Widowhood: The New Normal
by Alice Adams
After the funeral is over, after the casseroles, cakes, and pies quit coming and after your family, friends, and neighbors go back to their regular routines, you find yourself suddenly alone.
Oh yes, there’s much to be done—paperwork with the bank, insurance companies, etc. There are usual bills to pay, thank-you notes to write and, whenever you’re emotionally ready, there are the closets and draws to go through . . . and understanding the reality of your new situation: you are alone. Life is going on around you, but now you are newly alone.
So, who are you now, really?
Finding the answer(s) to this question is truly hard work, work many of us undertake while we are still grieving.
Like many men and women of the boomer generation, I went from being someone’s daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and sister to being someone’s wife and, later, someone’s mother. My identity was always connected with someone else.
As a widow, my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are deceased, my sisters and cousins are part of their own families, and my children are rearing the next generation. So, while those connections still exist, they are fairly remote, geographically and emotionally.
So now, for the first time in my life, I’m just me, and it’s up to me to figure out who I am.
To begin my journey—and being a pencil-and-paper person—I decided to make a few lists: (1) What are five of my best traits? (2) Five of my worst? (3) Five things I enjoy doing? (4) Five things I haven’t been able to do? (5) Five things I want to accomplish this month? (6) Five things I want to accomplish this year? (7) Five things I need right now? (8) Five people I trust? (9) Five people I can call for a “dutch” dinner, a movie, golf, tennis, or bowling? (10) Five places I’m not ready to go by myself?
I limited each question to five responses, just to “break the ice,” so to speak, and as I began answering these, more questions popped into my head. As I continued, a roadmap and a schedule began to emerge. My answers providing a starting point in my search for me.
It took almost an hour, but it was worth every minute. And besides that, I believe I am worth the luxury of time when it comes to figuring out my life after loss.
Two suggestions: (1) Stay away from online dating, at least for a while. If you’ve dabbled already, you may know any of your new-found friends are probably, unknowingly, causing you to become the man or woman they’re looking for. My counsel: Until you know yourself in your new normal, don’t open the door for any outside influencers. (2) Don’t be in a hurry to find your next “significant other.” Give yourself time to know what you need and whom you need. Live your life selfishly—not worrying about another person’s schedule, likes, dislikes, wants and needs.
The loss of a partner—through death or even divorce—plummets you into a new reality, your new normal. Take all the time you need to find out who you are, what makes you happy, and how you can comfortably navigate life in your new world.
Photo credits google search – artists unknown.
Alice Adams has combined her passions for writing, history, grandparenting, education, and medicine in a career spanning more than three decades. She holds a doctorate in education leadership and taught marketing and business communications at Odessa College and The University of St. Thomas in Houston. She has written for the Houston Chronicle and currently contributes articles to a number of Texas and national publications.