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The funeral was over.It was beautiful.Everyone said so.I think my husband would have been pleased.
Everyone had been so kind and supportive.The house full of loving people, food being delivered and family and friends so willing to help in any way.
My husband had been ill for five long years and the end was terrible.He had gone from about 200 pounds down to 70 pounds and was living in pain in spite of morphine and a cocktail of many narcotics.During the last week of his life I was praying that God would take him.So, when he died, at home, with all the family around him, I was grateful that it was peaceful and finally over for him.All I felt is relief.I had already grieved for five years and I thought that was the end of it.I didn’t know it was a new beginning.
If your husband died suddenly, you had a different scenario and you were probably living in such a state of shock and disbelief that you felt nothing at all for a long time.But, I can only write from my own background.As time goes forward, we probably start to share many of the same experiences.
It took a while until I started to realize how many things my husband took care of.Repairs, stocks, the bills, ANYTHING to do with cars –
I was driving home from shopping when I heard a siren behind me.It was a police car.He came to the window of my car.He gave me three tickets.Outdated plates, city sticker and an illegal left hand turn.
“What is it with you, lady?Why didn’t you take care of those things?”
I explained.Men do these things with cars.My husband died.He always took care of those things.
“Well, I’m sorry about your husband but you are the one who is going to have to show up in court.You’re going to have to get it together, lady.”
Then, he added, “Look, this is none of my business but I notice these things.According to the sticker on your car you haven’t changed the oil in 15,000 miles.You should take care of that.”
Thanks for telling me.I will.
He gave me the tickets but there was a sweetness, a caring in the way that gruff policeman told me to change my oil – a cop doing his job with kindness.It was an expensive experience but oddly comforting.And he was right.This lady had to get it together!
At first, I had a lot of attention from friends.I was included in activities just as I had when I was married.Then, slowly, it started to change.I was still invited to the big parties but not to the dinner parties or the pizza on Friday nights.That seemed to be just for couples.I still had a relationship with the “girls” for lunch and I spent time with my kids but it left many evenings open.
The absence of the stress and medical crisis I had shared with my husband for years had left this big void – a big empty space.I tried to remember what occupied my time before it all happened.I realized for the first time that this is a couple’s world.Going to a wedding or a big occasion was torture.There you are all dressed up sitting alone at an empty table with no one asking you to dance.
Did you get a lot of advice?I did. “When are you going to sell the house?It’s too big for you.”“Life goes on you know.You’re still attractive.Get out there and find someone.”“Watch out for the gold-diggers.They are looking for someone like you.”“Get involved in some activities.You’ll meet some new people.”
“You should join a widow’s support group.”“Have you thought about working at something different?It would be good for you to get out.”
“You should travel more.Get out there.”
Everything seemed to have something to do about getting out.I owned a travel agency at the time so I did have a job.But I found myself longing to go home to my big chair in the living room.I thought about that chair all day.It was a safe place.And I didn’t want to travel alone.
The thing that surprised me the most was the pressure from well-meaning friends, clients and family – to replace my husband- to find a man – almost immediately.I admit I thought about it.But the thought of “dating” was alien to me.Never mind finding one but what do you say to a date?I hadn’t had a date in years.And what do you do with your wedding ring?When are you supposed to take it off?My ideal situation would be to find a person exactly like my husband who would be deposited on my doorstep by helicopter.To go back to my old, comfortable life.
You might get the opposite pressure from your kids or your heirs.They tend to build shrines to your saintly husband.They might be horrified if you mentioned the idea of another man in your life even if there is no one in sight.
I’ve talked to a lot of widows about this and I hate to tell you this but it is about the MONEY.Their inheritance.They have seen stories on TV about scams.The nice and smart women who have been fleeced by con men. You have to assure your heirs that you are not stupid.That you are reworking all your financial matters to coincide with your new status as a single woman.And you will keep them informed of what you are doing.And as the cop said, you have to get it together, lady.
It’s an unpleasant task because the process brings us in contact with our own mortality.We all have this little secret.Everyone is going to die except us so there is no rush.
I started with conversations with my children.I wanted to know, of the few valuable things in my home, which they would want to inherit.You need to have that information when you make a new will.
And then, find out exactly what assets you have.Your husband may have handled all these things.I know mine did.If he had an accountant who did his taxes, that would be your first step.Otherwise, you will have to dig through his records.
The next is to find an attorney who specializes in wills and trusts.Not your friend who does real estate closings.A will is not enough.You will need a Revocable Living Trust.A lot of people are afraid of a trust because they think they will lose control of their money and their house.No.You are the executor and you can do whatever you want.Sell the house.Buy a condo.Trade your stocks.
Next would be to find someone to invest the money you have.You will be surprised at who will approach you on doing this for you.But do not give your money to your brother-in-law’s cousin’s son who sells annuities and promises you an income for life.At least, not until you do some big research.You want to deal with a large firm and with a broker who knows what he is doing.
Don’t start being a day trader yourself to save commissions.Probably, you don’t know what you are doing.Look for a broker who is a Certified Financial Planner.I was lucky.My son is a CFP with Merrill Lynch.I know from that how hard he had to work to get that designation.It is the Mercedes of broker levels and involves many classes, tests and experience.They are trained to look at your whole picture and will work with your accountant and attorney.Talk to a few and decide who you like.
Tell your heirs what you have done.Even offer to show them all your documents. They will stop worrying about you and someone stealing you blind.So much for someone who went through this process.It is not pleasant but when it is done it is done.
Time passed. I did get out a little.I met some single women.They had a life I didn’t know about until now.They actually got theatre and symphony tickets and went without a man. We had dinner together.Sometimes, just met for a drink after work.I had company.It was nice and filled in some of the gaps in my life.
I found out that I would not die if I went to a movie alone.I still missed my old friends and my old life but what they say about time healing is true.I started to “get it together.”I even went on match.com and starting dating. I found out that there are a few lonely men out there just like us. They were scared just like me.
I met some new widows.It’s a private club you never wanted to join but suddenly I became the authority on how to get through this period of suddenly being alone with the newer ones.A book I had written, Reflections from a Woman Alone came out and I was besieged with questions from everywhere by email, snail mail and at the book signings I did all over for months around the country.It made me realize how little help there is out there for us.We are the silent victims of life.People do not want to be reminded that this could also happen to them.
One last little piece of advice I want to add here. There is a rumor that it takes you a year to get over a death. Where that information comes from I have no idea.
I feel it takes as long as it takes before you even get to a point of feeling normal – whatever that means – again. I don’t think you ever get over a great loss – but you somehow re-invent yourself as you go along.
Don’t let anyone rush you. Things will get better. But in your own time frame.
Please add your thoughts to our sisters who are waiting to hear from you. Your email is never shown. You don’t even have to use your real name.Just your real support. We need each other.
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