A recent widower recently emailed me the following:
I’ve been going through your blog, and I was wondering what your response would be to learning how to be single, or being a peace with being alone first. You’ve pointed out several times that widowers jump into a relationship to possibly fill in a void, and in that case, perhaps an explanation as to how you dealt with being alone during the first few months would be helpful.
I lost my fiancé a month ago, and I am figuring out how to go through this myself.
Mark (name changed)
First, I’m sorry for your loss. Adjusting to live without someone who has been a major part of your life isn’t easy. I hope what I share can help you and others find that peace you seek.
In my case, I had a difficult time adjusting to life without my late wife and didn’t handle it as well as I could have. Even though I did some things right, the biggest mistake I made was jumping into serious relationship thinking it would heal my heart and solve many of the issues I was working through. Instead it caused more problems than it solved.
Based on what I learned from that first year alone, here are four things I suggest other widowers do that can help make the adjustment easier and help find that inner peace the recently widowed seek.
• Keep busy. Nothing is worse for the recently widowed than sitting around with nothing to do or watching endless amounts of TV. Dive into a hobby or that can keep you focused and busy when you might otherwise find yourself alone with time on your hands. I found solace in blogging and gutting and rebuilding a home. It kept me busy and distracted during the first few months after her passing. I might have gone crazy if I didn’t have those two activities to fall back on.
• Give your life some structure. Our lives generally fall into a series of routines. When we lose a spouse many of routines are disrupted and destroyed. Getting back into a routine gives life the structure that helps keep us sane and focused. One of the best things that happened in the months following the LW’s death was that our two best friends invited me over every Wednesday night for dinner. This went on for 6-8 months. Having dinner with them was the highlight of my week. It gave me something to look forward to. So find friends to hang out with or other activities that you enjoy that can put some basic routines back in your life.
• Find ways to help and serve others. Many people are going through unemployment, divorce, financial problems, and many other things. Whether it was mowing a neighbor’s lawn, helping someone move, or volunteering with a church all helped me forget my own problems and helped me feel connected to the community. Though you may not think their trials are same level as losing a spouse, forgetting about yourself and helping others is a great way to keep yourself grounded and realize that despite your own trials and difficulties, you still have many things to be thankful for.
• Peace and acceptance comes from within. Keep in mind that staying busy or starting a new relationship by themselves isn’t going to bring you peace, comfort, or acceptance. They’re simply tools to help you go on from one day to the next. Eventually you’re going to have to go through the inner struggle of accepting your loss and being okay with starting a new chapter in your life. It’s not the easiest process but coming through the other side and realizing that life is still worth living and there’s lots of joy to be had is worth the struggle. Don’t be afraid to start that journey.
I hope this helps, Mark, and I wish you the best as you embark on a new chapter in your life. Keep in touch.
Abel Keogh 2012