Monday, October 28, 2013

Widowhood: There's no 'fast' way through the grieving process. Friends can help by staying friends.

“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than
 a million empty words”   - Thema Davis at
“Mourning is the constant reawakening that things are now different.” – Stephanie Ericsson at
"I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it." - Maya Angelou

"No husband, no friends," is the heading on an essay that recently caught my eye at an online forum hosted by The New York Times. In the piece, author Charlotte Brozek describes her ongoing difficult and painful adjustment to widowhood after what appears to be a long marriage.
"Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, couples surround me in the supermarket, at the mall and in their SUVs awaiting a green light. I never noticed the twosomes before. Now they make me feel obsolete," she observes in her Private Lives personal commentary.
When her husband died about a year ago, Brozek said her friends "headed for the hills" and she became relegated to an occasional lunch date or shopping spree. She said her children want her to emotionally move on.
"Someone once said that being a widow is like living in a country where nobody speaks your language, she writes. "In my case, it’s only my friends, family and acquaintances who all now speak Urdu — it’s not the whole country. I discovered strangers possess more compassion than my own friends and family."
From what she shared in her essay, Brozek seems utterly confounded by the painful depth of her grief. She's equally surprised that some friends were not able to handle her new singleness or her pain. Then acting from despair and loneliness, she exacerbates her situation by selling her home and moving into a "tiny" rental eight months after her husband's death.
Most grief counselors advise against such big decisions for at least a year, if not longer. Brozek agrees that moving out of her house was an "idiotic" idea that sprang from a not well-thought-out plan during those first months of grief. She agrees that she did a lot of what she calls "wacky things" during that first stage, which she describes as "numbness" and experts call denial.
"Moving eight months after my husband died to take up residence in a tiny rental a few miles away tops the list," she said. "I sent most of my furnishings to auction and discarded the majority of the rest. Two days after moving into the bunker, I was reading with a borrowed flashlight because I couldn’t count a lamp among my possessions. Everything I saved I didn’t need, and everything I threw away, I had to replace."
Couples, she says, make her feel "obsolete."
Anyone who's been widowed (or for that matter abandoned) after a lengthy marriage understands how one can be caught by surprise by the total couple-ness of the universe. Those who have yet to experience such a loss can not imagine the singular aloneness of the situation, or how difficult the nights are or how tough it is to plan a schedule of activities just to keep moving and breathing.
In the old days (20 years ago), those who were widowed typically turned to family....children, sisters-brothers for support, or to the church. Now those children, those sisters, may live in other cities far away. Church people may remind you of the world of couples. And you can only call "friends" so many times after midnight before you begin to hear from them how life moves on. But where is one's life going after such a loss, you ask?
There are steps and programs that can help with recovery, one day at a time.
One friend of mine who was widowed three years ago found solace at
"The Web site offers relevant and empowering content from a diverse group of contributors of varying ages, as well as a monthly online subscription magazine.
" reassured me that someone out there get's it," said my friend who is now back to energetically running her home-based business and to dating. "It helped me get farther, faster with my recovery."
Topic headings at the Web site include Legal & Financial, Well-being & Health, Family and Love & Sex. The ultimate goal of modernwidows as described by founder, Carolyn Moor, is to establish local chapters where women can gather to find support. (View the YouTube video).
In her essay, Brozek, says she saw a therapist, a psychiatrist and joined a support group as part of her struggle to overcome grief. She puts her finger on the difficulties of adjusting to singlehood and how some friends can't handle the new situation and pull away. She is now working on a series of essays about the grieving process. Every case including hers offers a unique path to recovery.
I turn to the research on death and dying conducted by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who established the 5 stages of grief and gave therapists an outline for assisting those in the recovery process. Those stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Can any of us who found ourselves suddenly 60 & Single say that we occasionally don't revisit all of these stages?
More useful Web sites: - Coping with Grief and Loss. 
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, click here.
Mayo Clinic, "Is Crying Required? - click here. - "The steps and stages of grieving and grief: What happens."

What you can do to help someone who is grieving:

Encourage express of thoughts and feelings: "Do you feel like talking?" "I don't know what to say, but I care" "Please don't worry if you cry in front of me."
Help create rituals
Help recall good times
Help put regrets into perspective
Urge person to look to their faith community and/or a grief professional
Encourage person to consider a support group
Plan for difficult times/dates (anniversaries, birthdays, holidays,
Help clean out loved one’s things and use time to reminisce
Suggest writing a letter to the loved one, or keeping a journal
Don’t be afraid to have a good time or to laugh
Share favorite quotations, words of encouragement
Encourage person to take care of their health
Help shop, cook, write thank you notes
Be patient. Grief takes time. Avoid saying things like “you should be
getting on with your life. and finally, Just sit. - f

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