Friday, December 21, 2007

On Widowhood - The Next Phase

Judy on her recent trip to Israel

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow." Albert Einstein

My sister Judy and I tend to become experts on almost everything life throws our way. It's how we learn, cope, grow, survive. We're always willing to enlighten others if we have something of value to offer. I do it here. Judy's joined me from time to time, especially on her latest area of expertise: widowhood.

Hardly a skill anyone would want, nevertheless Judy became a widow suddenly and cruelly when her husband Bob was killed in a plane crash July 16, 2006. From the beginning she's been sharing her thoughts on coping with loss and widowhood. It's been cathartic for her, supportive for other widows and eye-opening for the rest of us.

She hasn't parsed it out in formal stages of grieving. That's been done to death (pardon the pun - trust me, she'll smile) and it's not her style anyway. Judy has simply opened her heart and her soul when the spirit moved, allowing us glimpses into the head and home of a new widow.

More than enlightening, it's inspiring. She's taken us on a journey of pain, darkness, self-reflection and courage. Now she's ready to open the door to hope. And new beginnings.

This is the one I've been waiting for, in Judy's words:
I think I've rounded a corner. Nearly 16 months after Bob's crash, something happened to me. I noticed it when I came home from the latest trip -- a week in Philadelphia for family, grandchildren and my high school reunion, then on to Israel for nearly two weeks.

I've traveled since Bob died but when I've come home from those trips there was always a feeling of sadness, either because I had no one with whom to reminisce ... or no one to tell about my adventure.

This time I came home, did my unpacking, laundry, bills, etc., then went back to work. And hit the ground running. Jury duty segueing into flu shot clinics and on to my OR nursing. I came home so tired after each day that my outlook became objective and I was able to realistically see what life was going to be like now.

I looked around the house and realized I had created a shrine to Bob with pictures, his belongings, his collections and a few sentimental items of his clothing. I also realized I didn't need things to remind me of him. As I've learned and said before, I have memories nobody can take away. The material reminders are extraneous.

Frankly, everything is a reminder anyway and I'm okay with that. So I've begun to divest myself of more of the remaining items. I've been gathering pictures and other memorabilia to be given to his son and brother. I've begun giving away even more things to Good Will and The Salvation Army.

I haven't yet, but am contemplating doing some furniture rearranging and throwing out and replacing, though I'm cheap and that will take longer. But at least I've begun to think about it.

None of this is meant to convey that I don't miss him, or that I know my life would still be interesting and exciting if he hadn't left it.

I plunge ahead fearlessly, confident that while I no longer do much plumbing, electric repairs or airplane maintenance, I can do it – all by myself. I feel sure Bob is watching and cheering and when I talk to him, he hears me.

But I guess this is the end of my tsunami, the one that's supposed to hit when one gets the kind of news I got. I didn't have the tsunami all at once, but I did have to figure out how to get on with my life.

I haven't gotten it all figured out, but I'm starting. And there's something that feels very good about that.
Bob hears you, Judy. And we hear you. Bravo.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good one. Thank you Judy (and Sally.)

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Nancie said...

I've watched my father closely in the almost two years after my mother's death. I noted, a few months ago, that he was moving into that place Judy seems to be in now. For Dad, too, it took about 16 months. I watch him sort and give things away, rearrange furniture, buy new draperies, and organize closets differently than my mother did. He speaks of traveling and the fact that his friends' wives seem to want to "fix him up." It worries my brothers. I say it is all good. These actions do not signify an end to his love for Mom. They are instead just the next steps as he moves forward with his life. The effect the death of a loved one has on us is like a surprise squall for a sailor. It doesn't always make sense to sail right through it. Sometimes we must secure the lines, pull in the sails, go below and ride it out... still moving just not very fast, resting, and getting our bearings until we know we know we're ready to sail on. Happy sails, Judy.

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Casey said...

I have a friend who lost her husband almost a year ago. I've been sending her articles on coping with widowhood and we agree we like yours the best. You're a real person living the same nightmare but not giving up. She's not yet where you are, Judy but thank you for helping. And good luck.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mine is more of a question -- how does your sister feel about other family members moving on?

My husband's sister became a widow two years ago, and has two children to raise. She is, to all outside observations, coping as well as can be expected.

After two years, most of us have transitioned to life without our dear brother-in-law. We still miss him and talk of him often, and always with love. Yet, sometimes, I sense that his widow chafes at the reality that for many of us, life is moving on.

I don't want to hurt her. But I have my own children, and I believe that after two years, life for us should begin to return to normal.

Your thoughts?

2:17 PM  
Blogger Sally Swift said...

Anon, since we don't know how to contact you, I apologize for the delay in responding here. My sister expects everyone to move on. As has she, best she can. Here's her latest:
On Widowhood After (gasp!) Two Years

1:34 PM  

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