teenagers and depression, dealing with son's depressionLosing my husband unexpectedly was like a merry-go-round that suddenly stops!¬†Our marriage ended¬†when¬†he¬†didn’t wake up from his afternoon nap. I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster; wandering through financial mazes¬†and¬†unknown pathways¬†into this world of widowhood. ‘You cannot start a new chapter unless you stop re-reading the old one’ the saying goes. And yet I cannot put the story of our¬†Great Adventure¬†down. Over and over I revisit the memories and what might have been. Nothing prepares you for having your¬†life interrupted¬†and forever changed, but¬†over the last six months I’ve learned to be a little braver and move a bit more forward as I face life on my own.

  • Your Adult Kids will step up¬†and do what needs to be done. Let them. They will give you strength and comfort as their spouses comfort them. They will use their¬†talents and resources to¬†make things happen. They will shield you when necessary….but give you that push you may need at other times.¬†They will¬†give balance to decision making; knowing when to take over ….and when to step back and respect your choices. My son and daughter were hit hard with the loss of their Dad and their¬†kids’ grandfather.¬† I’m still amazed at how well we¬†got through it and have never been prouder of¬†my children.
  • Ownership of credit cards,¬†vehicles and houses make a BIG difference in the debt and varying shades of red tape you’ll face! Two of our cards were in his name only; I was an authorized user. I don’t recall us ever considering this or being asked any preference. Visa was quick to write off the balance; American Express not so much. They¬†inquired regularly about the estate, but the calls finally stopped¬†when my lawyer¬†explained there was no estate; no probate.¬†Collection calls are frightening;¬†know your¬†rights and¬†seek¬†legal help if necessary.¬†Our cars and home were in both our names…..with the house having the important “joint tenancy with survivorship” clause in the contract!¬†
  • Finances¬†I¬†had to think about money. I sold his car and refinanced the house; reducing my payments by $600! My husband was retired, but did free-lance writing for several publications. I would miss that income, so I¬†had to make changes quickly. His insurance money came within weeks; but it took¬†awhile to secure¬†results with Social Security¬†and our pensions because frankly…..it didn’t occur to me for months to pick up the¬†phone; and¬†the processing took more time. Stopping newspaper subscriptions,¬†reducing cable, phone and internet to the minimum needs… and discontinuing pest, weed and lawn¬†services¬†helped make¬†a dent in monthly expenses. Doing without¬†car washes, hair appointments, Starbucks or browsing Target taught me I could live frugally while waiting to get things settled! Someone told me it takes a year to really know where you stand with your financial future, so I continue to be wise and careful.
  • Accepting comfort is not always comfortable; but you quickly learn you have more grace¬†than you ever imagined.¬†I’m a hugger and a crier, so that part was easy!¬†I¬†answered questions truthfully, but without much detail. It was¬†raw and¬†private in my opinion; giving CPR, the paramedics¬†suggesting¬†‘cease and desist.’¬†As phone calls and texts started coming, I replied to¬†some; my kids¬†handled the others. The doorbell ringing with gifts of food and wine was awkward. I didn’t feel like eating or serving¬†anything;¬†couldn’t think about dishware, napkins, glasses.¬†And so I said as much. I recall now that my pals took over the kitchen and handed¬†me¬†a plate and drink. I just let it be….and they just let me talk. The stack of sympathy cards was overwhelming. Do I respond? I’ve saved these¬†comforting words and¬†have acknowledged¬†each one little by little.¬†I don’t think it’s expected, but that’s me.
  • Kids’ Views¬†about death are amazing. My grandchildren¬†touched my heart and saved my soul¬†with their¬†sweet innocence.¬†A child cuddled on your lap is peaceful glue that holds you together. Their questions and comments¬†are spot on: “grandpa got dead; now it’s a grandma-only house” and “don’t worry, grandma, I’ll help you understand sports!”¬†I laughed through my tears at “grandpa will be a writer in the sky.”¬†Two months after he passed away, my¬†teenage granddaughter spent a week with me. She listened and talked¬†with me like an old¬†friend; asking how our story began, and remembering all that she missed and loved about grandpa. Our first; she knew him the best and the longest. All five attended the funeral… each with a role to play.¬† Helping with the photo and memento displays, manning¬†the guest book,¬†passing out programs¬†and, to my delight,¬†the¬†second oldest¬†spoke the welcoming words as the service began.
  • Handling the fog and heaviness of grief¬†is tough because you don’t know when it’s coming. Music will do it, a kind word, an older couple walking hand-in-hand or just¬†roaming through your home with reminders of him around every corner.¬†Some days you feel uncertain, unsteady and unanchored; I learned to stay put and let the teary sadness come. Be careful if it grips you while driving;¬†scary to wonder where you are, where to turn or where you were headed. I had to pull¬†over and¬†wait it out.¬†Other days I’m eager to get to the gym or store or lunch with friends.¬†Joining¬†a¬†grief group allowed me to face my anger over his leaving; and keeping my grandkids on weekends helped strengthen me and ease the pain. The kids wrote notes and drew¬†pictures for grandpa in heaven. Surprisingly, this nonchalant celebration of him makes me happy.¬†One day at a time is absolutely true!
  • Everyday adjustments like cooking, taking out the trash, killing¬†bugs¬†or figuring out why the dryer doesn’t work takes time…but will build confidence. These things my husband handled;¬†now I¬†use¬†his tool box, keep a shoe handy, take¬†my time in the¬†grocery aisles……and what I cannot do, I put on a list for my son, son-in-law and neighbors. This is part of the deal….learning to ask for help. I built and lit a fire during the winter storms¬†and made tacos for myself. However, I’m hanging clothes in the¬†great outdoors until the¬†dryer fairy¬†comes.¬†I was spoiled, dependent and well cared for; so it’s not easy¬†taking charge of my house and my life. But, like the good witch told Dorothy,¬†I’ve “always had the power.”¬†Buying and preparing nutritious food has been my biggest challenge,¬†so figuring¬†things out for myself¬†and asking questions¬†is another¬†step in the right direction.
  • His things versus our things will make you stop, think and question…probably forever. I lowered the cable bill by removing the hundred dollars’¬†worth of sports packages he loved. Terrible guilt…I’d complained over the years…but it had to be done. More hand-wringing cancelling three papers. Newspapers were us. We met working on¬†our college paper, he was an editor¬†in¬†various cities¬†and¬†newspapers meant coffee and lively discussions in our retirement years. His shirts and pants are still in the closet; but I did donate his warm sweaters and jackets.¬† His recliner is still ‘grandpa’s chair.’ His office we¬†call the den¬†now. I work at his computer sometimes,¬†but the pictures and posters, the model car,¬†the¬†lanyards from every convention he attended¬†are part of him….thus a part of me. I sold his beloved jeep; where he let the¬†grandkids pile in the back and ride dripping wet the¬†half block from the pool. The fab five will always be ours…becoming grandparents¬†created¬†our future 16 years ago.
  • Honoring his wishes and his life are huge responsibilities. We’d discussed what-ifs during our 47 years together and assured each other we were having a wonderful life. He felt strongly about cremation and wanted¬†his ashes spread on the lake where he grew up. It was a beautiful ceremony. We held two services in two different states; one was taped and made into DVD’s for us, the other was photographed¬†and made into a¬†photo book; treasures forever. I’m filled with joy when I get all green lights, find lucky pennies or hear the twins¬†ask how God will let Santa know not to leave presents under the tree.¬†Whether a spiritual connection or the humor¬†in everyday things, he is close. I tell him about my day at bedtime; and¬†say 8-13 (our anniversary date) morning and night as was our habit. The holidays¬†went smoothly with the support of family and friends who made sure he was included…using his recipes, lighting candles, giving toasts. Framed photos of him¬†sit in¬†every room and I smile now when I glance up and see a¬†reminder. We always knew someday one of us would¬†be left¬†to carry on; keeping his light burning is part of that commitment.
  • Moving forward¬†will¬†seem like¬†two steps ahead, one step behind. Keeping busy helps;¬†for me it’s been cleaning house, going¬†back to work¬†and volunteering. Hazy,¬†blue days just¬†need the comfort of time passing….so I write, I read, I cry. But there is much more to beginning¬†this new¬†chapter. First, I asked who am I now? Is my body still attractive?¬†Am I single or a widow? Will my goals and intentions change?¬† How can I be confident in all that I do without my cheerleader?¬†It’s not easy rediscovering self-image…reinventing a future. Initially, I worried about¬†being the only one left….that I’d¬†die too. I stopped exercising and driving at night and was afraid of shadows. It took my doctor’s push to get me back¬†in the gym.¬†I was needed¬†in the evening hours, so I drove.¬†I eventually stopped¬†leaving¬†lights on at night and slept just fine. Memories don’t bring tears so much anymore, but rather¬†joy in¬†understanding¬†that his¬†love¬†equipped me for what’s ahead.

My mom showed me how to age gracefully, but I remember how¬†she¬†hid her grief and slowed down¬†after my dad died. So consider this;¬†what a¬†great gift it can be to show our kids how to live the end of life. I want to keep traveling, learning and playing¬†just as my husband and I did. Can I do it alone? Will I find a companion? Should I sell¬†the house?¬†I’ll find¬†a new future,¬†but¬†I’ll still¬†read the chapters of my past¬†once in while. I feel an¬†inner whisper that tells me I’m making progress.

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