Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beyond the First Year

Does anyone know of a decent grief book about widowhood for the years after the first? I know there are a fair amount of books about getting through the first year - those initial weeks and months of intense grief, how to manage the first anniversaries, etc. But I haven't come across those that deal with life after the dust has settled and life has moved on but you're still kind of stuck. Or put another way, you're trying to go forward but your wheels seem to be spinning in the mud. The world is going forward but you seem not to be moving along with it.

Take for instance an issue heavy on my mind of late. What do you do about lingering feelings of resentment, jealousy and envy when interacting with people more fortunate? I wish there was a whole chapter devoted to this issue. And what about the reality of having to continue to live in a world with some pretty clueless people when you've changed. You're no longer the petty, selfish person you once were but you're interacting with people who don't see life as you do.

There is a very self-absorbed mom of a son on my boys' baseball team. I've known her for years and she monopolizes the conversations on the stands, every topic is about her and she just drones on and on about stuff that just has no personal meaning for me - nor does she ever inquire how you are. Anyway, we all know people like this in our lives. Usually I try to tune her out, especially when her topic involves having to alter her daughter's cheerleading outfit because she has grown so much within three months. How this topic can last an hour is beyond me but it does.

The other day she was lamenting the fact that she was so exhauted, tired and drained having just returned from her vacation at Disney in Florida. She explained how waiting in line for rides in the hot summer sun is so exhausting. When I encounter situations like this I wish I had the courage to say, "Lady, you don't know what exhaustion really is. I haven't had a vacation in six years. You are so fortunate to have been able to get away and had the time to wait in line for a roller coaster." But of course, I just smile and nod understandably. In my mind my fantasy involves grabbing her by her sholders and shaking her!

I wonder what this women would be blabbing about if she were widowed. She would have been an excellent widowhood spokeman - for getting out the word about how challenging widowhood really is. But anyway, my point is that as widows we often confront these clueless people and sometimes I am clueless myself as to how to react. I wish I could get out my "Widowhood For Dummies Beyond the First Year" to search out an answer.


  1. You made a good point. There aren't any books that go beyond the first year. Maybe just books on getting along period are what you need. There are a couple of books on resilience. I've just bought The Resiliency Advantage by Al Siebert. Another book is I Will Not Die an Unlived Life by Dawna Markova which might be good. There's The Resilience Factor, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, and Companion Through the Darkness. The book that got me through Ralph's illness was Kitchen Table Wisdom, just a good inspirational book.
    This fall I'm going to take a continuing ed. course at Rice University called Maintaining Personal Excellence in Difficult Times. It says you will end up with a plan for managing stress and ambiguity. Hope so. Will let you know. It starts near the end of September. Hope these suggestions help.

  2. Oh sweetie, I hear you. This so relates to my comment of a few days ago, which you replied to with such love *hugs*.
    I think the answer to your question about books after the first year, is very relevant, however, it a probably as you have touched on a bigger picture. I have struggled with the resentment and feelings of blame on others from way before I was widowed. I did wonder about how I would 'be' or who I was if I didn't hold on to that feeling of victimhood (which is probably the wrong word, probably more to do with indignation about how my life has worked out, and it's not my fault!).
    Yesterday I was very unhappy about my husband's family's demands about how they wanted to collect his ashes, today I have decided that they will have them when and where they want to collect them and that is where they belong and he would want that to happen. I'm not sure why I held on to feelings of protectiveness about them, given he would want to be in their hands (I still will have a portion), but letting go is an act of love and will free me from some of the connections that have made me unhappy.
    What can you do today to forgive and accept? It is a question we could all ask and it can go some way towards giving us peace.

  3. I know how hard it can be when people seem to have it so easy BUT that certainly does not mean that they do not suffer from problems too. I am not widowed but I am divorced. I lost my job, our business and our house and I am still hugely in debt for the trouble. I also do not have a close relationship with my family. I had to move from the community where I once lived as I could not gain employment or afford to rent an apartment here. I have since remarried. I suffer health problems that I attribute to the stress of what happened over the past 6 years. No one in my new life knows my story except for my husband. I now live a comfortable life yet on the onside I am plagued by low self esteem and confidence and fear. No one would know because when I meet up with someone I have already gone through the fear of actually interacting with them and generally have my husband there with me. We chat about our house renovation or our puppies or our next vacation etc. My life looks great to the outside world but I often depressed. I understand to an extent how difficult your life has been/is. But please don't be jealous of others. You never know what they are going through. Many people talk up their life to make themselves feel better too. You do have many positives in your life; Two wonderful boys (I want this more than anything but unfortunately I don't think it is going to happen for me), You are well educated and when the economy turns you will be able to have a successful career once more and you have however few some dear friend in your life. I truly hope that you can find peace in your life and a better sense of self.
    Take care

  4. During my happy marriage to Ralph, I often had periods of great stress--financial problems, nearly losing my son at 34 when he had a serious heart attack, a difficult relationship with my mother and worries about my kids. On the outside, I was fine. No one knew (except for my son's heart attack) because I don't confide when I'm suffering, so maybe that irritating baseball mom (and damn, she is certainly annoying) may have some stress in her life, too. One of my friends lost her husband to suicide recently. We'd had lunch a couple of months ago and she was cheerful and laughing, so I had no idea he'd threatened suicide not long before that. Life's a bitch, isn't it? None of us make it through without bumps along the way. Your way is really bumpy. I pray it will get smoother. Love and hugs, TZ

  5. Thelma - I am going to check out all the books you recommended and can't wait to hear about the class you'll be taking in Sept. It would be a great topic for our local community college. So many of us need that info. right now! Thank you for sharing some of the stresses you faced in your happy marriage to Ralph. I will admit that at times I have been envious of you because you seem so put together and with it. I have aspired to be more like you. I appreciate knowing that you've had your ups and downs too.

  6. Julie - I've done a great deal of thinking, pondering and reflecting on all your recent comments and have come to some painful realizations. My next post will touch on that topic but what it boils down to is the fact that I've had to take some some personal responsibility. Sometimes I don't like to go there because I feel the world owes me and I shouldn't have to do any more work (like socialize at baseball games). Thanks for helping me chage my perspective.

  7. Bec - You made such wonderful, honest and heartfelt comments. They touched me in the same way Julie's comments did and caused me to really get a grip on my life and to try and turn my current view around. It is not an easy process and I resist. You really helped me see the other side of the coin and to not just assume. Your kind words of encouragement about my life improving as time goes on were an inspiration.

  8. I read your post because I was surfing the net trying to justify my feelings. I too was feeling lost. I tried to move on after just a year. I began dating a divorced man. However, he was not ready for a relationship and honestly, neither was I.

    I tried to substitute my husband with this new man. I deluded myself into thinking he was my knight in shining armor. Unfortunately, he was a wounded soldier.

    I've been stewing about this for a month. And I realized something - I have the power to be happy again. Oh believe me, its hard. Financially I am strapped. My husband's death was sudden and we didn't plan well for the future. Notice I say "we". Because we were partners and I am as much to blame about my situation as he was.

    Its hard to be positive when life continues to pelt you again and again. But I have to believe that things will get better. In fact, I know that they will

  9. Anne - Thank you for commenting and sharing your experiences and current mind-set. I don't think there is anything wrong for getting out there and pursuing a new relationship. It took one of my girlfriends 7 years to start dating again and I wish I had started sooner too. When I asked my girlfriend how she gained the confidence to start dating she replied, "What is the alternative?" I guess you can apply that same logic to being positive. What is really the alternative in the end but to hope and believe that things will get better?

  10. I had a happy marriage - almost 56 years - with the usual financial, schedules, kids, problems and disagreements, etc. But it was fun and we "fit' together and were very much in love. After a prolonged illness, with me as the primary caregiver, my husband passed away. The first year I was in a daze and just doing what needed to be done, the second year I began taking on more volunteer activities. In the third year I realized I'd taken on too much and had to cut out some things. I realized that I was in a life I wasn't enjoying. I've lost my soul mate and half of myself. Some days I grieve. Some days I reflect on our life and laugh at all the good times we had together. Those are the times I focus on. I'm not lonesome, but life is different. In many ways, it's easier as I have my own schedule to worry about and that's very freeing. Some days it's just nice to putt around the house and yard and garden and do whatever I feel like doing. It would be nice to have someone to travel with and share with, but I'm just not interested in pursuing that.