WHAT THE WIDOWED WON’T TELL YOU (BUT WISH YOU KNEW)

Many health professionals gauge the death of a spouse as one of the most traumatic events a person will face in their lifetime.  The impact of grief is not something for which one can prepare, even when the death is anticipated.  Only someone who has lost a spouse can understand.    “Always on my mind–Forever in my heart.”

Yet, death is inevitable for everyone and nearly 200,000 Oklahomans are widowed.
The average age to become a widow is 59.4, according to census.gov (See table 7)

In shock, one  doesn’t know what is  needed when first asked, yet, support from friends and family drops off significantly, as weeks pass. Short term memory, concentration, and rational thought are often affected by grief, making simple tasks difficult.  Important decisions can be flawed and impossible to undo later.

Those who have never experienced the loss of a spouse often expect grief to be over by the end of a year. However, no matter how long it takes, grieving is essential to the healing process. You don’t just let go of someone who was important to you. The loss will never go away. Attempting to present a brave facade, by suppressing  emotion, can have long-term destructive consequences that can manifest as physical symptoms.   Be sure you read: How long does one grieve

Grief is often compounded by financial decline when Social Security was the couples main or only source of income. One benefit goes away at the death of a spouse making a funeral financially devastating, when there is no life insurance or other income. Many times the husband’s pension stops with his passing.

(Sidebar: There is no minimum  Social Security check. After the loss of  their spouse several widowed  are attempting to survive on a total income of less than $600 a month!)

A death notice in the paper may be an expense a widow can’t afford, leaving countless friends unaware of her loss. Gasoline to go to the doctor or church, a book of postage stamps to pay bills or a small gift for a grandchild’s birthday is a hardship when struggling to make ends meet. An invitation to a potluck may be declined, when there isn’t extra money to buy a cake mix.

Financial stress affects folks health, the way they see the world and the way they treat others. It can be a scary, cruel world and unfortunately money is a big part of it.

Embarrassed,  believing they are the only one in that situation, a widowed person may not answer  the phone when friends call. Assuming that they don’t want to be bothered the calls eventually stop.

Studies show that a widow loses 75% of those she believed were friends. She is no longer included in couples activities and avoided by those who don’t know what to say or do. While grieving the loss of her loved one, widows grieve the unexpected loss of long time friends. These losses, compounded by the loss of her identity as someone’s wife and a lack of finances, has a profound effect on her sense of self-esteem.

Many widows simply withdraw from life, moving  from heading up volunteer committees at church and singing in the choir to sitting on a back pew and eventually slipping out the  door.

Experiencing intense loneliness, with no community to rely on and the stigma of being labeled a “widow”, many feel like a misfit.

Stress and depression, caused by deep grief and loneliness, may be misinterpreted by those who have not been affected by the loss of a spouse. Grief, which can affect memory, making simple tasks difficult, is often misunderstood by those who have not suffered the loss of a spouse. A widow does not share the pain of being forgotten and feeling isolated and wondering  if there is any point of going on.

But  with awareness comes understanding and compassion.

Most widowed people won’t ask for help when they need it as they do not want to be a burden on others.  Being remembered on the anniversary of the death is a reminder that they, nor their loved one has been forgotten.

The couples wedding anniversary and holidays are extremely hard, for the one left behind, with Valentine’s Day one of the most painful. Loved you yesterday, love you still, always have, always will.

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10 thoughts on “WHAT THE WIDOWED WON’T TELL YOU (BUT WISH YOU KNEW)

  1. – A “phone mate” program that pairs of elderly or disabled call each other at a prescribed time each day is helpful for those who are living alone.
    – How Maryland does it: https://aging.maryland.gov/Pages/senior-call-check.aspx
    – Police departments computerized calling systems, are fairly inexpensive and easy to use: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/dont-seniors-live-alone-sign-phone-check-ins
    – Idea for when children don’t live close to their parents yet need reassurance they are ok, even if they have an emergency call button in case something would happen. Upon awakening early each morning some older parents send their children an e-mail or text telling of their plans for the day. Should there not be an e-mail, one of his children will call to make sure he is ok. The daily email is a proven a catalyst for more extended conversations, as a source of insight into the parent’s life and a deeper closeness for the family.

    This is a good way to help people age in place.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    “Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindness, and small obligations given habitually, are what preserve the heart and secure comfort.” – Humphry Davy
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I think half or almost all of the pain in the world…is people not feeling seen.
    It’s like Mr. Rogers, my hero, says: Love is at the root of everything….love or the lack of it.

    –Constance Wu, actor

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  2. Sending Condolences: Your friend’s husband dies, yet you didn’t know him that well. You wonder if you should send a card. ABSOLUTELY! The card is for your friend’s or relative’s loss so write that sympathy card and mail it!

    And if you keep forgetting to send a card? When it comes to expressing sympathy, there’s no time limit. In fact, sometimes it’s even nicer for a mourner to get a note a little after the initial flurry of attention, when life for everyone else has returned to “normal.” That’s when dropping your friend a note—yes, even by e-mail—will be really appreciated. And the best kind of note includes a little story about the deceased. http://www.rd.com/culture/modern-etiquette-advice/

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  3. When something happens many people will say, “Now if I can help call me.” But most widowed are not going to do that.

    Sheryl Sandberg (second in command at Facebook) found herself isolated after her husband’s death. Friends avoided the subject or asked superficial questions like, “How are you?” (What is the point of asking a grieving person “How are you?) She said she felt invisible, as if she was standing in front of them but they didn’t see her. Her husband’s death was the elephant in the room. She wrote Option B to change the conversation about death; a call to have forthright conversations in these hard times instead og the pleasantries exchanged after a tragedy. Sheryl went through the surprise, anger, pain, isolation and loneliness.

    A precious friend doesn’t wait for you to call her. She doesn’t come all dressed up, then sit on the edge of her chair talking about the weather, thus believing she is fulfilling her Christian duty to care for the widowed (James 1:27). No, she rolls up her sleeves and helps by stripping a bed to put on fresh sheets, starting the laundry, or the dishwasher after vacuuming and idying the house. She is willing to shop for those who don’t feel like going to the store and often brings a tray of something to eat from her own Sunday dinner table.

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  4. Touch, the first sense we acquire is the secret weapon in many a successful relationship. Oxytocin levels go up, heart rates go down, all these wonderful things that you can’t see.” Moments like these also reveal the reciprocal nature of touch. “You can’t touch without being touched. A lot of those same beneficial physiological consequences happen to the person doing the touching.”

    In fact, when we’re the ones initiating contact, we may reap all the same benefits as those we’re touching. Research has revealed that a person giving a massage experiences as great a reduction in stress hormones as the person on the receiving end. “Studies have shown that a person giving a hug gets just as much benefit as a person being hugged,”

    “Basketball players sometimes don’t have time to say an encouraging word to a teammate; instead, they developed this incredible repertoire of touch to communicate quickly and accurately,” he explains, adding that touch can likely improve performance across any cooperative context. As with our primate relatives, who strengthen social bonds by grooming each other, in humans, “touch strengthens relationships and is a marker of closeness,” he says. “It increases cooperation but is also an indicator of how strong bonds are between people.” Greater trust between individuals.

    If a post-rebound slap on the back or the brush of a hand while delivering a bill can help us all get along a bit better, it may be because “when you stimulate the pressure receptors in the skin, you lower stress hormones,” At the same time, warm touch stimulates release of the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin, which enhances a sense of trust and attachment.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201303/the-power-touch

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    • “We feel more connected to someone if they touch us.”
      Studies have also shown that individuals who have been touched are more likely to agree to participate in mall interviews, slight touches yield bigger tips for waitresses, and bus drivers are more likely to give a passenger a free ride if they touch them while making the request.

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  5. WHEN SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS A LOSS

    -Those whom we support hold us up in life, so show kindness and compassion; be supportive of all.
    -Even the smallest acts can leave an incalculable impact.We may do something for someone else that we don’t even remember, but it may cause that other person’s life to turn in some positive way.
    -Express sympathy  when a friend loses one they love–flowers, a call, a card, a casserole, a listening ear,  mow their yard or just show up and don’t ask what you can do. Never say, “Call me if you need something!” They need it, they just don’t know what it is as their mind isn’t clear. Figure out what needs to be done and just do it!  Grand words are meaningless, but thoughtful actions are timeless.   This is endearing to some and will help make friends even better friends.
    -If you don’t know someone well and they mention that they lost someone at least tell them you are sorry for their loss and you hope they find peace.
    -Showing up as a witness to someone else’s loss is a vital expression of our own humanity. (On attending the funeral when someone you care about loses a loved one.)   Ask Amy 12/19/18
    -When someone is hurting respond to their pain, without being thrown by their behavior. Simply open your heart and be fully present to them.; move toward their suffering instead of away from it. They may be feeling deep regret, that they have let their loved one down, by spending so much time working or maybe they didn’t say I love you enough. Use their memories to remind them of their gestures of affection and acts of loyalty and sacrifice. Maybe they worked the long hours away from home to support them or put  in overtime to pay for their meds. Long hours with them at an oncology clinic and building a wheel chair ramp, so their loved one could go outside are expressions of love.

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  6. Knowing God loves us and is with us but still there are moments of feeling so alone. Miss the comfort of his touch, his soothing deep voice, his gentle kiss, someone to lean on. Panic sometimes creeps in.

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    • The key is that Jesus does want to speak to us–today. In your own language, just as a friend would speak. We simply need to take time to listen. (Quote from Wally Armstrong)

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