The Tools I Used to Survive Widowhood

Fresh Beginnings

The fall of the year instills a desire for a fresh beginning. Our grands start a new school year and our adult daughters regroup in their different organizations or arrive at work with fresh ideas. Our sons similarly get back into the groove.

We rearrange our closets and put dates on the calendars as we think about family holidays and preparing our homes for winter. We are not all fortunate to have a la de da life. Hardships transpire on a regular basis and one situation that is particularly difficult to deal with is widowhood.

A New Lifestyle with Widowhood

For the woman over 50+ who finds herself alone, adjusting to a new and unwanted lifestyle can be a traumatic experience. It is hard to transition from coupledom to singlehood.

For recent widows and those of you who have a difficult time moving into the now, I want to share with you the tools I used to emotionally pick up the pieces of my life. I also want to begin by informing you of a change in our culture.

The trend toward singlehood is on the rise. Singles are becoming one of the largest demographics. 48% of American adults are either divorced, widowed or never married.  We are living longer so there are more widows, but the stigma of being alone has all but disappeared.

Nevertheless, before a widow can reenter society, she likely encounters several bumps in the road. Aside from the emotional trauma of losing a spouse, she is suddenly thrust out of her comfort zone and forced to do things on her own.

How to Survive Widowhood

In one split second in my 40s, I was no longer Mrs. Michael A. Forman. I was a widow. My late husband, also in his 40s, had suddenly passed away from an unexpected heart attack.

The day of Michael’s funeral is a blur. I don’t recall the Rabbi’s words. I do not remember how I arrived or left Michael’s funeral.

Similarly, I don’t know who put a lifesaving paperback book in my hand at the end of the service. The book became my savior as I began a new passage, a new journey back to life.

Tools to Rebuild Your Life

The little paperback lying on the table next to our bed the following morning was How to Survive the Loss of a Love. The book is filled with jewels of knowledge that led me from utter shock and darkness into light. I used the book’s words as tools to rebuild my life. It was no easy task.

It has been proven that you cannot heal emotionally from loss without going experiencing four stages of the mourning process. I went through each one and they boded me well in my ultimate recover.

After a year, I was able to restart my life; however, it took me two years to concentrate again.

I am happily remarried, but the sudden loss of my husband was so paralyzing that I sometimes ponder its long term effects on me. There are long respites, but a loss such as this reappears at certain times.

The 4 Stages to Recover From the Loss of A Loved One

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Depression
  4. Acceptance

stages of grief

You can purchase How to Survive the Loss of a Love on Amazon. I had the first edition that sold over two million copies. I suggest you purchase the first edition, even if it is a secondhand copy because it is far more compact and literal.

The book explains that you cannot survive the emotional loss of a spouse or loved one unless you experience these four steps.  The main theme throughout the book is to let yourself experience and mourn your loss.

How I Used the Tools My Way

Spending Time Alone

Living in the beautiful city of Honolulu, I walked four miles each morning and four miles at sunset with my pooch at that time. I thought about my life with Michael. I did not hold back my emotions. Crying and sobbing, I grieved alone.

Getting Physical

This was very important in my healing process. I walked to rid myself of stress, to stay fit and to stay healthy. Now you are alone with plenty of time to take care of your body and mind. Choose what is appropriate and discipline yourself to stick with your program.

Your Home Is Your Castle

I was numb from my sudden loss. I could not concentrate therefore I was unable to read or watch television.

But I could find solace and joy in my environment so I intentionally moved out of our home of love and deep family memories into a charming, temporary apartment with palm trees visible from my fourth-floor balcony. I lived near the ocean so I could take in the salty air and listen to the sounds of the ever-changing sea.

I bought orchids and placed family mementos everywhere. Often spending time alone on my balcony, I gazed below at the koi swimming peacefully in the pond. Making a move from a large home to my enchanted apartment was very healing. If you have to move or decide to move, do so with care.

Listening to Your Heart

Have confidence in the inner you. I had faith in my instincts and you can too. No one can get in your head. My instincts told me to spend a year alone and mourn. Respect your comfort level and eventually, you will uncover abundant optimism and hope to reenter the world.

Soul Searching

I was afraid. Worried about my daughters facing life without a father, I knew I was now both mom and dad!

Should I stay in Honolulu or should I move to Chicago to be closer to my family? Questions and more questions whirled through my mind. You will be met with worries. Don’t leap into your decisions–no fast moves for a year.

After several months of indecision and a lot of soul searching, I began to live into my answers. I then made realistic decisions. As this process took one year of my life, please don’t rush your healing process.

One Year to Complete the Four Steps of Mourning

I took a full year to go through the four steps of mourning, the last of which is acceptance.

On the one-year anniversary of Michael’s death, in his memory, we held a service at our synagogue.  I stood between my daughter’s during the Rabbi’s final prayer and I recall the three of us held hands. As I listened to the Rabbi, a year of tears surged down my face.

These tears would not stop. I had no control over them. My face was drenched. At the end of the service, I knew I had accepted the loss of a love.

It was time to move into the present.

For you darlings who are recently widowed or those having a hard time months or years later, I will leave you with this short story.

Proactive Outreach

I have an established relationship with a friend of mine, a widow in Rancho Mirage, California. She has no idea I have been observing her experiences in widowhood. She was married for 60 years.

I watched her from afar as she found her place in the single world. Even with her career, she realized she had to slightly shift her lifestyle.

It has been three years and I still marvel at her. She learned to play cards and she made dates with the women. Proactively reaching out to other widows, she decided she wanted to have a full life so she extended herself and opened the doors to new opportunities.

When I see her, I think to myself, she is such a role model for widows. She could be the poster widow. That is why I am sharing her story. After you go through the four steps, and you must for your own good, march to her drummer, darlings.

Susan “Honey” Good is the founder of HoneyGood.com where this blog originally appeared. The site is a collection of lessons learned, life advice and insights from not only her, but from a fantastic group of contributing writers, each adding their own spice to the recipe. Honey Good.com representing “a family tree of women” — wives, mothers, daughters, granddaughters, mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law, sisters, aunts, cousins and girlfriends — coming together to talk about what makes them tick as well as what they have in common. Honey Good discusses life experiences with wisdom, humor and intellect, enabling all to attain a “Honey Good Style of Life.”


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