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Why Skipping is Good For a Young Grieving Widow And Other Lessons I've Learned.

Updated on February 16, 2015
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Moving Forward is a Conscious Choice

When I was 29 I married the love of my life. He was kind, loving, handsome and an amazing father.

Seven years into our marriage he died suddenly, leaving me with two daughters under the age of five to raise on my own. After the initial shock wore off, I realized very quickly I had a choice to make. Would I choose to let this tragedy define me for the rest of my life, or would I move forward?

Many of my loved ones said to me "You have to go on for the kids." Of course I understood that, and in the beginning, while in the midst of intense grief, that was the only thing I could do. Put one foot in front of the other and go through the motions for my children.

But as the weeks and months slowly passed and the loneliness and isolation moved in, going forward "for the children" was not enough of a reason for me. I discovered that in order to truly embrace life and happiness again, I had to do it for myself.

That may sound selfish, but it turned out to be the best thing in the world for all three of us.

Here are some valuable lessons I learned on my journey.

1. Putting Yourself First is Not Being Neglectful

It sounds terrible, doesn't it? Your children have just lost their father; how could you put yourself ahead of them?

First of all, when you're a widow, putting yourself first does not mean neglecting your children. Quite the opposite. It's similar to when the flight attendant before take off instructs passengers to put the oxygen masks on themselves FIRST before assisting children. We can only help our children once we've put ourselves on solid ground.

Kids are intuitive. They know you better than you think. Going through the motions may work for a while, but eventually they'll be on to you. The one thing children need most when they've lost a parent is reassurance that everything will be okay. If you don't believe that yourself, they will know it. Pretending to want to get out of bed in the morning cannot be sustained indefinitely.

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2. Face Your Fear Head On

How do you begin to find joy again?

For me, the first step was tackling my fear and anxiety about raising the girls alone. What I discovered by going to a good therapist (which I highly recommend if you can swing it) was that I needed to reclaim some of my own power. For example, up until this point, I had let my husband take care of all financial matters. Once he was suddenly gone, I was left feeling incredibly vulnerable.

When we met I had a thriving career. But he was ten years older and made more money than I did, so I figured he knew much more in the financial department. Therefore, I basically deferred to him in money matters and took very little interest.

That was a mistake I would never make again, not because he didn't do a great job, but because I felt financially vulnerable without him. I quickly learned that I need to always be an active participant in my own financial future. I called our accountant (whom I had never met), and he gave me a crash course on where our money was and what kind of situation I was in. After an additional meeting with a probate attorney, the picture became crystal clear.

The research I did restored a feeling of control over my family's financial future. It also reminded me that I had the ability to make sound decisions on my own.



*Did you know that death benefits of a spouse do not come to you automatically? If you have dependent children, you qualify immediately for benefits, but you have to go online or to your local social security office to apply for it. Go to http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10084.pdf for more information.

3. Ask For Help.

You'd be amazed at the resources you already have surrounding you. And one thing is for sure: people WANT to help you.

My brother helped me sort through a lot of paperwork in our home office. It was really helpful, just having him there with me. My sister was probably the one I leaned on most for emotional support. I don't know what I would have done without her.

If you have a family member or a close friend you trust, use their skills and expertise. Whether it's financial, home improvement, or babysitting for the kids, I gained so much by asking for help.

And you will need emotional support. Someone you can say ANYTHING to without fear of judgement is priceless


4. It's Okay to Laugh

It started off small. The girls would say something funny or I'd catch a favorite comedy on television.

Eventually, I decided to take matters into my own hands. With the girls in the car, I sang at the top of my lungs. When we got to the grocery store parking lot we held hands and skipped our way to the entrance. My daughters would giggle uncontrollably and it was contagious. Laughing definitely helped get me through some dark days.

But it was a dear friend of mine that gave me my first real belly laugh.

She lives in another state and flew in to surprise me a few months after the funeral. She just pulled up into my driveway one day. I went to the door and started to cry. (I'm a cryer anyway but during this time in my life it didn't take much.) Then she took a good look at me and said "You look like shit. Don't tell me there's a rocking chair in that house and a thousand cats running around."

The crying turned to hysterical laughter in seconds. She was one of the first people who didn't feel the need to walk on eggshells around me or feel sorry for me. She knew it was my strength and humor that would get me through. I will never forget that moment and will always thank her for that gift.

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5. Let Go Of The Anger And Guilt

There are people in your life who will not be comfortable with your grief. Some you will recognize right away. They will be the ones who avoid you and it is painful. It took me a while to forgive and let go of my anger toward people I had once considered friends.

Truthfully, I think we all do the best we can with what we've got. And for some people, death is just too hard to get close to, perhaps reminding them of their own mortality or that of those closest to them.

Others will make you feel guilty for moving forward. It sounds crazy but it's true. They have some notion that there is a certain amount of time you need to spend shrouded in black. The truth is, there is no timetable for healing. Everyone goes at a different pace.

In time, I realized that the best way to honor my husband was to embrace life and love again.


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6. Do Things Just For You When Possible

Working while single parenting is not easy, but try to put some time in for yourself whenever possible. I was fortunate to live near family and friends who would help out. I was also able to afford the occasional babysitter. I started exercising regularly (really helped) and doing more cooking again. Both were healing and reminded me of who I was before I was a widow.

Eventually, things got a little better. Months went by, I joined some singles groups and got involved in my community. Later, friends approached me who "knew a great guy" and I began to date. It felt very strange at first but it got easier as time went on.



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7. Moving Forward is not Forgetting

In the early months after my husband's death, grief came in waves. There would be a day when I was feeling great, then suddenly out of nowhere, the tears would come.

Once it happened in the grocery store in the toothpaste aisle. Just comparing dental floss one moment, then suddenly some sappy Celine Dion song comes on and I'm a basket case.

Someone wise once said "There is no way around grief, you just have to walk through it to get to the other side." Nothing has ever been more true in my experience. It has been seventeen years since Rick died. I am happily re-married to a wonderful man who my children and I love with all our hearts. And Rick is part of us as well.

For the first year, there was not a day I didn't wake up and immediately think of him. Later on, it didn't happen every morning and became less frequent over time. But it never went away completely, not even after I found deep love and happiness with someone else.

Even now, a song, a movie or a milestone for my daughters that he has to miss can trigger sadness. But I actually welcome it. He is a beautiful memory that will always be in my heart.



My Daughters. Flower Girls in Their Mom's Wedding

Some great sites for help and information

Merry Widows and Some Surprising Truths About Grief

http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/30/qa-merry-widows-and-some-surprising-truths-about-grief/

On Being a Widow

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-scarboro/on-being-a-widow_b_4698244.html

Hello Grief

http://www.hellogrief.org/a-widow-answers-the-questions-youre-too-polite-to-ask/

Dealing with sudden loss.

How have you dealt with the loss of someone close to you?

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    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thank you so much @Sunshine625.. You made my day!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 2 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Amazing article filled with so much wisdom. You have walked the walk and you surely earned the right to talk the talk. I've read articles about how to deal with grief, but they were matter of fact...not firsthand knowledge. Your pain was real and raw. Your advice is excellent. I have dealt with grief via siblings and parents...but I could relate. Thank you for sharing your journey...

    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks Medusa13, really appreciate you stopping by and the encouraging comment!

    • Medusa13 profile image

      Chelsea Rowe 2 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      Thanks for sharing such a difficult time in your life and the strategies you used to cope. I agree that you need to take care of yourself first before you can even attempt to take care of others. Very inspiring.

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      @peachpurple..you would surprise yourself (as I did) at how much strength you really have! Thanks for reading...

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I amsorry to hear about your spouse. You are brave and strong to carry on your life with your kids, i would have broke into pieces

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thank you so much LongTimeMother! I appreciate the kind words and you passing this a long if you think it may help someone get through a really tough time..that is the greatest thing about writing! I am following you as well now..

      And thanks to moonlake for sharing it!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 2 years ago from Australia

      Hi Tami. I have no doubt your experience will help others. Thanks for writing about it. And thanks to moonlake for sharing the hub and bringing it to my attention. I will also share it because I'm a great believer in the value of passing on helpful advice.

      Please say hello to your children and their loving stepfather. Wishing your family all the best. :)

    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thank you Kevin. I can't imagine growing up without both parents. I am so sorry for your loss....I hope your writing is one of the things you use while you keep moving forward.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      Hello Tami, I am not married but I lost both of my parents. I went on with life. This was interesting and I am sorry that you went through that.

      Kevin

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      @moonlake..Hearing your story made my heart break for you and brought back so many memories for me. I was so angry and felt so betrayed by different people for years after Rick died. What I realize now is that their reactions had NOTHING to do with me and was all about their own issues. It is sad to think that there are people in this world who don't have the ability to just look you in the eye and say "sorry for your loss." But what also amazed me was the support I did get from the people I least expected it from. Life can be funny that way. I am so sorry for your loss. Let yourself grieve for as long as you need to. You don't owe anyone a thing and you certainly shouldn't feel the need to keep up appearances. When I started going out socially again..I remember telling myself "you can sit in the back and are allowed to leave anytime you want to." It's Okay to give yourself that permission. And for the people who don't understand--you don't owe them a thing. Be gentle with yourself and love yourself at this painful time. I am thinking of you! Tami

    • Tamirogers profile image
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      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      @Peggy W thank you for your kind words. You're right--that friend of mine is a jewel and though she lives in the midwest we still keep in close touch. I hold on very tight to the people I can always count on for the truth..we all need a good kick in the backside sometimes! Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 2 years ago from America

      You are so right there are people in your life who will not be comfortable with your grief. I saw that yesterday I went to a bridal shower (one I would have rather missed but felt I had to go) and there were three women there that I had talked to just before my husband passed away and they wouldn't even look at me.

      Grief does come on suddenly and out of nowhere. It took all I could do to hold it together yesterday.

      I think you handled it very well with two children, you had your hands full. I'm so glad you have found happiness again.

      Great hub voted up and shared.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a well written piece about dealing with the loss of a spouse from your own personal perspective but it may also help countless others who will someday find themselves in a similar position. Sharing this useful hub with others! Glad you found happiness again in your life. That friend you mentioned was a jewel who came at just the right time for you! We could all use friends like that!

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thank you @billybuc. That was my intention when I wrote it. It was very cathartic as well..appreciate the feedback!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good for you! What a great, positive, helpful message from one who has been there. I really enjoyed this article, and hopefully it will be read by a person who has suffered loss and needs your words.

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thank you mary615..I am glad you found me because I peeked at your hubs and you cover a lot of topics that interest me! Following you now..thanks! Tami

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      My hubby died quite unexpectedly at the age of 52 in 1988. I still miss him. Thanks for sharing your feelings and thoughts with us. I wish you well.

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Wow Shyron thank you so much. I am really touched. I am so happy that your loved one is still here..miracles do happen!

      I just lost my father last summer and my mom died 12 years ago.. It never gets easy.. I am going to look for that poem! Thanks and hugs...

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago from Texas

      Tami, thank you for sharing this, I am sorry for your loss. I can't answer the poll. I don't know how I would deal with a loss such as yours. I almost lost my Honey in 2005 (Count down to a Miracle).

      And the Poem, I don't know who wrote it, (When Tomorrow Starts Without Me) when Mom expired, it made me cry but it also helped me.

      Wonderful hub Tami.

      Voted-up, UABI and shared.

      Blessings and Hugs to you and your girls.

      Shyron

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks so much Miran! I appreciate it!

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      Miran Shuleta 2 years ago

      This is very touching and honest, thanks for sharing it with us.

      Beautiful Hub!

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thank you so much for your kind words @M Lynn Moore..If I can help just one person, that would be amazing. Everyone handles grief differently and I know women who still struggle after many years of losing a spouse. It breaks my heart.

    • M Lynn Moore profile image

      Michelle McKiernan 2 years ago from Madison, WI

      Not only is this brave and beautiful, but also a wondetful resource for anyone facing potentially debilitating grief.

    • Tamirogers profile image
      Author

      Tami Rogers 2 years ago from Seattle, Washington

      Thanks so much Kathleen..It was a tough piece for me to write but I felt really good to put it out there. I will keep you daughter in my thoughts..and yes--I think a lot of this can apply to divorce..she is lucky to have you for support.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Much of what you've written could be applied to my daughter who went through a divorce when her children were toddlers. She suddenly went from a stay-at-home mom whose husband handled the money to an independent single working mother. So glad your story had a happy ending. That is what I'm praying for her. Thanks for writing so honestly.