Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Weary Winter Widowhood

We are under a winter storm advisory for the next 40 hours! This morning wasn't too bad dropping the boys off at school, although there was an accident near the high school. There always seem to be those on days like this. Poor, inexperienced teen drivers going off the road and hitting the signs of businesses. This car's whole front end was crushed.

As I was driving with the snow coming down I thought about how these winter storms are similar to widowhood. The first time one hits in late November or early December, there is a sense of resolve and strength is facing the novelty of it. Getting through it one thinks, "Now that wasn't so bad. I did it. We made it through!" But by the time you're on the fourth or fifth snowstorm, some of that optimism and courage has faded. "Not this again! I can't bear another one of these. When will spring be here?"

Another factor in battling the storm of widowhood is that one has to face the challenging elements on one's own, when in the past they were faced with a partner. Then, to top that off the widowed are in various stages of grieving. So add into the mix having to cope and carry on while being depressed and/or hopeless. We're tired and not thinking too clearly, yet we're plunged into a situation where we need to remain alert and exert ourselves physically. No wonder as the weeks go by we become even more depleted while those around us expect us to be stronger!

Having to keep running on empty is a good description here. The novelty has definitely worn off.

The untouched will come back with wisdom such as "Hang in there. Spring is coming. It is just around the corner." But the snow falling just seems to represent more of an avalanche to me. I feel like I am being buried alive. I've been through a number of winters and springs now. Yes, the spring returns but eventually so do the snowstorms. This is becoming more depressing than I'd thought it would. Sorry for the discouraging imagery.

I tried to plan for this winter onslaught by doing my running around yesterday. The nursing home facility I visited and applied at actually expressed some interest in hiring me. But the big boss wasn't there so they couldn't make an offer. I knew that I'd be cooped up inside today and have given myself permission to take some time off to knit a heart as a decoration for the door. I will bake a chocolate chip coffee cake for the boys. Tonight I am making a dinner I always make on snow days. Pure comfort food and it will use those 99 cent chicken cutlets I just bought. You mix a box of Stove Top Stuffing with the turkey or chicken, add sour cream, a can of cream of chicken soup and some frozen vegetables. Bake at 350 - the recipe can be located at Stove Top's web site. It also used to be on the back of the box but since I am only buying off-brand items these days I'm not sure if it is still there!

I am making this dish for myself since the boys aren't that fond of it. It is comfort food I enjoy. I am giving myself some scheduled time off today to knit because I know I am depleted, tired and have reached a point where the snowstorms are making me a little stir crazy! I suppose that is the moral of this winter tale. We have no choice but to face the snow falling. Spring is still pretty far off in the distance. Until it arrives, it is up to us to carve out little pockets of thaw in our lives in whatever ways we can. For me, that involves cooking, baking, food, reading and knitting.
For all of those who are facing winter snowstorms that were never predicted and blew into your life with such force and intensity you were knocked off your feet, you have my sympathy and compassion as we all pick up our snow shovels to face the blinding winds yet another time!

Today I am grateful:

1. For snow plows.
2. For meteorologists.
3. For the National Weather Service.
4. For weather predictions so accurate they can advise you when the first flakes will actually start falling.
5. For instant stuffing mix and all other convenience foods someone had to invent way back that do make our lives easier.


  1. Thanks for the imagery. I don't find the reality of it discouraging, just realistic. I personally think it is better in the long run to acknowledge that although the spring of our grief will offer us sunnier moments, we must always prepare for darker days. They happen whether we are prepared or not. Better to plan ahead, and have some of the comforts available to us when we need them.

    Thanks for the insight.

    Love. Dan

  2. I'm not sure it is entirely possible to plan for darker days ahead because how can we ever imagine the intensity of what we're feeling until we're actually there? I guess what you are saying is not to be fooled into believing that all our anguish will disappear once the spring flowers and Easter Bunny arrive. We always need that backup plan in our back pocket.

  3. Crash Course Cardiologist aka CCCFebruary 9, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    I remember ... after my heart attack and bypass surgery (I was 37 years old, with no cardiac risk factors, and my son was barely a toddler) ... so many people said inane things to me like "Keep Smiling!" I know they were trying to be helpful and encouraging, but they (the untouched, in this case, untouched by heart disease) just did NOT get it ... they had no damn idea what it was like to have your identity change from "skinny health nut" to "heart patient" overnight, and the incredible shock, anger, depression, loss, and tremendous feelings of failure that result.

    I confess, with quite a bit of shame, that when one of those "just-keep-smiling" gals recently lost her mother to an illness, it was hard for me to muster up a whole lot of sympathy. I found myself (again, I'm deeply ashamed to admit) thinking "well, now she knows how it feels to be REALLY hurting ... I wonder if she feels like 'smiling' today ... or if she can barely get out of bed" (which is how I felt many times in the aftermath of my heart attack). I know, that's just a terrible thing to think. Maybe someday I'll get over these feelings, but several years later, they're definitely still with me. As you've observed many times in your journey through widowhood, the road is long indeed. I'm still working on it.


  4. CCC......wow very profound. You just nailed on the head so many of the feelings I have felt over this journey and I feel validated and not quite so ashamed of them. Thank you. I will admit thinking and sending out some not so nice thoughts towards people who just didn't GET it. Even though I know deep down I am not a bad person, I still felt bad about it. I think these feelings are 'normal' for those of us on this journey that we didn't sign up for. It's funny how 'normal' for us is just plained screwed up to many others.
    I remember, right after Joe died, people would throw out the old "Everything happens for a reason" cliche. Oh, how I just wanted to jump up and choke those people. I actually visualized it several times and I can imagine I had a sort of twisted, demented looking smile on my face. They meant no harm, they just had no idea what else to say. It never entered their minds that saying NOTHING is sometimes the better thing to do.
    Widow, everytime I read your posts I am taken back to those awful New England winters and I am right there with you. I am blessed to live in a more temperate climate and thinking of you in the midst of a gloomy winter makes me understand that I do have it easier in that respect. I am sending you warmer air and always warm thoughts.


  5. CCC - Thank you for sharing the details of your personal story. You have been through a great deal and I feel honored whenever you stop by and share a comment.

    Your words spoke to me personally today. The reference to the identity change is so on. And people just don't understand this. How our tragedies change us, all the way to our inner core.

    I am still struggling with identity issues from becoming a non-home owner, in addition to widowhood and divorce! And I still am trying to deal with the anger I feel toward certain people in my life who took my foreclosure with such a dismissive, matter-of-fact attitude it borders on cruelty. I worry that I will gleefully chant, "Ha, ha, ha, ha-ha" if these folks ever face a tragic loss.

    This is all food for thought and a good topic for a future post or posts. Probably more than one!

    Kelly - Isn't it great to get feedback just right for us from someone making a comment? I'm so pleased this blog can reach people and make them feel less ashamed and normal. I'm glad CCC was able to connect with you on this.

    I think the deal is that the untouched say their stupid platitudes because they don't know any better. They haven't been there. It is easy to say something/anything and then just go home to warm houses and the warm arms of loving husbands and forget all about the widow... God, what we would give for those days again when we had those lives too.

    Yes, this weather sucks. I have to admit my mood is down along with all the falling and blowing snow. But my Stove Top Stuffing casserole was amazing and so was the chocolate chip coffee cake. Thanks for sending that warmer air and sun from your neck of the woods!

  6. This post hits home for me too. I'm from eastern Ontario, and winters have always been difficult to deal with even when everything was going right in life - two healthy people. Then my husband was diagnosed with cancer and winter 2007-2008 became our enemy as I struggled to get him to chemo and radiation appointments through the second worst year of snowfall and storms. Digging out the walks and keeping our van "road ready" to get him to the ER (I had to take him there so many times it was ridiculous) really took its toll on me. The weird thing was how it brought back a flood of memories of struggling to get my Dad back and forth to the hospital for chemo and other procedures through a similar horrible winter in 1998-1999. To my mind, winter and snow have come to be equated with sickness and death. When my husband died, I left and headed south a few weeks later. I sold my place in the north and will probably never spend another winter in the snow if I can help it. Just the sight of it gives me a reaction which is probably akin to PTSD - I got caught in a snowstorm in Salt Lake City on my way north last spring and all my mind seemed to be able to register were white hospital walls and the beeping of monitors in ICU. Yes, totally crazy, but that's what these experiences do to us. I agree with what others have said above. We are not the same person we were "before". We are changed in ways that other people cannot even begin to comprehend.

  7. Bev - I am so grateful for you adding your story and reactions to this topic. Reading about your experiences, I was right there with you scraping off the van, shoveling out, etc. I can totally put myself into your shoes having driven my poor husband to the ER numerous times as well. But I was spared from having to deal with doing that in the winter, thank goodness - I'm not sure how I would have coped otherwise.

    Your ending words are perfectly fitting - no one can ever really comprehend how we have been impacted and changed by our loss experiences. What I am realizing is that the impact is actually far greater than what I could imagine. I'm sure the untouched have difficulty understanding why someone would be so eager to move away from snow and winter weather. But I can really get your averse reactions to the cold weather. I'm glad for you that you are being spared from it right now!