When losing a partner, there are always questions. While we do not claim to have all the answers, below are a few that we have uncovered.
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Q: Why can't I move on as quickly as everyone thinks I should?
A: First of all, this is YOUR journey and you will move at your pace. Fortunately, not everyone has lost their partner in life. While they may think that they know how long it should take, they cannot truly understand what it is like. Take the time you need…you will thank yourself later.
Q: What is normal at first? What is normal being a widow?
A: From Teresa-
Welcome to widowhood. Not a place you likely wanted to be. Yeah might wonder if you're are going crazy. You might wonder what is normal for a widow. We will attempt to describe and walk with you on this rocky journey called being a widow.
There is no right or wrong way to do this. Do the best that you can.
The first few days you might not feel anything or feel everything . I don't remember much and I think of it as God's way for protecting us from gut wrenching the feelings. I remember crying so much until my tear ducts hurt. I didn't know that was even possible. I was so sad, mad, confused, and scared.
Pretty much any feeling or emotion is 100% normal. You might feel several emotions at the same time. I used to feel like I felt this ball of confused emotions all at the same time. I might have circled through several over a day, hour or minute. It is very normal to feel fuzzy, out of it, lost and in a daze. One widow described it as walking through molasses.
Things to expect
- Tears - potentially lots of them
- That no one understands you - most people don't - that's why we are here
- Receiving advice or help - some great & some unhelpful
- Overwhelming or underwhelming support - it will depend upon your previous support systems
Feelings to expect:
- Feeling lonely
- Sad and despondent
- Being scared of the future
- Angry - almost at everything
- Feeling tired - get rest and realize your limits
- Feeling like you want to throw up (or visa versa like you want to eat all the time )
- Feeling confused
- Feeling like you might be going crazy
- Feeling spiritually weak ( or visa versa closer to God or your Source)
What can help you:
- Friends & family - only if they support you and don't drain you (see batshit crazy blog)
- Allow and acknowledge your feelings - all of them.
- Use technology to help you - set phone alerts ,make reminders, to do lists. If you don't have technology paper can use paper or whatever works for you.
- Get rest often
- Eat healthy
- Try to exercise - even a quick walk outside is terrific
- Try journaling your thoughts & feelings
When to get help
If you feel suicidal or have thoughts of hurting yourself call 911 or the suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-8255.
If you are unable to feed, clothe,or take care of basic tasks after the first month or so - seek professional help - your primary care doctor.
Don't let anyone tell you to get over it or you should be ok now. This is YOUR journey. Unique to you and your late spouse. ( for the record, I hated that saying...late husband…)
I have often referred to widowhood as the club nobody wants to join or chooses to join. We who are here do not want new members. However, we do try to assist those who have joined our numbers. I have come to define “normal” as merely a setting on the washing machine that I never use.
Despite what others say, life does not return to “normal”. You simply have to find and define your new “normal” in life. Life will go on but it will be different.
Like Teresa stated, the first few days were a blur to me. I remember looking down at my hands a few days after my husband had died and realizing that some rocks had embedded into my hands where I had fell by my husband’s side. Never in my life did I think someone could walk around like that and not even know it. I was so numb….I don’t think I felt anything. I just existed. I was lucky to be able to breathe during those first few days.
So…when someone wants you to be normal….remember normal is changing and life will begin anew soon.
Q: Where to find support for me?
A: From Jeni: Sometimes, you will find support from places you never knew would support you in this time of your life. I remember my children’s school coming together to provide us much needed support. We also found support from our church and family. However, you may find that you need to have someone who has been there who can understand what you are going through…we would like to help you with that.
From Teresa: We are here to support you virtually. Please look at our resources page for many links to different types of support.
If you can journal what type of support do you need? Do you just want someone to listen? Do you need help navigating what to do next? Do you need financial support? Do you need career or job support? Is it time for spiritual support? Is it time for a therapist or counselor? Do you need suicide support right now? Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - Call 1-800-273-8255 24 hours everyday.
Q: Where to find support for children (young, teens, and adult children)
A: We have identified some items on our resources page
Q: Financial management
A: Sage advice I received was to NOT do anything big for the first year. I didn’t realize how much that really could save me from making huge mistakes. In your raw grief you may feel like doing some pretty crazy things. I advise - wait a year and allow your grief to take it’s course. If you get a large life insurance check. Hold on to it. Make a budget and plan. Run that plan by a trusted financial planner. Do not just blow it, or spend it on whatever seems right at the moment. I was fortunate to have one before Kris’s death that had managed our investments for years. He was instrumental in helping me to put it into savings and make a plan to pay off our debts we had. I remember wanting to sell the house and move to a foreign country, go on an African safari, move near my parents, go back to a high-paying stressful job, start dating, go have bar hopping, disapear into a third world country, go backpacking across Europe, etc. That first year a lot of strange thoughts and ideas popped into my head and I now can look back and realize it was just me looking to avoid the pain of grief and remove myself from having to deal with my new widow, single parent life. I wanted to do SOMETHING to make it better. Unfortunately grief is a process and takes time and effort. You are never over it, you can get through it.
Q: Single Now? (when do I click the single box vs. widow, when do I start calling myself single, when do I move/remove my wedding ring?, dating, sex, etc.)
A: This is your journey and on your timeline. Don't let anyone rush you to tell you what to do. You will know when it is time.
From Teresa: After a long, rough year, I decided I didn't want to be a known or identify as a widow. I didn't feel like a widow, I felt alone. My life had been torn in half and all the widows I had met or interacted with were either old or bitter angry women. I most certainly didn't want to do any more "widows gone wild" diners as we jokingly called ourselves. Wild - yeh right - dinner & a movie were a stretch. I felt like I had zero in common with these women. Old and young. I wanted to live again, have fun, maybe meet someone as a companion. I didn't want to be angry, bitter or sad anymore. I lost my husband but, I had a lot of life to live. I had two kids to get out of high school & a good job. I had completed two Griefshare sessions and my initial counseling. I was ready to accept this new normal and try to figure it out.
I first mentally called myself single. I didn't think most people I knew were ready for me to be single. I waited a while to change my Facebook status and remove my wedding band. I did it quietly over the summer . No one said much. There were a few couple friends who reacted . They weren't ready & likely still grieving Kris. I felt single so I started trying to determine who I was and what I wanted for the rest of my life. I began reading lots of self help and starting over, change books . Then I decided to get healthy and be the best me I could. This mental shift opened me up to possibilities and ideas of what I could do and accomplish in the remainder of my life. First priority was get the boys out and on their own, sell the ranch and then figure it out from there.
From Jeni: To me, being called single was an insult. It didn’t give credit to the fact that I had been married. We had been married almost 14 years (13 years, 7 months, 6 days) and I didn’t want anyone taking that away from me. When filling out forms that only had the options of married or single…I would add widow. Even though most times when people think of widows, we think of older individuals, I viewed the widow moniker as a statement of where I had been in life.
I struggled with the concept of the wedding ring. I wore it for a few years after Bob’s passing and then put it away for about 3 years …but I missed it. Today, if you see me, you will notice that I wear my late husband’s (yea, I don’t like that term either) ring on my right hand instead of my left. I am not married, but I wear the ring in remembrance. It comforts me and is one of my ways of honoring the relationship in my life.
Today, if you looked at my Facebook status, it would say that I am in a relationship as that is my present status. However, I will always be Bob’s widow. This does not mean that I cannot love another or have another relationship….it is just something that will always be with me.
Q: The in-laws/out-laws - what to do about them and how to relate
A: To answer the question - What to do about them? That all depends on what your personal and unique relationship is with your in-laws. How close are you to them? What is your relationship to them? What relationship do you want with them? You don’t have to do anything however, the relationship is likely to be different.
From Teresa: - this is not easy to write about for me. This is another personal topic unique to your own experiences with your late spouse’s family and your own values around family. I come from a small independent dispersed not particularly close family for various reasons. Family values were what I've discovered vastly different from most. My relationship with my in-laws was not terribly close. We lived in Texas and they are on either US coast. My husband was close to his family and we visited about yearly. The loss of their son was traumatic and devastating to them.
Our relationship changed when I became single vs widow. ( see faq above) We still keep in touch. I left the boys in charge of their relationship with their grandparents. Each has their own unique relationship with them.
From Jeni: Bob and I had met as children (we were actually 5 years old at the time) and we grew up with each other’s parents in our lives. After Bob’s death, I hugged both of them and told them they were still my mom and dad. I could see the relief in their eyes. We still attended family functions together and, when the time came for me to move on, I did introduce my inlaws to others in my life. Bob’s mom did have a hard time seeing me for a while as I am a physical reminder of what was lost. We did remain close until the time that both of his parents passed. Bob’s dad passed just a couple of years later and we just recently lost his mother.
Q: How to honor your loved one.
A: There are lots of ways to honor a loved one. Some are simple and others more involved. Pick the ones that resonate with you. The memorial service and funeral can be just the beginning of honoring your loved one.
From Teresa:. Here are some things that we or friends did to honor Kris. 1. Form.a scholarship fund for the boys. Start a youth based non-profit. Erect a cross at the crash site. On the one year anniversary we took the day off, looked at photos, cried a lot, had a quiet day together. The boys erected a large cross on the ranch near the shooting range. The second year we planted a tree with funds gathered from teacher friends. First thanksgiving we volunteered together as a family. When it was time to move and sort out Kris's things, I made memory boxes for each son. I put in little things from his dresser, scouting things, personal effects. Make a quilt out of clothes.
At the holidays we talk about him, keep the memories alive. Other ideas: make a scrapbook, photo album, perform last wishes, write them a letter, care for grave site, donate to their foundation or cause, light a candle, bake favorite foods, anything that moves your grief forward and honors your loved one.
From Jeni: The day my husband died was also my sister-in-law’s (my brother’s wife) birthday and they had received the news of his passing while at a dinner celebration. The following year, we struggled with how to remember the his passing while still recognizing her birthday. We all decided that we would celebrate the birthday with the family dinner out but that we would have that dinner at a location that Bob liked. So, on that day , we all have dinner at the restaurant in the Bass Pro Shop and the kids have their pictures taken with Santa. In that way, we celebrate rather than drown in sorrow.