MOVING FORWARD by dating or at least leaving the house after the death of a spouse. Lonely widows and widowers are looking for friends. How to cope with loneliness as a widow, deal with complicated grief and maybe even start dating.
Friends are all getting together on Friday night. You are recently a widow and not part of a couple anymore. You were invited so the question is, should you stay or should you go now?
If you stay home, it is safe. You can be sad and watch a T.V. show. Start a new binge watching marathon. You could eat and drink and stay in your pajamas and cuddle a pet or a pillow. You could think about your dead spouse and do some crying. Or maybe some screaming.
But what if you go…
I know a lot of newly widowed people feel guilty going out and enjoying themselves. They think they should continue to be mourning all the time. Maybe they are worried about what others will think of them? What if it looks like you are happy and having fun. People will get the wrong idea.
Grief never ends: This is my journey from the tragic sudden death of my husband Mike, to healing after loss and eventually finding peace and love again.
The night my husband died
“How do you use the panoramic feature on this new phone?” my friend Meg asks me as we admire the setting sun.
“Oh, I just took one last week. Let me show you,” I offer as I kick off my blue Sperry flip flops and walk over to the sand. Meg is my attractive next-door neighbor, a single mom who looks stylish in ripped jeans or librarian type glasses.
My husband, Mike is busy chatting with the new member of our Long Island, New York beach community under the pavilion where fans help keep the gnats away. Mike is his charming self and asking our new friend about the winters she spends in Key West living in an RV. We have talked about someday retiring to Florida so it’s more than just idle curiosity. Since she has recently moved to our neighborhood, the conversation has changed to organic methods of eliminating late summer crab grass. When I first met Mike, he had owned a landscaping business while attending business classes at the community college. He now practices law but is full of information on the benefits of using boiling water or vinegar solutions instead of fertilizers to protect polluting run off into the bay.
“Be right back,” I tell Mike as I walk with Meg down to the water’s edge. The vibrant colors in the sky are definitely frame-worthy! To the right, a full moon is rising over the harbor, to the left an orange and pink late-summer sunset. Together we figure out how to hold the phone camera steady and sweep 180 degrees to get both the sun and moon in the same frame. Stunning!
When I return to my dusk-veiled circle of friends, Mike has left. I guess he has either gone to use our HBCA clubhouse restroom or just headed back to the house. The gnats are beginning to outnumber us by the shore, so I invite the few neighbors still on the beach up to our second-floor front deck to hang out. I pack up the chairs, towels, and cooler and walk across the parking lot to my house. I’ll light citronella candles to keep the mosquitoes away and maybe order a pizza. I’m starting to feel hungry.
As Meg and I cross the parking lot, we see a police car speeding down to the beach clubhouse followed by an ambulance. Lights are swirling and soon the local fire department chief pulls up.
“What happened?” Meg asks one of the volunteer firemen as she shifts the heavy beach bag on her shoulder.
“Cardiac arrest,” he tells us. Oh no, I think. How awful for someone to have a heart attack during this kid’s birthday party. We had seen all the excited teenagers getting dropped off earlier and heard the music as we sat under the pavilion on the beach. What a scary scene for the partygoers I imagine as I approach my front door. It’s a good thing they just installed that new AED device in the building for emergencies like this.
Our beach cottage was built in the 1920’s and has hosted a lot of families over the years. It is a narrow three-story structure which you enter by the side door and walk up a flight of stairs to the main living area. At the top of the stairs to the right is a den and sliding doors to a small back yard. To the left, is our dated kitchen with beige cabinets whose hinges continually break and a light blue Formica countertop. The best part of our house is the front deck that we enjoy daily as we look out on the peaceful harbor and nearby beach. I walk through the kitchen and turn on the lights to the front deck where I’m expecting guests. As I’m lighting the scented candles on the bar height dining table, Carol who lives next door calls over from her deck, “Kristin, what’s going on?” Our homes are very close together and it sometimes feels like we live in a college dorm, just with separate little houses.
“A firemen told us that someone had a heart attack,” I tell her. “Are you guys coming over?”
“Sure, we’ll be right there,” she says.
When she and her husband Dennis have joined me, we watch a second ambulance arrive at the clubhouse. More lights are flashing, and people are coming into the cul-de-sac at the end of the street to see what is going on.
“IT LOOKS LIKE YOUR HUSBAND!” my erratic neighbor Frank yells up to me from the street.
No one ever takes anything Frank says seriously, but it occurs to me that I haven’t seen Mike since I was on the beach. I quickly leave the deck and run inside. He must be in the den watching TV in his favorite green chair, I think, but he isn’t there, so I skip steps up to our third-floor bedroom where my bed is still made. By the time I go back downstairs to the front deck, the first ambulance is leaving, and the DJ has started playing music again for the partiers.
“Get in our car,” Dennis and Carol urge me and off we race to the hospital. Carol reaches into the back seat to hold my hand as Dennis drives. She reassures me that it may not be Mike and I squeeze her fingers.
We rush into the Huntington hospital emergency room and give the woman at reception the name of our beach community, Huntington Beach Community Association or HBCA, where the ambulance came from. A nurse directs us to a room. I stand outside in the hall, afraid to go in. What am I going to see? Maybe it’s not Mike. My legs feel weak. I ask Dennis to go in first, while Carol holds me up and we watch Dennis disappear into the room.
Ambulance workers rush in and out of the emergency room. I recognize a doctor. I taught his son kindergarten 14 years ago.
“Jack, what happened?” I ask in a faltering voice.
He stops mid-stride. The look of shock in his eyes as he recognizes me. “We couldn’t get his heart started,” he stammers, then he walks away.
Dennis walks out of the room and slowly nods to Carol and me. We all walk in together, the two of them supporting my elbows. I see my husband laying on the table. Mike is still barefoot and wearing the Old Navy swim shorts I gave him for his birthday. I recognize the light blue Salty Dog t-shirt we got on our last trip to visit my sister in Florida, and it is his face with the scruffy gray, been-vacationing-for-two-weeks-beard.
As I walk closer, I’m relieved to see that his eyes are open. I think, he must be OK. But as I touch his arm and feel that reassuring bicep muscle that always makes me feel safe, his skin is eerily cold. His eyes are open, but he isn’t there. Why is he not moving? My knees are shaking. My teeth begin to chatter. My heartbeat pounds in my ears. Where did the big bump on his head come from and why is there blood on his knees? This cannot be happening, I yell, “WAKE UP!”
I am approaching the 7th anniversary of my husband’s death and need to share our story. Working through stages of grief and seeking justice takes time and effort. This book is for anyone who has been through the trauma of loss and is searching for peace and hope.
“A must-read story of hope”
“I read this book cover to cover in one sitting”
“it’s a riveting story”
“..a chilling tale of police corruption”
“one of the most honest, heartfelt stories I have read…”
“Captivating true story”
“so good on so many levels”
“Kristin’s ability to bring the reader into her world, during the darkest of days will leave all who read this inspired.”
Last summer I saw a post that read “write a book in 30 days”. The idea of writing a book has appealed to me, but getting started seemed to be the issue. I enjoy writing stories in my blog. Wouldn’t that be enough, I wondered.
But I signed up for the 30 day on-line writing program last July before I moved to Florida. Each day I spent 1-2 hours writing. It was cathartic since the book is a memoir and tells the story about the night Mike died and the few years afterwards.
My initial idea was to write a self-help book to help other widows deal with the sudden loss of a spouse. I had been through it and maybe my words could help someone. That is what I have tried to do over the years writing this blog and people read posts daily from my Pinterest page so I know others are looking for guidance. I know I was looking for advice and even a “how to” book as a new widow. I threw the literal kitchen sink at my grief journey trying everything and anything to keep moving forward every day.
But once I started writing my story, it took on a life of its own. Sure, I had to deal with all the issues that an unexpected death entail. I planned a funeral service and met with lots of people. I figured out ways to handle the finances despite a delay in obtaining the death certificate and thus any life insurance money. I processed my grief with the support of professionals when necessary as well as my own precarious health circumstances at the time.
But I had one more issue to deal with that not all widows do, though many believe it to be true:
My husband wasn’t supposed to die that night.
When Mike left the beach to use the restroom at the beach clubhouse, he should have been able to walk out of that building without being assaulted and killed. It took two years for us to see the surveillance video of what happened that night.
Pursuing legal action isn’t easy but sometimes it has to be done. With the help of friends and family and a good legal team, I took the road less traveled. We pursued the truth and sought justice for Mike. My book will tell that story.
Stay tuned for chapter one and an opportunity to get “No Simple Highway” on Amazon!
Looking for signs after the loss of a loved one is comforting – challenging our loved ones to communicate with us can be reassuring .
Keeping an open mind, I believe we can find signs from our loved ones if we accept that it is possible.
My latest sign came from my mom on Mother’s Day. I spent the day with my sister. This is our third year without calling mom or sending her flowers. We didn’t get to have lunch with her so we made plans to visit the Sarasota Jungle gardens and go to lunch with some of our family members. We both miss our mom so a sister is a good substitute.
In our family we have pretty much agreed that seeing a red male cardinal is a visit from our dad. I don’t see them as much here in Florida, but that is our sign. For my mom, we got a bit trickier. She sends us white dolphins.
When the butterfly landed on my beer can and started sipping as I sat in a poolside lounge chair in Thailand on the first anniversary of Mike’s death, I took that as a sign that he was still with me. I visited a psychic medium a few months after Mike died and she told me that he send me blue jays. Sure enough, I used to see one fly in front of my car on my 3 minute commute to work every day. I don’t see too many blue jays down here in Florida.
Immediately after he passed, his cousin and mother started finding dimes in the craziest of places. They felt strongly that these were signs.
I spent an amazing summer weekend with the Forever Family Foundation in Connecticut the first year after my husband died. I had a positive experience bonding with other people going through grief. Several certified psychic mediums did group readings and I was fortunate to have Mike come through with messages for me during those sessions.
After the weekend, I bought a book by five year anniversary of our first date and it is true, life goes on.
Help a widow feel the love. After loss you can show you care. Send a care package to a widow or make one for yourself.
As an overwhelmed and unexpected widow, I had no idea how to respond to the heart given cry “call me if you need anything”.
I, of course, had no idea what I would need or how much my life was about to change.
During the first month or so I was so fortunate to be gifted with gift cards, friend visits and even meals. Being surrounded by loved ones and keeping busy is helpful. But after those first few weeks, most people return to their regular lives and the new widow is beginning to adjust to her new normal.
For many people experiencing the loss of a loved one, moments of grief continue to surprise us. More and more stories are being shared of how lonely people are after the loss of a family member. Now with the coronavirus pandemic, loneliness is even more prevalent. As people age and find it harder to leave the home, life can become even more lonely.
I have written about fighting the fear or the reality of being a sad and lonely widow How to NOT be a Stay at Home, Lonely Widow. But I am a young 58 year old and I am determined to enjoy my life and continue to experience all I can and find joy in each day.
That being said, I remember how when I was in my saddest moments, the kindness and unexpected notes, meals or even comments on Facebook, really made my day.
Should a widow move after the death of a spouse? Consider financial, emotional and social needs of each person before making major life changing decisions.
This question has been burning in my mind since August of 2015 when Mike died. Do I stay in our home, or do I move? The answer is different for all widows and much needs to be considered. Here is what I know.
While widows and widowers all have one thing in common, everyone has a different story and a different situation. The one bit of advice that I found helpful after the sudden tragic loss of my husband was to wait a year before making any major life changes.
For most widows, finances will play a pivotal part in any decisions made after the death of a spouse. If a large life insurance policy is available, it may take a few months to have access to the money. Using that money to pay off a home mortgage and other medical or credit card debts will be most helpful.
If the spouse was over 60, social security monthly payments may be available which will help secure money to be paid for monthly bills.
In my situation, we were both only 51 years old, so I was facing a loss of half our monthly take home pay. We still had a very large mortgage, a son just starting college and plenty of monthly bills as well. I used the small life insurance policy to help make the monthly payments, anticipating that it would only be enough for a year or two.
Each widow feels differently about her home after the death of a spouse. Some refuse to sleep in the same bedroom and may leave his things exactly as they were. Others clear it all out soon and try their best to put it in the past and not dwell on the loss.
Memories of the home and raising a family together can be comforting or painful. The photos and reminders are always there.
The best part about my stay in Seattle was the Airbnb I found located in the West Queen Anne section of the city. The 100 year old, beautifully renovated home on the hill overlooking Elliott Bay was the best place I have ever stayed in. We had 2 large bedrooms with amazing views, a kitchen, living area and large bathroom as well as all in the modern appliances including a washer and dryer.
Years ago I booked a stay in Palm Springs a long drive from all the action. I learned that time that choosing a location when you visit a new place is paramount to the enjoyability of your stay. This home was located on a quiet street and in a neighborhood where you could walk to amazing restaurants, a general store and even Kerry Park for the best view of Seattle.
My son and I arrived at the airport and once we gathered our luggage, walked outside the doors where our TURO car rental drove up and the driver handed us the keys. We plugged in the address of our Airbnb and off we went. TURO car rentals are like Airbnbs in that you are renting someone else’s car at a predetermined rate. I have found the cars to be in great condition, less expensive than rental car companies and convenient. Geico insurance covered TURO rentals in Washington state, but some insurance companies do not cover TURO so check before you book.
After spending a week in Alaska, we had plenty of laundry so got started on that right away once we checked into the house. We had the entire lower floor of the home and never saw the owners. They texted to be sure we were OK and if we needed any suggestions on things to do in the area but we assured them we were fine.
The first night, we drove the one mile over to Queen Anne Avenue North and decided to dine at “How to Cook a Wolf” restaurant which was recommended by the homeowners. It was restaurant week and we HAD to have the three course meal which was pretty expensive and the chocolate dessert I ordered wasn’t available. Still, the character of the restaurant was nice and we ate outside which was fun.
Visit Alaska in Spring and drive – It’s a grand adventure
No one ever suggests visiting Alaska in the spring. I searched and searched for information to no avail. Is summer the only time to go? Sure it’s dark and cold in winter, but what about spring!?!
My son went to Alaska last summer to work at a fishery as a seafood processor. He stayed for the winter and was planning to return to the lower 48 in the spring, so I felt compelled to visit before he left. But what do we do in the spring in Alaska? Is everything fun closed? I found out one of Alaska’s biggest secrets. March is a great time to visit Alaska!
1 – DRIVING
Big city driving tends to stress me out and that is something you do not need to worry about in Alaska. I arrived in Anchorage and found the streets to be well labeled and easy to follow using directions on my maps app. Turo is a newer car rental company similar to Airbnb. You rent someone’s car at a predetermined rate. Some insurance companies will not cover Turo in different states, but Geico does cover car insurance in Alaska so I tried it out. The Ford Explorer I rented from Jonathan was clean and in good condition. He left it for me in the airport parking lot and that is where I returned it. No shuttle busses or cries of “sorry we ran out of cars” for me. I appreciated the convenience.
The roads in Alaska were pleasantly wide and relatively empty during my visit.
Day 8 -Anchorage – Hotel Sheraton 4 Points (cheap and sketchy – not recommended)
We took the thirty minute drive south on the Seward highway from Anchorage to Girdwood and Alyeska ski town. Although known as one of most dangerous highways in America, we had good weather and no rock slides the days we were there. It’s hard not to be distracted with all the amazing views. We spent three days in Alyeska, two skiing and one on a fun snowmobile tour.
Next we drove south to Soldotna for one night after skiing to visit a friend who hosts a fabulous Airbnb. The next day we drove to Seward to the Sea Life Center on the Kenai peninsula, then up past Anchorage to Palmer.
We took a day trip for dog sledding and lunch in Talkeetna for views of Denali. Another day drove up the Hatcher pass to ski at the new Skeetawk ski area. Meant to get to hike Matanuska Glacier, never made it. Did see the Northern Lights from the Airbnb in Palmer though!
Who doesn’t love traffic free roads? Just beware of falling rocks, avalanches and potholes.
2 – WHERE TO STAY
Spring is considered off- season so rates can be better this time of year. I stayed in three hotels and two Airbnbs during my visit and I would highly recommend the Airbnb experience in Alaska. Traveling with my son it was nice to have a place with a kitchen and two separate bedrooms. The people renting out space in their homes are genuinely kind and thoughtful. They are willing to help you plan an unforgettable trip with recommendations for dining out and places to visit. I tend to look for places that also have a view and my search did not disappoint on this trip.
The hotels in Anchorage were a bit on the run down side. I would recommend staying in the best hotel which may be the Cook hotel. Parts of Anchorage are indeed a bit sketchy and since the vacationers are limited in March, some areas are down right deserted except for homeless people who will approach and ask for money. The Lakefront Hotel near the airport was acceptable and had a good breakfast. Do not book the Four Points Sheraton in downtown Anchorage, enough said.
3 – NORTHERN LIGHTS
This is a great time to see them in Alaska. After spending a week in Iceland with my sister on a tour specifically designed to see the Aurora Borealis, we were disappointed that we never saw them. In the summer the sky in Alaska is too light, and earlier in the winter it is super cold! Tours are available if you want to pay to sit in a van out on a field for many hours waiting. We used the app on our iphone to help know the best time to look outside. Just fair warning: In real life they are not as crystal clear as some photos you may have seen. Still awesome to witness.
4 -WHERE TO EAT
Most restaurants are open year round and we did not have to wait to get service. We had good luck with Brewery type places. In Anchorage, we tried the pizza at Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria and it was very good.
At the Alyeska resort, there is a high-end restaurant called Seven Glaciers you can take the gondola up to but it is only open for dinner a few nights each week. It wasn’t open the night we stayed there but we did dine at Sakura Asian Bistro which was a great sushi place where everyone sits together at a huge table. Something different.
Yoga teacher training 200 for an over 50 group proves to be more challenging and rewarding than expected
It’s recommended that we never stop learning and we can keep our brains from turning to mush after retirement by learning something new. I’ve tried courses available online including the history of Egypt and some writing courses. I attempted knitting but did not get very far on that venture. Pete is teaching me how to golf and I do enjoy getting outside on the course in our golf cart, but I needed something more.
One day an advertisement showed up on my Facebook feed, which I admittedly spend too much time scrolling through, for an over 50 yoga teacher training program. The yoga institute is located six miles from my house in Florida so that was a positive. I never imagined myself as a yoga instructor. Aren’t those people super flexible and skinny? Don’t they emit vibes of pure Zen and light to all who meet them? And they speak a foreign language with all those Sanskrit terms? Who do I think I am – ha ha!
So I took out my credit card and signed up for the program. All I knew was that the class would meet on Tuesdays for about six months and I would take a weekend class in my choice of aerial or chair yoga certification. I’d probably opt for chair I figured as I hit enter on the application.
I arrived for our first class in October well-rested and excited to learn. Entering the grounds of Heartwood Yoga Institute and Retreat Center is like driving into a hidden rain forest filled with oversized palm trees and Live Oak trees covered in Spanish moss. The buildings blend in nicely with the landscape. I parked and immediately was welcomed by two friendly border collies hoping I’d toss them a ball, which I did. I followed another older woman as we walked towards an elevated porch-type room with all windows looking onto the grounds.
Denver taught us our first ninety-minute gentle yoga class and I felt pleased that I could do all the movements, especially that last resting pose called Shavasana. Her mother and owner Ginny Shaddock met us after class and gave us a tour of the property which includes a labyrinth, a chakra garden, an indoor yoga studio, a firepit area, meditation pavilion, a library, a small gift store, and enough rooms to house people who sign up for intensive classes and live on the property for up to three weeks.
The 14 classmates and I ate lunch together at picnic tables under the shade trees and then started the lectures and learning that would take up much of our time during the program.
We diligently opened our binders and took notes as the instructors broke each pose that many of us knew from classes, into bits and pieces. The most difficult for me then and now is remembering the Sanskrit term for each pose: so much easier to say “extended hand to big toe pose” than “Utthita Hasta Padangustasana” – in my opinion anyway.
We learned what parts to straighten and which parts to press into. Keeping the spine long and shoulders back, lifting the belly and dropping your tailbone are just some phrases we could use to help people do the pose correctly, if we did teach. Learning how to provide modifications for each pose or variations were given as well as how to use props. We asked to know the benefits for each pose which are plentiful and may eventually sink in as we teach. After the lecture, the opportunity to teach each pose to a small group of classmates was interesting and we began to bond as a group in our attempts at sounding like a yoga teacher.