Stages of Widowhood

Newly widowed

What to do FIRST:

  1. Breathing….keep breathing. It may be all you can do. Taking life one minute at a time.
  2. Drink & eat ( keep yourself healthy so you can be your best, we know that’s hard right now)
  3. You might experience a sudden onslaught of help OR the hollow desolate place of no help...In either case it’s OK. Respond best as you can.
  4. Allowing yourself to be strong through weakness.
    1. You don’t have to pretend to be strong but it is OK and in fact great to be strong if you are able to. Teresa found that leaning into God and allowing him to direct her life gave her immense strength and peace during her gut wrenching grief.
  5. What do you HAVE to do and What can wait….- How do you know?
    1. If you can before the memorial service and everyone shows up - make a list of things that HAVE to happen.
      1. Bills to pay, perscriptions for health, animals that need care, people to call.
      2. Next, make a list of who to call after the memorial service.
        1. Social security, employer, insurance, financial, etc.
    2. Who can help and who’s on your “A” team?
      1. Do you have a trusted financial, legal, spiritual, or family member that could assist you? If not, who might you want or need to assist you? There are agencies out there
  1. Be aware there will be well meaning idiots who say the dumbest shit in the best of intentions, Teresa calls them the ignorant offenders. Try not to take things too personally. They are grieving and so are you.
  • Your network - Who is good and who to watch out for…
  • Good For You Characteristics:
  • Listen to you first and ask how they can support you
  • Wait for you to ask and do what you want.
  • Those that know you and your family well enough to just show up and do things you need (yard work, laundry, cooking, cleaning, errands for kids, etc.) They will likely ask if it’s OK to do whatever they have in mind.
  • Watch Out For Characteristics:
  • Those bat shit crazy or manipulative or just nosy or thieving people!! Yikes!!  Yes they do exist. They may never have been like that but grief can turn the most amazing person into a most dreadful person. Be aware and have a trusted friend look out for you.
  • Help that feels too emotional, crazy, seeking attention for themselves, controlling of you and your stuff, too nosey, drama bringers. Find a way to not respond or reply to them. Find them something else to do.
  • Help - well meaning but NOT “good” for you
  • Telling you what to do, doing too much for you, offering to clean out your deceased items for you, taking over your parenting, etc.
  • Help that shows up  - those rocks you’ll never forget and get in your shoe...

Check our resources page for more support 

One month out

After the first month the whirlwind of the recent death begins to calm. Your grief can really crank up as you begin to feel the numb fog lift and the reality of this loss.  Remember to keep breathing!

Through this first month you’ve survived! Celebrate you DID survive.

We know we weren’t too sure we would survive.  You’ve survived the gut wrenching and mind numbing planning and executing of a memorial or funeral service, made some of those awful phone calls such as; social security, life insurance, and to creditors. If you haven’t made those phone calls you may want to consider making them sooner vs. later.  You’ve experiences a myriad of emotions and done more emotionally challenging things than you’ve like had to in a long while if ever. There is a concept in the Roman Catholic Church called the Months’ Mind that is a special Mass offered for the deceased on or near the 30th day after their death or burial.

Steps to make it through the day:

Focus on a period of time that you can. You may be able to focus and be productive for 5 minutes maybe 30minutes. Maybe only a few seconds. That’s OK – do what you can. Remember it’s your grief journey not anyone else. Everyone will be cope in a different manner. You will see a trend below of focus for a small period of time and celebrate. It is important to celebrate and acknowledge your progress through grief. One moment at a time and eventually one day at a time.

  1. Make it through the first few seconds until you can get to a minute
    Celebrate you did it!
  2. Work up 5 minutes then look to the next goal
    Celebrate you did it!
  3. Work toward 10minutes or 15 minutes
    Celebrate you did it!
  4. Work toward focusing on 30minutes or longer
    Celebrate you did it!
  5. Make it through a hour when you can
    Celebrate you did it!
  6. Work up to a half day.
    Celebrate you did it!
  7. Work up to a whole day
    Celebrate you did it!
  8. Work up to a couple of days
    Celebrate you did it!
  9. Goal to work up to a week or longer.
    Celebrate you did it!

Emotional Things You Have Likely Experienced:

  • Huge emotional swings and feelings that are out of the norm for you
  • Telling others about the death and talking about it – that’s really difficult
  • Living in the house with the death & facing that reality EVERY day
  • Missing them and thinking about your loved one “constantly”
  • Dealing with family and friends – who are likely well meaning but often not terribly helpful
  • Dealing with others who don’t know what to say and say the dumbest things

What is normal to feel at this time?

Remember it’s your personal grief journey that is as unique as the relationship you had with who you’ve lost.  There is no correct way to grieve – it all depends on you, your life and your relationships and current circumstances.

You are not crazy and it’s perfectly normal to feel some of the following:

  • mood swings both up and down
  • angry
  • sad
  • numb
  • dazed
  • denial
  • relieved
  • empty
  • lost
  • lonely
  • grateful
  • wish to move on
  • a desire to be done with grief
  • acceptance
  • reminiscing and thinking of the past
  • feeling low or high energy
  • unexpected emotional outbursts
  • changes in eating habit
  • changes sleeping patterns
  • forgetfulness
  • a deep physical feeling of sadness, loss and heaviness
  • difficulty in doing what were once “normal” things (pay bills, cooking, making phone calls, etc.)
  • reduced focus and concentration
  • sense of longing to be with someone
  • wanting to be alone and/or left alone

Things that can help you during these first few raw months of grief:

  • Allow the tears to come - bawl, sob, and cry
  • Allow your emotions
    • You are more likely to have an outbreak when you at an inopportune time.
    • Allow safe and healthy ways to let out emotions
  • If you find joy - it’s good and healthy to laugh again
  • Reach out to others that are positive supports for you
    • spiritual guides, family, friends, grief group, coach, therapist, primary care giver
  • Work on reestablishing a “new normal” and habits for your life
  • Continue to learn about grief - see resources and check out our resources page 

How have you survived this first month? We’d love to hear from you.

Did you find this a useful or thought provoking topic?  Click like, share, or comment please.  Perhaps someone you know could use this information, please share.
By Teresa Bitner – Resiliency, Change and Loss Coach
http://www.boldfulfilledlifecoach.com

Firsts...events, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries ….

Preparing yourself for the 1sts - planning and choosing how you show up for them.

Those Darn Firsts:First Birthday, First Anniversary, First Holiday Without Your Loved One

3 months

Jeni & Teresa's 3 Month Anniversary Stories

What is normal?

It is normal to have your grief affect all aspects of your life.

Physically - you may still feel tired, changes in diet and/or sleep.

Thought processes- still feeling like you are in a fog, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness. You may have challenges with making decisions, making to-do lists and or reading.

Emotionally - your emotions are likely to be all over the place still.  See Jeni & Teresa’s stories below for two widow experiences at three months.

Things that might be helpful at this time:

Take care of yourself the best you can:

  • Rest
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise
  • Schedule a routine Dr. appointment - checkup

Emotionally Taking Care of Yourself:

  • Take deep slow breaths
  • Have a quiet reflection time booked into your schedule
  • Talk to a friend, spiritual advisor, coach - someone who is a good listener and positive influence
  • Write in a journal
  • Garden
  • Walk in nature
  • Paint/dance/listen to music

Take Care of Everyday Tasks

  • Take notes or a notebook - especially as you deal with the estate
  • Make lists - to -do’s
  • Keep a calendar - paper or electronic with important dates and appointments

6 months

Teresa & Jeni's 6 Month Anniversary Stories

What’s normal & expect

  • This stage will feel something in between 3 months and one year.
  • You may be nearer to 3 months one day and then nearer to one year the next.
  • 100% normal.

When to get help

We are not medical professionals nor have all of the answers. Please seek professional help if you feel you may need it.

Here are a few signs that it might be time to seek additional help through a professional.

  • Prolonged deep sadness that continues to worsen
  • Feelings of depression - seek a professional for diagnosis
  • Preoccupation with the deceased and circumstances around death
  • Poor sleep habits - sleeping a lot or too little
  • Avoidance of reminders of the deceased
  • Large weight gain or loss (huge appetite or loss of appetite)
  • Thoughts of suicide - Get help immediately -
    • call 911 or the US. National suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255

One year

Jeni's One Year Anniversary Story

Teresa's One Year Anniversary Story

What’s normal & expect

  • It is normal to have a resurgence of emotions at the 1yr. Anniversary.
  • Many people will expect that afterwards you have moved on.
    • This may or may not be true - remember take your time ,this is your journey

William Worden, professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, developed a model that he calls the “Tasks of Mourning” (1991). The tasks are:

  1. Accept the reality of the loss  - Acceptance & Acknowledgement
  2. Work through to the pain of grief  - Doing the work to move through grief
  3. Adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing - Finding that new normal
  4. Emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life - Finding that new normal

Some things to consider and help you acknowledge this journey:

  • Explore how are you coming along ? What has changed this past year
  • Acknowledge the Loss - where are you on your grief?
  • Moving to the future - What does the future look like? What do you want for the future?
  • Memories - Take time to remember and  honor your loved one, light a candle, view photos, write, journal, plant a tree or flowers, visit the memorial site, cook a favorite dish, do what makes sense.
  • Talk to someone - join a group of supportive people, Griefshare, find a trusted person to talk to, tell your story, join a new social group to get out.
  • Spiritual life - find peace in familiar rituals. Make new rituals or join a new church/group if that makes sense. Expand your spiritual world.
  • Gratitude - find ways to express gratitude and find simple joy life, a beautiful card, awe inspiring sunsets/sunrises, enjoy nature, butterflies, good good and friends.
  • Volunteering - giving back and volunteering, do something nice for someone, join a non-profit to give back and support others
  • Continue to take care of yourself.  Be patient and take it day by day doing what you can.

When to get help

We are not medical professionals nor have all of the answers. Please seek professional help if you feel you may need it.

Here are a few signs that it might be time to seek additional help through a professional.

  • Prolonged deep sadness that continues to worsen
  • Feelings of depression - seek a professional for diagnosis
  • Preoccupation with the deceased and circumstances around death
  • Poor sleep habits - sleeping a lot or too little
  • Avoidance of reminders of the deceased
  • Large weight gain or loss (huge appetite or loss of appetite)
  • Thoughts of suicide - Get help immediately -
    • call 911 or the US. National suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255

Beyond...moving on and forward - feeling stuck?

What’s normal & expect

When to get help

What does being stuck look like?

Building your new life

That thing called New Normal

What does new Normal for YOU mean? We’d love to hear your story.