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

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Widow’s Holiday Secrets and Confessions

“We can all find reasons to be thankful,” I was told when I was lamenting the fact that I wasn’t looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with strangers. Ya, sure we can. After all, isn’t thankfulness ‘mindset' #12' in the Handbook for Better Living, a book I’ve been preaching from my entire life? Thankfulness is a cornerstone of philosophic thought all over the world and I know the Thanksgiving Day drill: “Dear Lord, I’m thankful for central heat, clean water, indoor plumbing and the fact that my address isn’t ‘the center refrigerator box underneath the Main Street viaduct.’ I’m thankful that farmer Jack’s cows come home every night for milking, that I have Ben and Jerry’s Death by Chocolate ice cream in my freezer, and that we’re not living in a nuclear winter.” But here’s where I get a little testy. We humans are multi-taskers so why is it so hard to understand if a thankful widow---anticipating a Thanksgiving dinner with strangers---can visualize herself standing up on her chair and proclaiming she’s got a whole cup of crazy going on in her head? “But I am thankful you invited me here,” she’d continue, “and I thank you for asking me to lead us in prayer.” Of course, you know I’m not going to do that at dinner on Thursday, even though I am stressing out over the very real possibility they’ll ask me to lead a pray, me the person these super-sized Christians don’t realize is an agnostic.

You’ve got to admit there’s a difference between having a good time and pretending you are so you’ll get invited back by the hostess of whatever affair you’re attending. You want her to know her kind gesture of including you is sincerely appreciated. And isn’t that what a good guest is supposed to do? We bring a little wine, maybe a box of bonbons or flashy flowers and smile in all the right places. We help where ever we can and feed their dog under that table. We are good little guests who try hard not to let on that we feel out of place, like a fish swimming in olive oil. I am woman, master of multitasking and I can be as two-faced as the next person. “Thank you very much for inviting me and my ghost for dinner," but did you have to let your uncle Harry sit on his lap?

Last year, my holiday season and the invitations that came with it was all about concentrating on not bursting into tears. This year my mission statement for the holidays is to “dam the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” I am a woman at war, a woman determined to stand on her own two feet. A widow who can move on with the best of them. But I’ll tell you a few secrets I’ve learned over the past year. Moving on doesn’t mean you forget. It doesn’t mean you can’t be both thankful and regretful at the same time and still be a perfectly balanced, sane person who knows how to keep her cup of crazy from spilling over. And the piece of résistance of all secrets is this: in the second year of widowhood a woman must learn to carry her losses forward (minus the pain) to live in harmony with the joy that she’s adding back into her life one baby step at a time. It’s hard work. It’s worthy widow’s work to let go of the pain that came tethered to our losses. And, yes, I am thankful I learned these secrets in a timely manner and I didn’t scratch anyone’s eyes out in the process. I am woman and I’ve roared enough for today. ©


  1. Thanks again for your insight. Geez I'm not looking forward to Year Two. It doesn't sound any better than the first 12 months. Just that people don't let you use the widow card as often. But I think I am thankful that he went first. I can't imagine him surviving this.

  2. AW: It is better---the second year---but I did get a bee in my bonnet when I expressed a very common widow woe regarding building new holiday traditions and it was dismissed as trivial. I accept the fact that after 42 years of being with the same person, practicing the same holiday traditions that the past is past and new traditions form. I am grateful others have included me in their plans. But we human beings have many layers. Doing what is right and necessary to move on doesn't mean we can just forget the past as if it never happened. Thanksgiving is about more than just being thankful. It's about tradition and being with family and when half of your whole is gone it takes time to fit in someplace else. It's not easy being green. LOL

  3. Nothing is the way it used to be and it NEVER will be the way it used to be or should be! Last year, I stayed home on Thanksgiving and it wasn't all that bad. Didn't have to smile and pretend a thing. This year will be low key with just my sister, her hubby and me--kind of like me going there for Sunday dinner, no big deal. By the way--even Christian's --or perhaps just me--have a touch of Agnosticism in the back of their mind. :-) Go forth and purr!!

  4. Thanks for the back up, Judy. Our husbands passed away with in days of each other and we are at the same benchmark and I know you understand what I'm writing about.

    I will think of your last remark tomorrow when I'm "purring" at dinner. :)

  5. Sometimes my cup of crazy spills over. I've never climbed on a chair before, but now that you've planted the seed...

    It's true that the holidays are always the hardest time of the year for those who've lost someone, but you really capsulized it in your comment to Awkward Widow when you wrote, " and when half your whole is gone it takes time to fit in somewhere else." That really puts a fine point on it.

    Loved your list of things to be grateful for. I'm adding "not living in a nuclear winter" to mine right now. How could I have missed that all this time? :)

  6. I absolutely love the phrase "a cup full of crazy." I heard it a week ago from the TV playing in the background and a Google search of the phrase brings up 11,000 so I figure I must be the last person on earth to use it. Hey, maybe that ties into the nuclear winter and why it's so important to be thankful we're not living in one. Thanks for the comments.

  7. If they ask you to lead the prayer, you can always try my younger brother's favorite childhood grace before holiday meals -- short, sweet and to the point so that you can get on with the eating: "Rub-a-dub-dub; thanks for the grub. Yeah, God!" ;-) -Jean

  8. Thanks for planting that seed in my head. LOL

  9. That mix of steely determination and crumbling spirit is truly something we bear, isn't it? Gone are the days when I could crumple into someone's arms and grouse about how hypocritical Godly folks are. I'm a widow. Now I make my kindest contribution to the holiday and smile when kindness in any form is extended to me.

    I wish you all kindness this Thanksgiving. I think you're terrific. No, more than that. I am so fond of you. I hope my tiny flame of love and thanksgiving for you matters in the grand scheme of things.

  10. Thank you, gowiththeflow. We learn so much from each other,,,we bloggers in the widow community. In my world all flames and hands extended in friendship matter in the grand scheme of things.

    Have a good Thanksgiving, everyone.