“When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than
a million empty words” - Thema 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
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 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 (40 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 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&Single say that we occasionally don't revisit all of these stages?
More useful Web sites:
HelpGuide.org - Coping with Grief and Loss.
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."
HOW to HELP:
-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. - from www.griefandhealing.org-
“Finally, Just sit. - from www.griefandhealing.org
Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago," Warren Buffett, investor, (1930 - )
By JULIA ANDERSON
Three years ago this month the U.S. economy was just beginning to come out of a dark tunnel -- the worst economic downturn of the past 50 years. Terrible timing, it would seem, for rolling a 401(k) nest egg into a self-directed Individual Retirement Account, right? Wrong.
The timing couldn't have been better for moving my accumulated tax-deferred savings from 26 years of full-time newspaper work into an IRA at Fidelity.com.
Thanks to a combination of Social Security benefits (at age 64), my marriage to a great guy later that year and my continuing part-time freelance work, I've not been forced to tap into this nest egg, which has grown along with the U.S. economic recovery.
These investments have generated a 13.3 percent annual rate of return over the past three years, which is better than market averages of the past 40 years of 11 percent. Certainly far better than I expected. I would have been totally happy with 5 percent.
So while analysts continue to lament tepid U.S. job growth and a lackluster economy, I say thanks to Wall Street and the American corporations who live there for making my financial future a lot brighter as I celebrate my 67th birthday this week. How did I do this? I saved through my employer's 401(k) program and planned for the long-term.
Oh sure, there were set backs. I didn't plan for a divorce at age 60. The good news is that I kept my head and kept my house. The split did not financially blow me out of the water. Since then, I've refinanced my mortgage, stayed away from credit card debt and remained careful with spending and our household budget.
Three years ago in making the transition from full-time work to retirement and to a self-managed rollover IRA, I was excited. Several savvy friends advised me on investing strategies. I read a few money management advice books, I followed current financial news and continued to use my mother as a role model for good investing habits.
She likes buying stock in individual companies that pay dividends, which she then reinvested. So despite the dysfunction of Congress, despite this month's federal debt crisis, despite Europe's struggle to deal with the EU banking crisis and the drumbeat of negative news from the Middle East my investments have performed well. Going forward I am sticking with large-cap U.S. corporations that show good quarter-to-quarter performance and that pay a decent dividend (somewhere above a 2 percent inflation rate).
My philosophy: The best place to be is in America where great corporations and businesses operate within our regulated capitalist society and where we are blessed with exceptional natural and human resources.
As I've said before at sixtyandsingle.com, Europe faces the issues of socialism while Asia must contend with societal corruption and red tape. Can we say China and India.
And besides most large U.S. corporations do business in these markets anyway, so if things begin to look better off-shore, American businesses will benefit from those global operations.
In spreading my investment chips around the board, I put chunks of money into an S&P 500 Index fund, which performs as well as the 500 largest companies in the U.S stock market. In the past three years, that fund has grown by 52 percent in value. Nice.
Additional money went into a telecom and utilities mutual fund. That's up 47 percent in value. Individual winners include Trimble Navigation, up 288 percent, Umpqua Bank, up 73 percent, Bristol Meyers, up 78 percent, Coca-cola, up 42 percent and Ford Motor Co., up 49 percent (this year.) Most of these companies pay a dividend in the 3 percent range. That's far better than bond funds and certainly better than money market or bank savings accounts.
Yes I've had some losers (mostly this year (2013)). Alcoa, ConAgra and Fidelity's Spartan Real Estate Index Fund to name them.
Parking my money and walking away was never my plan. Half the fun is checking on their performance, making adjustments as needed, although I try to buy and hold for at least a year. That's been psychologically tough in the scary 24-7 economic news environment where Congress has us on the brink of disaster at any given moment because of the debt ceiling debacle or the federal government budget shutdown.
Turning to Warren Buffett
In times of high anxiety, I turn to Warren Buffett who has said that he's never delayed an investment decision because of what might happen in Washington D.C. This week during a live interview at CNBC, he reemphasized the importance of being a long-term investor and that most people are long-term investors.
"If you take the people I meet in Omaha," Buffet said, "If you take the people who own farms, you take the people who own apartment houses, most people are long-term investors, thank heavens.”
Buffet emphasized that our banks have never been in better shape. That American corporations continue to rise to the challenge of our economy and business environment.
As for me, I couldn't have asked for a better performance from my Rollover IRA than I've received over the past three years.
Yes, the timing was good in that I invested my money at the bottom of the Great Recession and what turned out to be the beginning of a recovery. I expect that our recovery will continue and America will remain the best place to invest.
Despite short-term ups and downs, strong U.S.-based corporations are not suddenly going to fall into a pit. That's unless Congress completely fails to adjust government spending to the reality of the deficit, fails to adjustment Social Security and other entitlement costs in light of an aging baby boomer population and fails to address tax reform. Oh yes, reforming our health care system is part of what's needed if we expect to compete in the global economy. Obamacare is a good first step. It needs more work.
1 percent "real" growth
Buffett told interviewers that he continues to see slow improvement in the U.S. economy and that 2 percent-a-year growth with less than 1 percent of population gain means 1 percent of "real growth per capita." In 20 years that’s 20 percent of real economic growth, he pointed out.
"If every generation lives 20 percent better than the generation before them, that’s not terrible,” he said.
My Rollover IRA is going to stay fully invested in the American economy where problems are being solved, new ideas are tried out and fabulous innovation continues to make us the greatest economy on earth. Along with Warren Buffet, let's call on both political parties "to pledge not to use the nation's debt limit as a weapon."
"Credit worthiness," Buffet said,"is like virginity, it can be preserved but not restored very easily, so it is crazy to play around with it.”
Let's call on all Congressional representatives to get to work on a financial plan for the long-term. We have to do it, so does Congress!!
I meet women all the time who face job and money transitions and who want to do them right. It’s about building confidence and taking charge of the future. This is your money. No one cares more than you do!
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