5 Things I Found To Be True After Being Widowed

broken heartSudden death of a spouse is sometimes listed as the number one most stressful event in someone’s life.  My husband died of a sudden heart attack when I was forty-four and it changed my life in every way.  Grief is a difficult emotion to tolerate, it comes in waves and you must swim through it to get to shore, but I assure you, you will eventually land on your feet on steadier ground.

(1) Take no one’s advice including mine.  Resist the urge to throttle people who make insensitive remarks because they don’t know what to say and fight the urge to do something drastic or very expensive.  I had an urge to fly to Paris to sit in cafes and drink wine soon after his death, but realized I would be just as unhappy there as I was at home.  However I had healed enough eighteen months later to enjoy a trip to Italy immensely.  You will be exhausted and overwhelmed, almost every decision can be postponed except those connected with the funeral and burial.

(2) Stay put, especially if you own your home, have a job you like, and have a support network.  If you feel you must get away, take a trip or go visit someone.  Trying to find a geographic cure won’t necessarily make you feel better, so take the time you need to figure out if a move makes sense.  I did move six weeks after Lou’s death, but to a town nearer to family and friends and closer to my job.  We did not own our home, and I had no friends where we had been living so this worked out well for me.

(3) Friends and family will disappoint you, especially couple friends.  I was surprised how becoming widowed changed all my relationships.  Seventeen years after Lou’s death I am in contact with no one who was primarily Lou’s friends or family.   People who call you with specific invitations, can tolerate being  with you when you are depressed or in tears, keep asking if there is anything they can do for you, or just show up are your real friends, or will become them.

(4) The first year without your spouse will be filled with memories and reminders on a daily basis of how different your life is.  I did not enjoy sleeping alone, doing all the errands and coming home to an empty house.  It took me over a year before I could sit at my dining room table and eat by myself.  I found my wedding anniversary to be especially lonely.  This would be a good time to take the kids to the Bahamas at Christmas, or not even pretend to celebrate Thanksgiving.

(5) Do not let anyone tell you the right or wrong ways to grieve, the process is different for everyone.  Some people are helped by support groups, or need to stay at home for a morning and cry.  Some people in my life suggested I take antidepressants or just move on, when I expressed grief neither of which I did.  Time heals everything is something I don’t believe, but I do believe that we are all by nature survivors, and it is very likely that your interest in, and zest for life will return, and the good memories of your beloved will sustain you.

Ann Fletcher

Ann works as a psychiatric social worker, spiritual director and writer. She did not start writing until her early forties, but has had over 200 of her poems and around 6 of my short stories published and she has written three poetry books. She is now writing non-fiction and memoir pieces. 

  4 comments for “5 Things I Found To Be True After Being Widowed

  1. Janny
    May 29, 2014 at 10:36 am

    This is a terrific article. My sister lost her husband five years ago. He had a massive heart attack while she’d run out to the mall for an hour with their daughter. She returned home to find him barely alive; he died in the ambulance. I went to stay with her for the next week and returned every possible weekend. She made me my own room at her house. She really did follow your guidelines. Today, she lives more in the moment than she did before he died and she has a great relationship with a very nice man who walked her down the aisle at her son’s wedding. Life will never be the same, but it does go on. The part about how out of the loop you become as a single in a couples world rings true for widows and divorcees.

    • Ann Fletcher
      June 2, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Dear Janny,
      I’m so glad you found this article helpful. You were wonderfully supportive of your sister and I imagine you are even closer now. My husband died in 1995, so I had time to think about the things that would be most helpful for someone going through this experience. So delighted your sister is okay, I am married again and happy and grateful. Thanks for your comment.

      Ann Fletcher

  2. May 29, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I am sorry for your loss Ann. Great points.Your post rings true. 2 years ago my favorite brother-in law died. His wife, my favorite sister-in- law, not only lost her husband but her occupation as they worked together. They sold their practice as she cared for him for 3 months before he passed. She then found herself with out a career, a husband or any ideas of being retired. I could only be there for her but I am surprised, disappointed and a bit shocked that now we are the only family members to keep in touch, yet we are the ones who live the farthest away.

    • Ann Fletcher
      June 2, 2014 at 7:16 pm

      Dear Haralee,
      Thank you for your comment. My husband died in 1995, so I’ve had a lot of time to adjust, however my career was separate from my husband’s, so parts of my life went on okay. I am happily remarried but do reach out to people this has happened to. My friendships, and relationships with my family changed but are now better than ever so please share that with your sister-in-law if you think it will help.
      Ann Fletcher

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