lemonade out of lemons! All dressed up and called someone else to go! I don't think I would leave a tip for any server who said "I don't know why I keep ignoring you ladies". Sheesh!

    Grieving is sure different for everyone. My Maui buddy remains stuck almost to the point where it's hard to socialize with her because of how sad she is and how often I have to listen to it. Blogging is so much easier for me to express myself.

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    1. Both of us down-graded what we originally were going to tip her and we did it without comparing notes until we got outside.

      Me too regarding blogging. I truly wish I could converse with others as well as I can write. But with writing we can move sentences around, add and subtract and get the words just right without interruptions. I've run into widows who are stuck, too, so I know what you mean.

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    2. I love doing a draft and then massaging and using a thesaurus. As Chair of the HOA here, my emails have gotten a lot accomplished without ticking folks off. Now that's a knack!

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  7. Had to chuckle at your being a wee bit early for the leaf peeping tour:) I did that once for a doctor's appt but didn't take advantage of being all cleaned up like you did. Well done and glad you have a spontaneous friend.
    Blogs are therapy for most of us and I think for grieving, it is a healthy and effective way to stumble to the surface.
    I love Oprah also. She speaks to me every morning via my Echo Dot by reading a quote from her magazine column. "What I know for sure."

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    1. "...stumble to the surface..." I love that expression and might have to borrow it. That is so cool that you can use an Echo Dot to get daily quotes like that. I keep going around and around about whether or not I want an Echo. The most tempting feather is you can get ones that can spell words to you.I would wear that out, if it understood my voice. I don't have the best of luck with that on automated phone lines.

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  8. Jean :

    when I was dealing through my own grief I so rightly stumbled into great support group where they had great mentors like you who got me off the cliff I was ready to jump off, you introduced me to blogs over there, and in process have made me blog junkie, I find even reading blogs also very therapeutic for my soul & of-course love writing my Aha moments when I am watching Oprah's super soul sunday. I also love Oprah though I discovered her quite late in my life. I am glad she started her own network & have some great quality shows like master class & super soul sundays

    Asha

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    1. It was stressful being a mentor "over there" because the needs were so great, but one of the side benefits for me was my old boss taught me a lot about websites and the internet. I wouldn't have become a blogging junkie (too) without the place. Do you still have a blog some place or do you write your Aha moments just for yourself? I don't watch Oprah as much as I did before she started her OWN network because it's not in my cable bundle. :(

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  9. Great blog Jean. It's nice you shared the article too. Looks like you have quite a following and I can understand why. Good job!
    BL

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  10. A person has to be careful hanging around me. You never know when a snippet of information or a lunch will turn into a 1,000 word essay. LOL

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  11. That's fine, at this age I don't have much to hide. LOL
    BL

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  12. I either share too much or hold it all in -- no in-between. I'd be afraid some of it would come back and haunt me. We've moved back to my old home-town. We've been away for nearly thirty years. And I have run into an ex-husband and ex-sister-in-law. Neither encounter was hostile, but I did feel uncomfortable. The ex-husband wanted to be my "buddy," but I quickly put a stop to that. I still like my ex-sister-in-law and wouldn't mind seeing her more, but not if it requires more contact with her brother. There were very good reasons for our divorce and I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him -- and I'm a weakling!

    I don't think I'd write a very good blog that anyone would want to read. I think I'm somewhat witty, but I lead a very boring life and have become somewhat of a hermit/recluse. I enjoy reading and should probably just stick to that...

    Wish there were a directory of blogs -- I've been reading yours now for quite a few years, although I don't comment often. I'm not a widow, but I "picked you up" from "Time Goes By." I like your sense of humor and your honesty and I enjoy reading about your ups and downs... and about Levi's privileged life! I'm more of a cat person, but I like dogs, too. Currently we have no pets, but we're thinking of getting another cat. We had to find homes for seven cats (one inside, six outside) when we moved here a couple of years ago. We used to do cat rescue, but that was when we had some money. Now we're retired and on a fixed income and can't afford to do that anymore and I miss the critters.

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    1. I'm not a cat person but every time I go into Chow Hound where they have rescue cats, I have a hard time not bringing one home for Levi. He'd love it but I'm not so sure my house would ever be the same. I'd have to bring Levi in and see if he could find one that wasn't afraid of dogs.

      Blogarama is a half way decent online blog catalog of blogs. https://www.blogarama.com/ But I agree it's hard to find good ones that you connect with in some way. I had to laugh at you saying you'd be afraid a blog you wrote would come back to haunt you. Some people have had that happen, getting themselves in trouble with family and friends.

      My favorite bloggers don't have interesting lives, they just have an interesting way of writing about them. And I like to read what people are thinking in ordinary situations. If you do ever start a blog, be sure to let me know so I can put you in my side bar.

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    2. Classof65--what you just wrote in this comment would make a delightful blog post. You can have a blog and not let any family or close friends even know about it--mine is that way because sometimes, I gossip about them. HAH.

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  13. I'm very impressed that you salvaged your week-early arrival for the leaf-peeping tour by calling one of your gathering girl friends. I'm also a planner by nature and definitely not a phone person; I don't think I would have screwed up the courage to call one of my more spontaneous friends in this situation. Good for you! -Jean P.

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    1. I'm proud of myself too. I felt comfortable calling her because I know she is very spontaneous. Still, I'm glad she was available on my maid voyage into spur-of-the-moment plans.

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  14. I had to chuckle about your showing up early as I recall doing that for an appt. Recalling one new friend I made years ago with whom we made a spontaneous agreement. We clarified our understanding from the beginning that no hard feelings if one or the other didn't want to go — no explanation needed; when was earliest to call. Spontaneous to her meant she still had to have an hour if I called, to put on her makeup first, just to go to the local spot for a cup of coffee — nothing I had to do just to go there, but I figured whatever. Friendship continued for years though they moved away — then she got cancer and would call in her wee hours and couldn’t sleep. — three hour time difference, so earlier here as am nite owl. Sadly she died as did other friends in east. Miss their late night calls. Glad you connected with somebody new where you are. One value of finally retiring to me has been having as little schedule as possible.


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    1. Your "rules" makes sense. The most spontaneous I've been in a very long time is I have to have a day's notice but it would be nice if I could get comfortable with 2-3 hours.

      I'll bet those late night phone calls were a great comfort to your friend.

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  15. I was a day early once to get my hair cut. That was at a previous salon. The salon I go to now sends text reminders. Love it.

    It sounds like your friendship with BL is gelling. So nice.

    I've always found that writing about my troubles, whether it be grief or something else, helps. Though I'm sure it may not be the perfect fit for everyone, I would always recommend giving it a try.

    Yes, your blog is your passion, and I'm so glad that it is. Your blog is one of the most interesting blogs I read.

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    1. I remember you writing about that missed haircut. I get text messages, too, from my shop.

      You are a natural writer---love your blog---and I agree that writing is a good way to sort out our troubles. It's been working for me since I was a teen.

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  16. Wow. stepintofuture pretty much took all my words right out of my mouth. So...Ditto! ;-)

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    1. I think one of the reasons why I'm not spontaneous when people call me is I tend to lounge around the house in the morning, so I need shower time and take the dog out time. Unfortunately, with winter coming the opportunities for spontaneous calls going either way will have to work around good driving days. So it might be a very long time before I do it again.

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  17. Writers have to write. I kept journals all my life--I seem to have the need to write my emotional feelings down on paper--probably because I cannot or don't want to, express them verbally. My new found passion is doing genealogies for people. I love it beyond all measure. Unfortunately, that seems to have dried up.

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    1. See, that's why I have my doubts that the author in my post can get non-writers to write their stories. Most of the bloggers I like have been keeping journals all their lives in one form or another OR they have always wanted to write.

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  18. Love this. I'll be writing soon about my weekend facilitating a group to live their passions. My blogs are definitely a passion. I love also that you intuitively have been writing those 'grief' chapters and have allowed so many readers to share their own stories, to learn from you, to see there is hope in the depths of despair. You are a light in the world, my friend.

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    1. You do the most interesting workshops, retreats and facilitated groups. You're constantly working on yourself and soul. Love that about you, so we see a light in each other's world.

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