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, February 6, 2013

Lessons To Keep Their Spirit Alive

“When those you love die, the best you can do is honor their spirit for as long as you live. You make a commitment that you're going to take whatever lesson that person or animal was trying to teach you, and you make it true in your own life... it's a positive way to keep their spirit alive in the world, by keeping it alive in yourself.”

The Time of My Life
co-authored by
 Patrick Swazye and Lisa Niemi

I haven’t read Patrick and Lisa’s aforementioned book but from reading the reviews I know that he had experienced losses in his life. His father died of a heart attack in his fifties, his sister committed suicide and he and Lisa suffered the miscarriage of their son. The book was also written while he was fighting incurable pancreatic cancer and that fact alone gives a couple special insights on what it’s like to face loss.

Lessons to keep their spirit alive. When I say that phrase I visual a grief counselor assigning someone to make a list of everything their deceased loved one taught them about life and love as a way of refocusing their grief onto something positive. But I’ve never been to a counselor or therapist so all I’ve got to go on is my imagination for what goes on behind their closed-door sessions. Maybe all the professionals do is let you talk and then they say, “Time’s up. Leave your check with my receptionist on your way out.” But then again, maybe just talking it out IS what we all need when someone dies. By doing so, maybe we instinctively begin to focus on what our spouses taught us over our years of being together. So many people in this world use their spouses like mirrors to tell them who they are that they don’t see themselves when that mirror is gone. It might be good, it might be bad or it might be ugly but we widows do need to see ourselves again as individuals before the healing process can come full circle.

Fact: Our loved ones help shape our characters and personalities and we don’t fully appreciate that until they’re gone. For example, my mother was a strong woman and she taught me to be the same. I keep her spirit alive by nurturing that side of myself. My dad was a gentle soul, a thoughtful and thought providing person and the life lesson I most identify with him is this: By the grace of God it could be you or me. Decades ago my cousin and brother took my dad to strip joint, thinking they’d shock him while proving how ‘grown up’ and ‘worldly’ they’d become. (Back in those days strip joints were much sleazier than they are today.) After the stripper did her act my cousin asked my dad what he thought about a woman who’d do what she did. My cousin expected a lot of things but he didn’t expect my dad to say, “Well, she probably has a baby at home that needs milk and this is the best job she could get.” That was my dad. Always looking for the story behind the actions of others and the story usually came with an empathic twist. I often say that ‘grace’ is my favorite word in the universe and now you know why. I associate it with my Dad.

My husband taught me many lessons about life and love, too. But after 42 years of being together I’m having a hard time deciding who taught who what. We were not bookends by any standards but in some ways we were like chameleons that, on the surface, took on each other’s traits. He was outgoing by nature and I am not but little by little I learned that strangers don’t generally bite. He nurtured my love of writing but his oral storytelling taught me a lot about adding textures and tones to the bones.

The core life lesson learned from Don that I should probably honor would be that friendship is the most important ingredient in a love-match. You don’t need storybook nights with candlelight dinners and champagne to take your breath away. It can happen over take-out pizza. It can happen at the grocery store. It can happen when ever his smile reminds you that this person you’re looking at truly is your best friend. But how do I honor that core belief short of writing romance books? I’ve already been there, tried that and it didn’t work out because I can’t plot my way out of a paper bag. That reminds me, though, that I should write a post about the year Don went to a Romance Writers of America convention with me.

I don’t know if Patrick and Lisa’s suggestion about making a commitment to take a core lesson a loved one taught you and making it true in your own life is doable in all cases but it’s been a good exercise for me just thinking about it. ©


  1. I love what you said: "So many people in this world use their spouses like mirrors to tell them who they are that they don't see themselves when the mirror is gone". That was my experience. And you have written the process of healing so beautifully. Widowhood is a process of self discovery, a 'gift' I try to welcome; that is, if I'm not snarling.

  2. Thank you. I don't quite see the self discovery as a 'gift' because there is no return or exchange department. But I know what you mean.