You?re home now. A short while ago you stood over a hole in the earth. You blew a kiss, tossed a rose, sprinkled a shovelful of dirt over a casket, and said goodbye to your husband, your soul mate, the best friend you ever had.
As you move about greeting hungry strangers, someone whispers that the woman wandering about with mayonnaise on her chin is your mother?s sister?s next door neighbor?s cousin?s dog?s pet sitter. It is a scene right out of Star Wars, the one in the bar, and you feel trapped in it. In a little while everyone is gone, even the dirty-faced dog walker. The door shuts and reality sets in. He isn?t coming home. Ever. And in those early days after the funeral, performing the simplest of tasks will seem monumental. You will wonder can I make it – Without Him?
You can. And you will.
Here are ten tips to help you survive?after the funeral:
1. Do say yes to a friend, close relative, or good neighbor, who offers to spend the night (or more), while you slip into something uncomfortable – Widowhood.
Don?t be alone that first night, not unless you don?t have a choice. First nights without Him sting like a bee and an angel to sit quietly at your kitchen table, to turn out the lights, to shut off the cell phone, and to prepare a cup of tea while you tuck the children in bed, walk the dog, feed the cat, is like aloe on sunburn.
2. Do carry a small notebook. And pen.
Take them with you everywhere you go, even to the bathroom. New widows run out of toothpaste, toilet paper, tissues, ear swabs, and lipstick. And they forget. If your pen and notebook is handy, you won?t forget to write the item down. You won?t forget to buy it. You will teach yourself structure and focus, something every new widow needs. And running an errand will get you out of the house.
3. Do learn your financial status.
As soon as practical, make an appointment with your accountant, your attorney, and your broker. Bundle your papers, bank statements, insurance policies, will, and outstanding bills. Review them before your appointment. Got questions? Write them down – In that little notebook, remember? The one in your purse.
Don?t be afraid to ask questions. You are a new widow, and there is no such thing as a ?silly? question. As a matter of fact bury that ?silly? word. You?re in charge now. Information is crucial to your survival. And for pity sakes, if you don?t know how to balance a checkbook, ask.
4. Do pay the mortgage. And the electric.
Other bills may be postponed, temporarily, but not these two. You can lie down and wish your world to go away after you?ve written these two checks and recorded the data in your check register, or that little notebook, the one in your purse. Don?t forget to stick a stamp on the envelopes. Don?t forget to mail them. Again, it?ll give you a reason to leave the house.
5. Do take care of yourself – Comb your hair, wash your face, brush your teeth, apply lipstick – Do it everyday. Even if you don?t leave the house.
Don?t get a haircut. This is not the time. Not unless you?ve got a standing appointment and feel comfortable sitting in a chair for any amount of time. On the long list of things that?ll make a new widow feel worse, a bad hair day for the next six months rockets to the top. I suggest delaying a hair cut for at least three months. If you find your hair really scraggly, make a ponytail and tie a ribbon in it. What? No ribbon? What?s that pink thing on that basket of fruit?
6. Do take care of your children.
If you have small children, don?t neglect them. They need you. Feed them, even if it?s cold cereal. Wash their clothes and their faces. Remind them gently to brush their teeth. Don?t be afraid to hold them and hug them. Do tell them, everything will be alright.
7. Do walk the dog.
Do change the cat?s litter.
Do make certain that all house pets are fed and that they have access to fresh water. It?s not unkind to fill a sink with tap water or to leave the toilet seat up. Just remember to flush.
Don?t get mad when Barky has an accident, when Kitty claws the carpet, or if they chase each other?s tails. Pets mourn, too. Watch for behavior that may require a trip to the vet.
8. Do take out the trash.
Don?t wait until the kitchen stinks of spoiled chopped meat and sour milk. No excuse if you live alone. Put on a robe and take out the trash. A family of creepy crawly things is the last thing you want for company.
9. Do eat. Not hungry? Drink water. Keep yourself hydrated.
Don?t drink alcohol. Not even one beer. Even if you have always had one glass of wine with dinner, don?t do it. At least temporarily. And if you never drank before, don?t start now.
10. Do cry.
Tears are cleansing and will help wash away your pain. The only way to process grief is to go through it, not around it, not under it, and not over it. That means crying. So don?t be afraid to let it out. Don?t be afraid to ask for help, to call a doctor, a psychologist, a grief counselor. Don?t be afraid to join a bereavement group. A new widow needs to get out of the house. She needs structure. She needs support. And more important, she needs to know she is not alone.
Life won?t be the same without Him. That?s for sure. But after the funeral, following these tips will aid you, the new widow, as you develop coping mechanisms, focus, and strategies to help you help yourself as you make your way through the early stages of grief.
Linda Della Donna is a freelance writer. A graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, Linda writes for children, parents, and widows. She makes her home in a suburb of Westchester, NY with her small dog, Izzy, and his little cat, Tux. You can learn more about Linda by visiting her web site, http://www.littleredmailbox.com and reading her blog at http://griefcase.blogspot.com
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