Wednesday, February 17, 2010


TIME: The perception of time, lack of time, beating the clock, deadlines, time heals all wounds, free time, time line myths, schedules and time for change.

The following insights come from my experience as a widow. I'm not sure if others have had similar experiences. I am relating them now because they have frustrated me. And I'm trying to get a handle on them so I can make some positive changes in dealing with these issues.

1. First of all, since I have been widowed and stopped working outside the home, people seem to assume that I have loads of free time. There doesn't seem to be any recognition or sympathy toward the fact that in losing a helpmate, I now have to handle a job previously handled by two. The sad part of the matter is that when there is more on your plate to handle, you're also more tired and consequently the jobs getting done are not up to your usual standards. There is a lot of just making do or getting by. You also have to figure out how to handle a lot of jobs and duties you don't know how to do because in the past, your spouse took care of them. It is frustrating. Also, suddenly having to worry about everything on your own takes up time because you have to figure out new ways to plan and do things.

Maybe this misconception comes from the fact that people don't see what is going on inside our homes. They don't see the piled up laundry, the stacks of bills, the weariness that exists in our souls from managing all of the shopping, cooking, lawn work, car maintenance and child care. So while I haven't worked outside the home for much of my widowhood, the work load within my home and life has increased. There has been minimal time off for relaxing or down time which is another matter as well.

2. Despite the time constraints of having to fit too much into a day that is too short, the world still expects us to meet all the established deadlines. I have also found that with people it is the same thing. I'm expected to go out with someone or meet with them according to their time frames and schedules. Rarely has anyone expressed an interest in trying to accommodate my schedule. When my husband died I lost the power of two and the power of being in a couple. I honestly believe that I became diminished in importance, value and worth since I am alone. As a result, people have been less polite and respectful to me. In a way, it has sometimes felt like people could walk all over me because my husband wasn't around to "protect" me.

3. My grief intensified over time. The first year it was centered around shock, disbelief, fatigue and pity. In the second and third years, my grief matured into a greater realization of what the boys and I had really lost when my husband died. In the beginning, you don't have the perspective of time to really acknowledge this. And the world believing that popular myth that we should be over our grief in a year, isn't around to help support us when we really need it. Maybe for some of us, the second and third years out are when the real grief work starts. Not to say that the first days, weeks and months of grieving are not important. Looking back for me at least, the grief I experienced and had to work through was far more difficult after the first year. Then there are the losses that come with the passage of time. Maybe financial hardship, loss of a home, having to relocate...

To be fair, part of the equation factoring into all of this is that by nature I have always been a non-complaining, people pleasing "Yes Man." But as I continue to navigate the widowhood road I am gaining strength to be able to state my needs and wants more securely. I have the power to say, "No, Saturday night is not a good time to meet. We're going to have to set another time." I'm no longer reluctant to refuse to participate in car-pool duty. There are other parents out there with greater flexibility and ease to pick up those duties for the parents like myself holding the short end of the stick. And I am more confident in stating what for me is my reality. That even if a number of years have passed since my husband died, it doesn't mean that I have gotten over it. Nor does it mean that I can face new losses like a divorce and losing my home with greater ability and ease. Through this blog and in my interactions with the people in my life, I am trying to paint a picture of what it is like to live with grief and loss. Maybe it is not a pretty picture and maybe people feel uncomfortable knowing that a cloud of loss surrounds me. But I will stand tall and tell it like it is. No longer will I just nod my head and say, "I'm fine." If someone asks or even cares, I will speak my truth: "I am facing and working through a number of major losses that came at me in a short period of time that resulted in me feeling great pain, and I am doing the best I can to go on living a happy, meaningful and productive life while I regroup, catch my breath and figure out where to go from here."

If the world isn't willing to cut me some slack for circumstances largely beyond my control, then I suppose it is up to me to stand up for myself and my needs. I only wish it had not taken me six long years of wearing myself ragged to reach this point!

I am grateful for:

1. The time to write this post.
2. The time to do the dishes in an overflowing sink.
3. Alarm clocks.
4. Bit and pieces of free time granted during the day here and there.
5. The sacred time before bed for reading a few pages.


  1. Regarding #1-I think this is true of not just we widows but most any one who works from home, be it virtual or as a full time caretaker. People think you have nothing to do all day. Just like you said, just because they can't see it they make assumptions.
    #2- I am RARELY on time for anything. If it weren't for 'autopay' most of my bills would not get paid on time if left to my ability to do it in a timely manner. Time is a word that has taken on new meaning. Accommodations?? This seems to tie into #1, people assume since you have no one to answer to or confer with (like a spouse) we are just free to accommodate the rest of the world.
    #3- No one and I mean NO ONE told me about this. Looking back though I'm not sure at the outset that I would've believed them. I mean during that first year I was convinced it could not get any worse. Still a little warning about year 2 would've been nice. Year one- the year of firsts. First Christmas, birthday, anniversary alone. Year 2- the kicker....YUP he's really dead and he is not coming back. Now what? Year 3- has just started and I am tempted to call this the year of floundering. Like a bobber in the ocean of aloneness.
    You my friend have not only had to deal with all of the above but a plethora of other unimaginable things. I, for one, am not sure I would still be standing. My hat comes off to you. You HAVE become a stronger, wiser woman. You are an inspiration to all of us.

  2. I am learning more and more that this whole grief journey is about self-empowerment. When our spouses are taken from us we are left feeling completely victimized. When people say they are there for you, then completely disappear, you take it personal. When time goes by and people start telling you how you should act and feel, you start telling them where they can put their advice.


  3. Oh Dan that is so true. Before Joe died I was outspoken and no one would ever dream of riding roughshod over me. Then I turned into this quivering blob of jello unable to do the simplest of things. When my own mother told me, after 30 DAYS, that it was time to move on and get over it, I had to explain to her that he died we didn't break up. The second time she did it I politely told her to keep her opinions to herself and I have since kept my distance. Friends took a little longer but the same basic thing transpired. Those who are still around know better than to say anything along those lines as I have regained my voice. I've been told it's no fun being on the receiving end of my voice :)
    I will run my grief my way, because MY way is the right way for me.

  4. I agree that people don't really grasp what time means to us. I remember (and I suddenly realize I'm still angry) that after my mother died, my husband was hospitalized and I was working 8:00 to 6:30 every day, my business partner never offered to take over any of my responsibilities for running the office. Now I work half time so I have much more flexibility and I find people seem more respectful of my time than they used to. Maybe because I'm getting older?

  5. Thelmaz I can relate to the anger. Are people so uncomfortable with death as a whole that they work so hard on pretending it didn't happen and the result is they come off as uncaring or unsympathetic? Has our society as a whole become so self absorbed that they fail to see when they should step up and do the right thing? I try to keep the highest regard for mankind in general but I have been disappointed on so many levels that it gets harder and harder.
    You also may be onto something with the age thing. Somehow people aren't as disrespectful the older I seem to get. I think I may have jumped the shark.

  6. Kelly - Why is it more difficult for you to be on time now? For me it is just having to do the jobs that used to be done by two on my own. I also believe that us middle-aged folks don't have as much energy as we used to. I'm just more tired because of my age.

    I love the words you use to describe the years. #1 - The Year of Firsts. #2 - The Kicker. #3 - Floundering. Those words describe it very well. I too, would have appreciated some warning about the emotional challenges following the first year - some heads up would have helped prepare me because when it hit me in the second year, I fell pretty hard!

    Thanks for your kind words of acknowledgment for what I've had to face. Just hearing someone say that to me means more than you know. I don't often hear things like this and to be validated is very empowering. I receive strength from such encouragement.

    Dan - I've never looked at the grief journey as one of empowerment so this is a new way of seeing and thinking about it for me. I tend to get caught up and remain in the victimization role because I am so disappointed by those who promise to deliver and then disappear. I like the image of becoming more powerful despite the pain. Or using some of the pain and converting it into power.

    Kelly - I heard comments from my family just days after my husband's death that included, "Oh well, everyone has to die sometime" and "Think of all the war widows." Another frequent one was "So are you dating yet because you're not getting any younger." Just a couple days ago someone told me to "get over it and move on." This was in response to a very passing comment that I made simply saying that losing a spouse is harder than most people can imagine. That it all I said - it wasn't a pity party. Just a comment and out came the pat "get over it already" comment. I am coming to believe that it is such an immediate response because people want to shut us up to avoid hearing anything about death, loss or grief. But that is their problem, not ours.

    Thelma - I just don't know what goes through people's heads or is it because they just aren't thinking? I would be livid at my business partner's lack of assistance. I've been told when getting so mad I've brought it up, that the reason why people haven't helped me is because I didn't ask. But it infuriates me that many people don't just do something helpful. Having to ask for assistance puts another burden on those already suffering and in need. When my husband was dying I was so flustered and doing the best to hang on I'm not sure I even knew what end was up. And under those conditions I'm supposed to be reaching out to others and asking for help?

    I'm not sure why you may have more respect working fewer hours. Maybe instead of your age it has to do with your stronger attitude? Maybe because our perception of time has changed and we are more respectful of it, that attitude rubs off onto others?

    Kelly - We need to expand on many of the comments you bring up here - maybe a post devoted to this topic. I too, try to be tolerant and hopeful about mankind and humanity but this widowhood gig has given me another window into human nature that at times has been utterly despairing! I have really seen so much selfishness when what we need to be cultivating is selflessness!

  7. Hmmm, why am I late? Well when it comes to paying bills, like I said if it weren't for autopay I would just forget about it. It's like once I hit the front door I shut down. Completely. Maybe it is age, I am tired, bone tired all the time. Then it's time to leave again and I'm so tired that seems to always be an issue too. Once I'm up and rolling I'm good throughout the day for the most part. But anything that has to do with being around home, I'm practically useless.

    I agree 100% with what you said. It is NOT us. It's them. They are not comfortable with death, dying or anything related to the subject matter. That's fine, ignore our comments. But to be blatantly cruel? No excuse! Some of the comments you had to endure are new to me. In as much of a daze as I was I don't know that I would have said anything but if anyone were to say it to me now they'd better watch out. I can go from sweet to bitch in 3 seconds flat! I have no tolerance for nonsense anymore. Maybe it's good pretty much everyone fell away cuz I wonder about myself these days! I am short tempered when it comes to all things ridiculous. I have a saying "You can't fix stupid". I seem to run across alot of stupid lately.

    I myself, am a caregiver by trade. So when I see the selfishness and downright cruelty it drives me nuts. I spend all day giving willingly to others. The self centered, self absorbed just have no place in my life anymore. I used to tolerate as well. No more. Once again, I can't help but wonder if I am becoming cranky because of age or widowhood. I don't want to be one of those cranky old ladies, I really don't!

  8. Kelly - I too am just so drained. Tired to the bone, mentally exhausted, depleted through and through. Some days it takes a lot to get me motivated but once I get going I'm okay. I made a promise to myself on 1/1 to get up early and stay up and so far have never given into the urge of going back to bed. That for me has been a huge accomplishment since I don't work out of the home and can just return to bed after dropping the boys off at school at 7:00. I am just beginning to believe that all these years of grieving intensely have caught up with me. I think I need a major vacation and probably to take a long break from the grief. Maybe I will try that strategy for March - take a grief vacation that month.

    In the beginning I was too numb and shocked to ever say much back to people when they made stupid comments. Now I have reached the point where I am pretty verbal in coming back at them. I also fear becoming the "witchy" old lady all the kids on the block are scared of. This topic was actually something I brought up with my therapist because sometimes I just feel so bitter and resentful of humanity. I believe my therapist responded that as long as I worry about this it won't happen because I won't let myself become that horrible witch. It is comforting to know that I am not the only one out there fearing this too.

  9. I think so long as we keep ourselves to 2 cats or less we will be ok. Nothing scares me more than being the 'witchy' lady than being the CAT lady, lol!!