Moving Forward: Finding Hope and Healing After Losing Your Spouse
You hear it a lot in the widow world, I’m not moving on – I’m moving forward. The idea of moving on appears to skip past something and aimlessly move. When you envision yourself moving forward, it means you have acknowledged what happened and you are moving in the direction of self healing. You don’t have to necessarily accept the tragedy, but you are no longer in the denial stage. It happened. Next…
So what is the next step?
That depends on you. I first wrote this blog 5 years ago, but these are steps I took to support my journey moving forward after loss.
can be so very helpful to know that you are not alone. The internet has a wealth of information available. You can locate a local support group for loss of a spouse, loss of a child, addiction, divorce and more. Many churches or hospice locations offer bereavement groups. Generally a group of 12 people in the same age group will meet and discuss questions led by a counselor for about 8 weeks. It can be overwhelmingly sad to hear the stories from others but it also helps you to not feel so alone. Strategies on how to cope with sadness and how to move forward are offered by the counselor as well as other grievers.
I joined a group through hospice one year after Mike died. Most of the 12 women in the group were less than 8 months widowed and still in the denial or shock stage of grief. As we got to know each other, some friendships formed and we met for dinner or one time even have a group reading with a psychic medium. Meeting people going through a similar trauma that you experienced can be very helpful in the healing process and help you take the baby steps needed to move forward.
are out there for everyone, including widows and widowers. People engage from all over the world and struggle with some of the same things I do. People ask questions and get feedback from others experiencing the loss of a loved one. Advice and stories about how to deal with his ashes, the rings, his closet, the house, new relationships, in-laws, and kids are just some of the topics I have read about.
I have shared my story with people I’ve never met but feel comforted by hearing how they are doing and we connect through comments and sharing our journey. I’ve also noticed that some people on these sites connect through private messaging and develop friendships, even a new romantic relationship. One I recommend was started by a widow named Donna called “Widows and Widowers – Healing, Support and Education.” Her mission statement for the site is that it is a safe place to find hope and healing for those walking through the journey of grief after the loss of a spouse.
provide a fun way to meet people who share similar interests and want to get out and do something. Some people may be looking for a special someone, but it is not a dating site. I went on one with a friend to a scavenger hunt in New York City which was a fun adventure. Another time I went by myself to visit the Bronx Zoo just because I wanted to go. Each time I met a nice group of people to spend the day with.
Meetups can be located by checking the internet near where you live. Some areas have special interest groups on Facebook. I found a wonderful group in Bradenton Florida when I first moved here. It is called Bradenton Area Girlfriends
or BAGS which is a social events planning service and club that facilitates an active life style through organized events and activities. I joined a book club, a weekly card game, beach walks, lunches, movies and arts and crafts activities. No need to sit at home on the couch with all these groups at your fingertips.
may be helpful to get to that point where you can function in a productive way of life. If the loss is still too tragic that you are having a difficult time making regular decisions, find a good therapist who specializes in grief. A therapist can help you face the grief and go through all the feelings that you may not want to deal with. If it was an awful or sudden death, you may be experiencing PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder. A grief therapist can help you understand what happened and work through it.
A friend I met in an online widow group went back to school after her husband died to become a grief counselor. She now hosts retreats at her new cabin in Alabama to help others going through the grief process. To read about her, check out her book here:
Books and Blogs
It helps to know that you are not alone. The first book I read really helped me know that I was not the only one to ever lose a husband. The young woman was a pregnant teacher. Her husband died in an accident on a wake board at the beach. Her book was basically a diary of that first year and how she handled the ups and downs of her tragedy. She even had her baby and the support of her family, but it made me realize that I could be happy for all the love and memories I had shared with my husband and our children. Here is her book:
Another author who resonates with me is Laura Lynn Jackson, a teacher from Long Island who is now a full-time psychic medium. Her books bring comfort in the idea that our loved ones are not that far away, just in another place looking after us. Of course I asked “where did he go?” after my husband died. It is hard to accept that he is just gone for good but feeling that his love and spirit is still with me as evidenced with signs brings me peace and the ability to take baby steps and move forward.
Speaking about my husband’s death or how he died was very upsetting to me, but I wanted to process the tragic event and tell my story. I wrote in a journal for the first year after he died. Letting my feelings out by putting my thoughts in writing helped. I wrote letters to him and composed letters he would write back to me. I wrote letters to the people I felt were responsible for Mike’s death and gave them a piece of my mind. I didn’t send those letters but writing them made me feel better. My emotions those first two years were all over the place so processing my grief through writing provided me with an inexpensive on-call therapist.
For the one year anniversary of Mike’s passing, which coincided with what would have been our 27th wedding anniversary, I planned a trip to the opposite side of the world from New York: Thailand! While on my solo trip, I started writing a blog to keep in touch with friends and family back home. I shared photos and funny stories of my adventures and mishaps.
When I returned home (safely) to my empty home, I continued writing articles about what it was like to be a widow and how I was making attempted to move forward after a traumatic loss. Instead of heading back into the pain and struggle of past events, I needed to continue this momentum of moving forward.
Part of the goal of moving forward is to find new things or people that bring us joy. I love traveling and last year I managed to get away quite a bit. I also met someone special and that is something that makes me smile on a daily basis.
Maybe, just maybe I have processed my sadness and grief the way I was supposed to and I don’t need to go there anymore. Not to say I won’t still have moments of sadness or missing Mike and my old life, but I don’t need to stay there in those moments.
One person posted on the Facebook page I follow “what are you planning to do this weekend to help yourself move forward?” I replied “make a nice dinner for my sons because they are both home for the weekend and maybe plan a trip”. So I have to get busy making mashed potatoes and a lamb roast and visiting Pinterest for ideas on the next Runawaywidow widow adventure!!
What are you doing to move forward this weekend? Please share…