The following essay was written by Betty Lee Parker, who is thriving in her ninth decade. She generously shares her advice with those who find themselves living in the world without their spouse. Betty was married to her wonderful husband, John, for 59 years before he passed away six years ago.
The first weeks after losing a loved one are a dazed whirlwind of phone calls and making plans. It becomes a time that you later only vaguely remember. It is followed by what I call “trying to get organized”. This is done in a haze of death certificates, financial confusion and farewells to some of your spouse’s belongings. It is done in a grief-stricken fog. At some point you realize you have the rest of your life to rethink, and there are ways to move forward and find happiness after this major life change.
Here are 10 ideas that I share with my friends when they’ve lost their spouses:
- Your sorrow (or happiness) is not your family’s responsibility. They have lost a loved one, too.
- Don’t drag people down regarding your loss. When asked, respond with “I’m doing OK. How is life treating you?”
- Tears are good. If you can manage them privately — even better.
- When someone else has a loss, don’t be shy about offering your friendship. Make an effort to help in their transition to single status.
- Be an addition to a group — pick up the tab, be the driver, take your turn entertaining. Being a “victim” wears thin very fast.
- Plan an adventure or a few days away with another widow or several. It is important to have “look forward” dates on your calendar.
- Go out of your way to connect with others: join a book club or an exercise group. I use my grandPad, a senior-friendly tablet, to video call my family and friends.
- Put on a hat and sit outside reading in the sun. Watch TV until midnight if you choose!
- Take someone to a doctor’s appointment and wait for them in the waiting room. Really care about their well-being.
- Explore your spirituality. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
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