If you are newly 60 & Single

"I wanted to be an independent woman, a woman who could pay for her bills, a woman who could run her own life - and I became that woman" -  Diane von Furstenberg - American fashion designer (1946 - )

BY JULIA ANDERSON
There is so much going on in our '60s,
Elderly parents may need our assistance. Or they may die. Children may struggle.

Our own careers are winding down but we're not sure how we will handle retirement, financially or emotionally.

In our '60s, some of us will end up on our own because of the death of a spouse or an unexpected divorce.

Either way, being 60 and single is a adjustment, especially if you've enjoyed a long and rewarding relationship.

In my circle of women friends, I've seen four lose their husbands to cancer and another to divorce. Another faces the trials of a husband with Parkinson's Disease, a dreadful and debilitation affliction. 
Another's husband is in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

I've seen women struggle through the adjustment to singlehood, regain their footing and move on with rewarding lives...some decidedly single, others in new relationships.

No one can rush the transition. And in the dark of night being newly 60 and single is tough. For me, late night television became my friend.

I hated it when people told me it would just take time. That's because I was living minute to minute with the pain, to get through the pain, the loss and (in my case) the anger. But I learned a lot about grief, about day-to-day coping and about recovery. If you are newly 60 and single here are survival tips gleaned from personal experience and a lot of research on the topic:

- Stay in your job. Going to work every day gets your mind off the loss and the worry, keeps you centered in a place where you can be a mature adult making a contribution in the moment.

- Find a good therapist who can help you work through your grief and sort out the future. Sometimes that future must evolve as you come to terms with reality. Friends or your doctor can give you recommendations. This is especially important if abandonment is an issue.

- Seek out a spiritual life. Explore what others have to say about the reality of the human experience...sadness, joy and the wonder of our existence in this beautiful world. Take time for the quiet. This grief, this pain brings us closer to the unknowable universe, to God, to the suffering of others.

- Gather friends around you who understand that you need to talk about the person that you lost, your feelings, about the future. Find friends who understand and can just listen. Advice is not so important as listening as you may need to cover the same ground over and over.

- Cry with your eyes open, not shut. Let the grief flow out rather than internalizing it.

- Keep a journal of your most personal thoughts. Get creative.

- Make exercise a part of your daily routine. A 30-minute jog can make all the difference in how you see the world. Gloom can be overcome by the good chemicals that come with physical exercise.

- If you are struggling with depression, lack of sleep and are beginning to lose your grip, consider seeing your physician. Ask about anti-depressant medication. It can make the difference between unending desperate suffering and a steady recovery.

- Talk with a fee-only investment adviser about your financial future. Or run the numbers with a trusted friend. Ask yourself what your retirement will look like, where the money will come from and your debts, cost-of-living expenses. The more you find out, the better you can plan and the more confident you will be.

- Don't give money to your kids. You've got to take care of yourself, first. Until you're money issues are settled, sit tight.

- Be nice to yourself. Get a massage. Eat well. Rent movies that make you laugh. Call your friends if you get blue. I longed to be touched. A massage was not the same as a relationship but it helped.

- Let the person that you've lost be in your heart but don't let them undermine the love you now have to give to others. Find ways to love those in your life in the moment, here and now. Work at it.

- Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Never be afraid to ask for help along the way from those who care about you.  

- All the best....Julia

What you can do to help someone who is grieving:
Encourage expression 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 your friend to consider a support group
Plan for difficult times/dates (anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, mealtimes)
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 your friend 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. - from www.griefandhealing.org


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

PART II: By Julia Anderson
"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 seemed to be a long marriage.

  "Everywhere I go," she writes, "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. A friend of mine who was widowed three years ago found solace at www.modernwidowsclub.com. "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.

"Modernwidowsclub.com 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 and single say that we occasionally don't revisit all of these stages?  More useful Web sites:

"Sheryl Sandberg's heartbreakingly beautiful tribute to her husband, " click here. - WSJ

HelpGuide.org - Coping with Grief and Loss.

www.Grief.com

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, click here.

Mayo Clinic, "Is Crying Required? - click here.

WebMD.com - "The steps and stages of grieving and grief: What happens."


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