Procrastinating during the holidays is Sometimes a Good Idea

Procrastinating during the holidays can help the widow deal with grief and loss on her own time.

After Thanksgiving it’s easy to get caught up in the rush and frenzy of Christmas. Keeping busy may be helpful, or maybe you just don’t feel the holiday spirit after the loss of a loved one.  It’s Ok to not do anything somedays.  Other times, you may find yourself lost in a copy of the book that resembles, “If you give a mouse a cookie” by Laura Numeroff and spend the day chasing squirrels.  That is OK too.  Widows get a pass on living up to the expectations we women have burdened ourselves with.  It’s been six years for me now, but I enjoyed reading my post about the second year when I wanted to get back into the swing of the holiday season, but needed a little help.

Decorating for Christmas was definitely on my to do list, I just kept putting it on the bottom.  The idea of digging out all my favorite memories that I had collected over the years for the Christmas tree, kept me frozen with apprehension.

My first year as a widow I avoided the Holidays and traveled. I ran away and didn’t participate in many of my favorite traditions. The cruise during Christmas week to the Caribbean with my 2 sons was perfect for the first year. I never put out any decorations and I was fine with that. A Different Christmas is OK, especially after the loss of a loved one.

The decision was made to decorate on this year 2 and I was planning to do it.  I was going to do it… after I made myself some breakfast.

While I was making home fries, an omelet and coffee, I searched for a piece of paper so I could make a to do list.  After brunch, my puppy started barking.  I was sure he needed a walk so off we went.

When I got back from the walk I noticed that my yard needed a good clean up.

I took out the power tools – a noisy leaf blower.  I started blowing leaves all over the back yard. Once the deck was cleared and the rest pushed to the sides of the yard I thought I would start decorating inside.

But then I noticed the bird feeder was empty.  I have a thing about blue jays and cardinals.  I feel like  my husband and my dad send them to me to comfort me.  It was time to get some bird food.  That was really important.  So I found the car keys and put on a hat.  Off to  do some shopping.

At the garden store, I picked up 20 pounds of bird seed, 75 feet of white pine roping and a 15 inch fake Christmas tree.  I wasn’t ready to pull out all the boxes of ornaments but felt that the small tree with some pretty new decorations would spruce up the house.

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Must widows change their name?

Must a widow change her name back to her maiden name? Or do we keep the married name?

Growing up in the 1960s, I hated my name. I was the only girl in my school, at that time, named Kristin. My teachers were confused. They insisted on calling me Christine. Some people called me Christian. They spelled it wrong either starting with a C or ending with “en”. Even my last place of employment, where I worked for 21 years, made the consistent error of spelling my name with an “en” despite my many efforts of correction.

I really wanted to fit in and have a name like the other girls ending in the “eee” sound. Why couldn’t my mom have called me Julie, or Debbie, or Heidi? Years later when I asked her about this, she told me she thought people would call me Kristi. Really? No one ever did. I think you have to initiate that nickname if you are the mother, I told her.

To top it off, my mom decided to use her name as my middle name. Another name I was sure no one except for Austrailians have heard of. Adelaide. Kristin Adelaide was the most obscure name and I was embarrassed to share that top secret information with others.

Of course, my mom never went by Adelaide with her peers. Only her sister called her Adelaide, and it always sounded like she was saying it in a most mocking manner. My mom went by Addie, so even she preferred that “eee” sound at the end of her name. She was popular, and never had an issue fitting in!

Then I grew up with a famously infamous last name. Once people heard the name Sanders, they immediately asked if I was related to the KFC colonel and had a good chuckle over their cleverness. It was easy enough to spell and pronounce, but I did not like that I was always near last when things were done in alphabetical order in school. Being a first born and natural high achiever, being last was not my favorite thing to be.

When I was married at 25 years of age, the idea of women hyphenating their name with their husband’s was all the rage. I considered this fad, but having a background as a teacher, I decided it would be easier for our children if we all just had the same name. Coming from a family of traditionalists, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. I changed my middle name from Adelaide to Sanders, and my new last name became Divers. It was easy to spell. Surprisingly, people often had trouble pronouncing it – like they expected it to be some strange sounding word like Dee-vers. No, I would explain. Like a scuba diver. Best of all, I was thrilled to be listed near the front of the alphabet, whenever that was relevant.

For 30 years I taught in elementary school and I was known as Mrs. Divers. I taught kindergarten for 21 of those years in the same neighborhood where I lived. Lots of families remember their child’s kindergarten teacher. I would often walk through the supermarket and be stopped by 3 or 4 families with a look of excited surprise as they would see me and exclaim, “Mrs. Divers” across the store. I didn’t always remember the child’s name until I was driving home. It was a bit like how movie stars must feel, and I soon started to do my grocery shopping in the next town after 9pm.

Over the years, generous parents created signs and bags with the name Mrs. Divers on them. I had name stickers made to insert into my collection of children’s books that I would let colleagues borrow as needed. On occasion, the secretary would announce over the PA system, “Mrs. Divers please call the main office”. I was Mrs. Divers, and Mrs. Divers was me.

After Mike died, I didn’t really think about my name much. I had lots of paperwork to deal with and everything was in both of our names. Taking him off the bank accounts, credit cards, car loans, and mortgage took time and effort. Changing my name back to my maiden name was never considered.

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9 Happy Surprises in Moving to Florida!

9 Happy Surprises in Moving to Florida

One month, and it’s beginning to feel like home. We definitely kept too much stuff from both our homes in New York and still need to purge, but I have faith it will happen. We unpacked most of the 106 cardboard boxes, and found interested parties on the internet to take the empty boxes, thus keeping them from landfills. Signing up for the Next Door app has been helpful. People recommend nail salons, pet sitters, appliance repair services and post photos of random creatures like bugs and bobcats.

We knew it would be hot in Florida in August, but I have some positive revelations from our first month here as well:

1. It’s hot everywhere in August

I had braced myself for the heat. Flip flops, scrunchies for the hair, shorts and a bikini for the pool on my Lanai. Then I heard from folks back home in New York and in Minnesota and in Arizona. The USA seems to be overheating this summer and it’s not only in Florida. The humidity is high, but people here are prepared for it. The stores are all airconditioned. The homes have A/C and private pools. People use the pools more than the beach in the summer, and stay indoors during the hottest time of the day.

2. People wear masks in Florida

Even though the governor has argued that schools can’t mandate students wear masks, people are wearing them in lots of places, more so than they were in New York last month. I was surprised to see more than half the people in Walmart and Publix wearing masks. The COVID positive rates are high in Florida and hospitals are filled with unvaccinated people on ventilators and dying. Many of the schools have defied the governor and are enforcing mask rules to protect the kids and teachers anyway. It is good to see people using caution and common sense in public, even if they don’t have to.

3. Costco sells wine

I am a big fan of Costco. The warehouse store makes me happy and I have bought everything from tires and bunk beds, to steak and pistachios. In the middle of the store, a short drive from my house, is a sommelier and a humungous selection of wines of all types and prices. They even have a Kirkland brand which tastes pretty good. I’m hopeful they will start giving out free samples; maybe a wine pairing next to the morsels of Pierogis and Brie cheese.

4. People are helpful at DMV

Picture on my license plate

Seriously, this was definitely a pleasant surprise. They don’t call it DMV, you go to the “Tax Collector” here. Due to COVID, you make reservations online. I was able to reserve a time for the next day. You fill out some paperwork, and if you don’t, they give you some to fill in when you check in. I replaced my driver’s license in about 30 minutes and had a brand new colorful one with a much better picture; they let you smile here. Then, I registered my car. Behind the agent, is a shelf of beautiful plates you can choose from if you don’t want the one with a plain orange. Mine supports the coral reef and is oh so pretty.

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How to be kind and gentle to yourself

Grief from loss knocks the wind out of you. Learning to limit you expectations and take time to be gentle with yourself is one of the hardest lessons.

Being kind to myself is one of the hardest lessons I have learned on this journey after loss.  I am beginning to understand what it means to be gentle with yourself and when I am going to need some quiet time to pull it together.

Grief brings about many emotions; sadness, guilt, anger, despair,  anxiety and it is pretty much agreed upon by people that I have talked to that grief does not follow the rules of proceeding through a certain number of stages until the finish line.  It is more like being hit by waves at the beach, some are bigger than others.  Some knock you down and suck the air out of you.  Some are unexpected and make you feel unbalanced.  Eventually, you learn to prepare for when they hit and maybe to ride a few.

Feeling numb is also common.  Labeled the “widow fog”, we carry on with our routines and try to go through the motions but often may not even remember what we did.  We lose things.  We can not concentrate. We begin to avoid doing even what seems like a simple task.  Everything is so overwhelming.  I remember that I could not talk on the telephone for the longest time.  Mailing a letter or a bill was a major accomplishment.

Going to the grocery store, activities that as a wife were normal, became triggers of anxiety.  I was used to shopping for us.  Now I was only shopping for me.  What do I like to eat? I have no idea. My identity seemed lost and being forced to think about it was stressful.

As a working mom, who took care of her family while managing the household, I was always busy.  I was productive during the day at work.  Things got done.  My students were learning. Coming home, I took care of the home and family.  Paying bills, shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving kids around and planning for my days at work took time.  Spending time socially with neighbors and friends was a pleasure that I was able to fit into my busy life.  I was used to the go – go – go American way of life.  I was happy and fulfilled and loved by a wonderful husband.

That all changed one day late in the summer of 2015 when Mike died.

All the normal behaviors of life that I took for granted, suddenly became so difficult. Making decisions was challenging.  That fog must have a layer of thick molasses on the ground because it is literally hard to even move your body in the right direction, but somehow you do.

You make it through the beginning weeks.  Funeral arrangements have to be made.  Paperwork has to be filed.  You must change names on bank accounts, credit cards, the mortgage and your beneficiary and health insurance at work.  Cars require a visit to DMV to put registration and titles in your name. Insurance agencies and last place of employment needs to be notified. Lawyers may need to be involved with estates. Medical bills paid.  Oh, and don’t forget to tell the pharmacy to stop calling you that your husband’s medication is available.  I finally had to tell them in our local store to stop leaving me that message.

Some days you can do a couple of these things.  Some days, not so much.  I started to write a small list of 3 things I hoped to do each day.  More than 3 and I didn’t seem to get anything done.

When I have an emotional set back, I take some time. Certain dates or situations you can prepare for.  Anniversaries are difficult.  Think about where you want to be, with who and  what you want to be doing. My first year I ran away at Christmas with my sons on a cruise.  It was different. A Different Christmas is OK, especially after the loss of a loved one. I had anticipated that holiday to be awful so we did something out of the ordinary for us.  My wedding anniversary Celebrating my wedding anniversary with the elephants! and the one year anniversary of Mike’s death are a few days apart so I headed to the other side of the earth and distracted myself with elephants in Thailand.

Unfortunately you can’t always travel to the other side of the planet and a lot of times you can not plan for the waves of sadness that hit during grief. You may have days where the ocean of emotions is not that rough.  People  may tell you how strong you are and you may begin to believe them. Then…one of those waves sneaks up and gets you.

I was recently purging some old files and came across copies of my husband’s college transcripts.  I looked at the courses that he had taken and the grades he got.  He had transcripts from the 2 community colleges he attended, as well as the UCSD transcript and one from law school.  I guess I won’t be needing them anymore but that made me cry.  I was glad that I purged the files, but was sad to know that no one would ever need to see his transcripts again.

Another day, my next door neighbor’s mother in law fell on her icy driveway.  The ambulance and police came to take her to the hospital.  The same doctor that had taken my husband to the hospital in an ambulance came up the driveway to talk to us. Seeing all of this brought back trauma from the night my husband died when the ambulance and police car were in front of my house.  It honestly shook me up for a few days and resurfaced so many emotions.

On Superbowl Sunday I was invited to a party at a friend’s house.  I picked up the chicken wings and joined friends to watch the game and comment on the commercials. After the half time show a feeling of melancholy came over me.  I had always watched the Superbowl with Mike and we often hosted the parties.  I had not expected that date to be a trigger.

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The important thing I learned is to take time for some rest. I have been learning to be gentle with myself and that it is OK to have down time. There is no prize for the busiest person. The feeling of being calm and centered can only be practiced when your mind quiets itself.  Don’t get caught up in feeling like you should be doing something.  Just be in the present. No expectations.

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Taking time to just breathe and rest after an emotionally intense episode is important.  Be gentle with yourself by not expecting much.  You would be kind and supportive to a friend who was hurting.  Sometimes you need to treat yourself like a friend.  Put on some soft music or meditations.  Take a nap.  Have a cup of tea.  Lay on the couch and cuddle with a pet.

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In the book Fighting Forward by Jan Owen, she recalls a question posed to her in therapy “What would it look like if you were to show kindness to yourself?”  Jan writes a chapter about her thoughts on what that would look like but I especially connected with her quote “…I would understand my limitations and pace myself so that I have time to pay attention to my grief, practice self-care and rest as needed.”

What would it look like if you were to show kindness to yourself?

The Unexpected Joy of Doing Nothing

The joy of doing nothing is part of healing and moving forward.

It’s Saturday morning and I’ve spent the week skiing in the snow covered Rockies with 3 “kids” in their 20s. I’m rockin it.

I get up and make us eggs and coffee. We catch the shuttle and spend hours riding lifts and making S turns down the blue runs. The sun comes out for 20 minutes and then snow flurries begin. We stop for lunch. Then back to it.

After a few hours we catch the shuttle back to condo. Shins, knees and everything aching we hop into hot showers and find a local dining spot, then back to the house for a game of Apples to Apples and binging “Alone” on Netflix.

It’s been awesome. And it is day 4 and the kids are off to catch the early shuttle and guess who is writing a blog on the couch with her second cup of coffee? That would be me!

Some days we just need to catch our breath.

According to research there are limits to how much stress the body can tolerate before it breaks down and suffers injury. Doing too much unfamiliar exercise too quickly can result in muscle damage. Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. https://www.verywellfit.com/the-benefits-of-rest-and-recovery-after-exercise-3120575

During grief, taking time to be gentle with yourself is often one of the harder things to learn. Knowing there is so much that needs to be done is overwhelming. Days come and you can’t do a thing. I resorted to making limited lists: 3 things to accomplish each day. Shower, walk dog and mail that bill could often be enough for one day.

Teachers who have been so inundated with new technologies and challenges this year face the first day of “vacation” this morning. Instead of feeling pressure to finally get the house in order or make quality time memories with your own young children at home, take this precious moment to just do nothing.

Feeling overwhelmed or guilty isn’t a helpful emotion. Understand that some days it’s time to recharge your batteries.

It’s like how the flight attendant tells us be sure to put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help others. You won’t be good to anyone if you are unconscious.

My mom was good at this. She knew when she needed a break, and as she got older learned to say no and take time to recharge. When she was with us she was 100% present and engaged. That is a good thing to be!

I must admit I still have a bad case of FOMO (fear of missing out). If there is some fun adventure or gathering I have an opportunity to participate in, I don’t want to miss out.

In many ways this helped me move forward after the death of my husband. I was invited to visit friends, I did. I was invited to learn how to play Bridge, I did. I signed up for yoga classes and Meet ups and even on line dating. I was not going to miss out on anything!

But today I think I’ll skip the morning of skiing and take some alone time to reflect, rest and recharge. It actually feels amazing to be quiet this morning with no agenda. I guess that is what a vacation can be as well.

Time to get back to doing nothing. Have a great weekend friends.

Do Widows Wear Wedding Rings?

Do widows wear wedding rings? After the death of your spouse when do you clean out his stuff from the house, and when do you take off your wedding ring?

My left ring finger looks so bare as I think about what to write on my blog today.  I have put on a few pounds since my wedding day and my ring was literally stuck on my finger.  It was a beautiful ring that my grandmother had worn her whole life and she left to me in her handwritten scrawl on the side of her neatly typed Last Will and Testament.

When Mike and I decided to get married, after living together in California for a year, I went home to New York, took the ring out of the safety deposit box and declared ourselves engaged. We had of course discussed this before I went home to visit. During the week in New York we quickly booked a venue, ordered a wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses, selected flowers and invitations, and introduced our parents at a dinner. We were excited to get married in a church ceremony with our families and friends.

Living in San Diego, I had brought my grandmother’s delicate and large diamond ring to a local jeweler.  It was uncanny how he admired the ring and said it was designed in New York City around 1920 based on the design of the diamond called the  “Old Mine Cut”.  This popular cut is different from today’s diamonds in that instead of being laser cut, it was hand produced.  Every single diamond is unique.

After appraising the ring, we had the jeweler design a ring to match as a wedding band. This was in the late 1980’s when everyone was changing old rings into new designs. I admired those flashy gold rings with the diamonds mounted high above the surface; easy to use as a weapon in a dark, mall parking garage. Resisting the urge and with a lack of additional funds, I kept the ring as is.  I am so glad that I did not change the setting because it is so beautiful the way it is.

But, as with many of the things from my marriage, I have acknowledged that some things are no longer true.  Like on Facebook it says I am married.  I feel like I am married, but I guess I should really change that to widowed.  That just seems too real. I’m not ready to let the world know I am a widow.

Most of Mike’s clothes are now gone from his closet, although I still have a few items that I think my sons may want or I just keep them around because they remind me of him and maybe a special time.  I have expanded my summer wardrobe into his closet.  Recently I was going through some piles of papers and came across his expired license and photo I.D. card from a hotel we worked in together in California.  I didn’t get rid of them, yet.  Not sure why – I just didn’t want to. To read about more about my attempts at clearing out the house click here: Finding Joy in the act of getting rid of clutter.

Some widows are ready when their husband passes, and clean out the houses right away.  That is not the way I dealt with it.  Since his death was unexpected, I was in the denial zone for a while, I left everything as is.  In fact, I often thought and dreamed that this was all a big mistake and he would be back. He died in August and left his flip-flops outside the side door.  I left them outside all winter.

Slowly, I have made progress in moving on or moving forward and parting with some things that I really don’t need.  His toiletries and medicines took a while, but I realized that I didn’t want or need them. One morning, when I was tired of the clutter, I cleared out the bathroom shelves.  He didn’t collect much stuff, but I did get rid of some of his books and papers.  I still have his framed diplomas.  I guess as long as I am living in this house, I don’t have to make decisions about all that stuff yet.

Back to the ring.  It is so pretty.  I had to literally cut it off my finger.  It was broken in 2 parts. The original ring was very thin, and the wedding band torn. The two soldered rings were so tight I could no longer remove the set. My finger was beginning to turn blue. Once again, I considered changing the setting and making it a “cocktail” ring. But, since it is about 100 years old and a family heirloom, I will have it resized and wear my grandmother’s diamond ring on my right hand. It will always remind me that I was married to Mike.

But the wedding band that we had made is special to me. It represents our marriage. Maybe I will use my wedding band and his wedding band and design a piece of jewelry to keep him close to my heart as well. Turning the pieces into a heart or a cross would be lovely.

I asked a jeweler if he could turn the rings into a new piece. He offered to melt them down and purchase the gold, but that just didn’t seem right. I have seem some women design a necklace using the two rings. The design is generally still circular.

Do widows wear wedding rings? Yes they do.  Some will never take them off.  Some will move them to the right hand.  Some will even wear their husband’s band on a thumb or middle finger or on a chain. It is definitely a personal decision and not one any one else should make for you.  When or if you are ready, you will take it off.  Maybe you’ll sometimes put it back on again.

I have seen many examples of beautiful new pieces of jewelry that widows have made.  A necklace with both rings on a chain.  Or both rings melted down into a heart shape with a diamond.  Maybe turn them into a widow ring, which doesn’t sound that great, but basically it is your design and may include parts of both your rings.

It took me almost 3 years to move my ring to the other hand.  I may never have moved it off my left hand, but the fact that it was too small and broken helped me make the decision.

I also made the decision to move my ring to the other side because I am ready to meet someone else and be part of a committed relationship. I started dating after three years, and I did not remove my ring. Some men might be offended or put off by this. I left it on because it is pretty and it represents who I am. Telling a date that I had been married and that my husband died was sure to come up in conversation. It’s different from wearing a wedding ring and currently still being married.

 I loved being married.  Our relationship of course had its ups and downs but overall we had trust and love and continued to enjoy each other.  The shock of him being gone is going away and I am learning to live in the life I have right now.  If the life I have brings me a new love, then I will honor that.

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do widows wear wedding rings?
do widows wear wedding rings

 

Should you get a puppy after the death of a spouse?

Should you get a puppy after the death of a spouse? Living alone can be hard. Pets make great therapists and can help alleviate widow anxiety and loneliness. Read to learn what to consider in choosing your pet.

Not a decision to enter into lightly but definitely something to consider when living alone is new and challenging.

The common rule you hear after your spouse dies is to wait at least one year before making any major decisions.

Why would you even want a dog? Most likely because you are lonely and the dog will be a loyal companion to fill the emptiness.

If you have had a dog before you will know at least what you are getting yourself into.  But if you have not had a dog before here are some things to consider.

Puppy or Dog?

Puppies are a lot more work than a dog.  I have 2 friends who are now fostering dogs in their homes that have been saved from “kill shelters”.  These dogs are cared for and have had a chance to adjust to a family.  Many are already house trained and just looking for a forever home.  Knowing that you are not supporting puppy mills and abuse of breeds by purchasing a dog at a boutique pet store can also help you feel good about yourself, and you will probably need some help in that category after your loving spouse is no longer around to tell you how awesome you are.

What I hear a lot from people who rescue dogs is that the dog really rescued the people.

Puppies however are so adorable.

If you can handle training your puppy to go do his business outside, if you can wake up early and commit to a walking schedule and if you will not be out of the house all day then maybe a puppy is the right choice for you.  You will need a project and raising a puppy is one of the most rewarding projects out there.

I grew up with a dog and in my adult life, Mike and I had 3 dogs as pets.  Our dogs were members of our family and the last one Lucky, a pure bred border collie, we raised as a puppy when my youngest son was 5 years old. She was our family member and loved so much for over 12 years and it was heartbreaking when she died. To read more the loss of a pet  my dog Lucky, click here.

Mike and I decided that we would not get another dog.  We have an older cat and we weren’t sure how much traveling was going to be in our future or if we would even move or retire so we decided to pass on that multi-year commitment.

However, when Mike died only 15 months after Lucky had died the idea of having a puppy to console me was brought to my attention.  A friend started to send photos of puppies to me and I visited a couple of shelters.  I was not thinking straight but the thought of a puppy did make me smile.

Three weeks after Mike died, on my oldest son’s birthday, my son and I found ourselves playing with the cutest little 10 pound, 7 month old pup with an amazing personality.  In fact, at first I thought the cuddly white round ball of fur sitting on my lap was perfect, but my son said, “mom, you could just get a stuffed animal if you like that one”.  So the playful one got a leash and some toys and then took a nap on the car ride home. We took the little scruffy Yorkie mix home and he was welcomed by our friends and neighbors.  He was a bit excited to meet us too.

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Harry’s first impression of his new home

I experienced what is called complicated grief.  My husband’s death was sudden and tragic and I had a difficult time sleeping. All I could think about was the night he died.  I could not turn my brain off and think of anything else.  I needed to take a leave of absence from work and began therapy for PTSD.

Having Harry my new puppy gave me a reason to wake up every day.  In fact, he also gave me a reason to smile and laugh.  Harry barks to go out for walks two times each day but he does not like to succumb to being put on a leash.  He will run away like a crazy crook and scamper circles around the room so that I can’t catch him.  I’ve tried faking him out and pretending to leave but he’s too smart.  Usually for a treat, he will come over and let him attach the leash.  

He loves going for a walk really. Once we are walking, he likes to stop and smell, just about everything.  I do not get much exercise walking Harry but since I live near the beach it gives me an opportunity to take a walk on the beach each morning and think about what I am grateful for.  I always start by saying I am grateful for my puppy.

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Harry at the beach

Since Harry is a little dog I find he is easier to cuddle with.  He likes sitting in an empty chair at the table and watching us eat.  I try very hard to be sure he does not get any scraps from the table, but he has watched and is learning to play Bridge when my friends come over to play cards.

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Playing Bridge

My king size bed is great and I do love to stretch out in it, however, Harry has another idea.  He likes to curl up in the bend of my knees which makes it a bit hard to turn over at times.  It is nice to have a warm body to snuggle with on cold nights and even to cuddle with during an afternoon nap which I love. img_7656 When I am feeling sad, he seems to understand and is quick to sit on my lap and give me a kiss.  When I am happy, he is happy too.

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Boating

I am no expert but I think that you need to consider some things when getting a pet:

Time

Do you have time to spend with this animal?  If you will not be around a lot, it is not really fair to bring in an animal to sit around all day waiting for you.  How many hours are you away from home? Can you stop by during the day or arrange for someone else to? Do you like to travel, and will there be a place for your pet to go when you go away?

That brings me to another thought.  I wanted to travel.  After Mike died, I thought maybe now I would do more traveling somehow and then I got a dog.  Not the smartest idea really.  I did take Harry on one trip upstate New York in the car.  Read to find out more about our trip to scenic Ithaca, New York. He did pretty well.

But I really have to give all the credit to my neighbor and her family who adopted little Harry into their family.  They may not have had a choice since he and their large black Labrador Retriever fell head over heels for each other early on.  Since the first month Harry came home, he became best buddies with our neighbor’s dog.  They have been together on a few occasions to the upstate New York ski house and are always happy to see each other during the week. img_5539 Having friends with dogs or friends who will watch your lovable little 11-pound puppy when you go away is a really huge thing to think about when you want to get a dog and do a bit of traveling.

Energy

Yes, you will have to do something.  I was so lethargic at times, but you do have to get up and take the dog out for a walk.  I have a yard, but dogs need more stimulation.  They will be happier and sleep better if they get out and walk. Maybe playing fetch or tug of war with your pet will be fun too. Getting them food, taking them for walks, making appointments at the vet and playing with your pet will take some energy.  Get ready for that.

DOG ON BOAT FISHING Love

A basic need we all have and something that your dog will give you is unconditional love. Even when you are not your best, your dog is nonjudgemental.  Your dog just wants you and all the attention you can give him or her.  The more you give, remarkably the more you will get and maybe that is what you really need right now. My experience in getting a young dog just after my husband died is very positive.  I have had some crazy dog stories in my life and I know that not all pets work out for all families but if you think about it carefully and pick the right pet, or let him pick you, I know it will work out best for everyone.  Maybe even the skeptical cat.

Did you get a pet after the loss of a loved one? Would you recommend it? Dog or cat?

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should widows get a pet

How to cope with the loss of a spouse – Year One

Healing from the loss of a spouse is difficult. Learning which strategies help you is important. Yoga, acupuncture, therapy, exercise and even a puppy may be what is needed.

 My mom passed away 2 weeks ago and now all the grief from the death of my husband are coming back.  Lots of familiar anxieties and feelings of regret and sadness are resurfacing.  It’s been 4 years since my husband passed, but getting through year one is filled with many challenges.  It helps to know we are not doing this alone and that one day, it will be better.

My bereavement group provided us with handouts on ways to deal with our grief.  We met one evening each week for an hour and a half.  The group was made up of 12 women who have lost their husbands in the past year.  We are all similar in age which is helpful and there is one facilitator.  The first week everyone tells their story and there are lots of tears.  Some deaths were sudden and some were long sicknesses.  However, we are all similar in so many ways dealing with coping after this loss.

Successful ways that I deal with anxiety and grief are listed below. 

  1. Yoga – that’s been helpful at times for centering my thoughts and feeling good. The stretching and movement is important. Doing an online class or joining a studio are great options.  Of course the time I was the only one in the class, and the male teacher had me close my eyes, and then sang to me while playing the guitar was a bit weird, but most of the time I like yoga. Healing with weekenders and yoga ladies.

 2. Meditation – I’m not that “good” at it so I find guided meditations on the you tube app of my phone and listen to them. The benefits of spending even two minutes a day sitting quietly and focusing on the present, following your breath, include less stress, better sleep, and can even lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  I especially like listening to Jason Stevenson’s guided imagery available on YouTube.

3. Acupuncture – This has really helped me with relaxing and relieving stress. Health reports state acupuncture can help alleviate physical pain as well as anxiety. Read more here:  Acupuncture – Healing for physical pain to depression to infertility. Worth a try?

Continue reading “How to cope with the loss of a spouse – Year One”

11 Best Grief Books After the Loss of a Loved One

10 Best Grief books to read after the loss of a loved one. #griefjourney #healingafterloss

After my husband died, and the friends and family all went home or back to work, I was on my own to figure out how to be a widow. I wanted to find a book, the one that tells you what to do after your husband dies and how to deal with grief. Here are a few of the books that helped me move forward and not feel so alone in my grief journey.

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  1.  HEALING AFTER LOSS: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief

By Martha Whitmore Hickman

If you only get one book, this should be it. Each day has a one page inspiring story and mediation to think about.  The passages are easy to read in under five minutes, which is a blessing for those of us dealing with the lack of concentration that comes with intense grief. The passages contain deep, thought provoking, yet hopeful reflections for those suffering from devastating loss.

2. IT’S OK THAT YOU’RE NOT OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand

By Megan Devine

The title tells it all. We don’t need to fix or solve grief. It’s not something to get over. Megan writes, “Grief no more needs a solution than love needs a solution.” She offers a guide through stories and her experience as a widow and therapist to build a life alongside grief rather than seeking to overcome it.

3. THE LIGHT BETWEEN US: Stories from Heaven. Lessons for the Living.

By Laura Lynne Jackson

I was truly obsessed with the thought of what happens after we die. Convinced that there must be more to life, I found this book and it gave me hope that our loved ones are still with us. Laura is a certified medium with the Forever Family Foundation. She shares her life story and her work that has brought comfort to many families. After reading this book I spent a healing weekend at a grief retreat with this foundation which you can read about here: https://runawaywidow.blog/2017/03/22/why-reaching-out-to-psychic-mediums-in-grief-can-be-comforting/

4. SIGNS OF LIFE: A Memoir 

By Natalie Taylor

After my husband died I went to the local library to get a book that would tell me how to be a widow. This was one of the only 3 books on the shelf so I borrowed it and was actually able to read the whole thing, not an easy task for a new widow since attention span is limited. Natalie, an English teacher, was pregnant and 24 years old when her husband unexpectedly died. She writes an account of the first 16 months as a widow and basically journals her feelings and experiences. Knowing that someone else had been through what I was going through helped me feel not so alone during those first few months.

5. CONFESSIONS OF A MEDIOCRE WIDOW: Or, How I Lost My Husband and My Sanity

By Catherine Tidd

Catherine tells about her husband’s sudden death that left her with 3 young children at the age of 31. The imperfect thoughts and actions she encounters as she wades through grief. Her experiences with single parenting and dating are fun to read and her book keeps it real and at times, even makes you laugh.

6. HEALTHY HEALING: A Guide to Working Out Grief Using the Power of Exercise and Endorphins 

By Michele Steinke-Baumgard

Michele is such an inspiration to the widowed community. She lost her husband suddenly in a plane crash when her children were little. Starting a blog called One Fit Widow, she focused on her healing after loss with exercise. She has since married and blended families and continues to inspire people with her exercise programs, healthy eating and small group adventure trips around the world.

7. FIGHTING FORWARD: A Widow’s Journey from Loss to Life

By Jan J. Owen

After the loss of my husband I joined several Facebook pages for widows and met Jan. She inspired me as we are similar in age and experience. After her husband died, she married again and also went back to school for a degree in counseling. Her book was helpful as I could relate to her journey and her ability to move forward after loss.

8. SIGNS: The Secret Language of the Universe

By Laura Lynn Jackson

After reading her first book and seeing her speak on several occasions I was excited to read her newest book.  She is a psychic medium who teaches us in this book how to recognize and ask for messages from loved ones on the Other Side. After hearing her speak at a local book store and learning how to reach out to my loved ones on the other side, I had a startling experience you can read about here: https://runawaywidow.blog/2019/06/22/signs-from-beyond/

9. A WIDOWS GUIDE TO HEALING: Gentle Support and Advice for the First 5 Years

By Kristin Meekhof and James Windell

The author Kristin Meekhof lost her husband to cancer and shares with grieving widows what to expect in the first 5 years after loss. Dealing with finances, single parenting, working, this book gives guidance and then hope for a new future.

1O. I WASN’T READY TO SAY GOODBYE: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One

By  Brook Noel and Pamela Blair

Understanding the difficulties that come with an unexpected death, the authors guide the reader through the first weeks of grieving to dealing with holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. Helpful suggestions for navigating the grieving process and helping children cope with grief.

SHOUT OUT to a new books in 2022:

11. Different After You: Rediscovering Yourself and Healing after Grief and Trauma

By Michelle Neff Hernandez

Michele became a widow at 39 when her husband died suddenly while riding his bicycle. She took her trauma and grief to new levels as she interviewed hundreds of widows and created Camp Widow and Soaring Spirits International as support groups for widows. Her message to integrate your past and loss, with what you have gained to build a life you love.

Different After You

In addition to reading books, I joined several Facebook groups that can provide instant support and encouragement on the grief jouney.

If you prefer to listen, podcasts are available to listen to while you walk that can also give some support.

I highly recommend joining a bereavement group through your local hospital, church or hospice community.

11 Ways to Survive the Holidays after the Loss of a Loved one

11 ways to help survive this holiday season and maybe even find some joy

“I am totally not decorating this year!”

That’s what I said the first time I drove past someone’s festively decorated home the year that my husband died.

That first Thanksgiving without my husband was the toughest.  I was not prepared.  I don’t think I could have been.   My brother in law and his wife generously offered to make all the food and bring it over to my house.  My boys were home from college and my in-laws wanted to see them.

I provided the wine which I started drinking very early that day.  It was awkward.  We all missed Mike but didn’t know how to approach his absence.  We ate.  We talked about stuff.  Some of us drank a bit too much.  We were together and not alone so that helped.

I remember wanting to just spend the day in my pajamas and order a pizza but I went along with the tradition of having family together.  I cried all weekend.  Grief is hard and the holidays only get worse.

This year will be different for many of us as we limit the size of our get togethers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We will be happy to see 2020 shut the door. We are hopeful that 2021 will leave the chaos of riots, the polarity of the election, and the wariness of the virus behind.

For people dealing with the first holiday season without a loved one, this time of year can be simply awful. My first year as a widow I practiced the title of this blog and was a runawaywidow after that first holiday.

For Christmas I booked a week long cruise to the Caribbean with my 2 sons.  We slept together in a tiny cabin with 3 bunks.  Eating and drinking in the sunshine was different from a week in New York and we even swam with dolphins on Christmas morning.  I had been determined to do something different.  In addition, I did not send cards.  I did not decorate my house.  I did not buy presents for anyone. I did not go to church. I just disappeared or ran away from the idea of the holiday. 

Widows get a pass that first year so take it if you need it.

As the dates get closer this year I recognize that I may have waves where the grief hits me again.  They still come unexpectedly but I have learned to ride them. I know to let the feelings hit and that I will be OK.  

 Learning to acknowledge my feelings and not always run away from them has been difficult. I love the analogy that my widowed aunt sent me after my husband died.

That the journey through grief is like treading down a road with potholes.  In the beginning, the holes are big and wide.  It seems you may never get out.  Over time, the potholes are still there, but they do get smaller and come along less frequently.

Knowing that waves of sadness or tears will come, and that “this too shall pass” allows me to keep moving forward. Here are some suggestions that have helped me get through grief during the holidays when it is getting tough.

Continue reading “11 Ways to Survive the Holidays after the Loss of a Loved one”
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