Wednesday, August 12, 2009

For the Newly Widowed - Two Tips to Get You Through Your Grief

If you are reading this then something terrible has happened. First let me give my condolences. As Joan Didion says, "Life changes fast." Next let me extend a heartfelt welcome. You are now a member of an exclusive club -- the club nobody wants to join. Though it may feel like your world's turned upside down, already you're asking questions: "How will I cope? Will things be okay? And can I please have my husband back?"

Best I can offer is 2 out of 3. As you may have already learned, becoming a widow is like sliding down a banister, finding out it’s a razor blade and then landing into a bucket of iodine. Worse, trying to explain your pain to someone not grieving your loss is like trying to describe the color orange to a blind man.

Now that I have your attention, I'm here to tell you, you are not alone. And yes, everything will be okay. You can, and you will learn to cope.

Here are my two tips I recommend you will need to remember as you cycle through your grief:

Number 1. Breathe.

That’s right. Assume the position: Right hand on chest, left hand on belly. Now practice sucking air -- In through your nose, and blowing air -- Right back out your mouth.

Do this s-l-o-w-l-y.

Do it when people, or the things people say, begin to overwhelm you (and, honey, trust me, it will happen). Remember: take one step back, and take a deep breath.

Taking deep breaths will ground you and help you regain your focus.

In addition, teaching yourself to breathe properly will do wonders for your complexion. You’ll look not only look good, you’ll feel good, too.

I know you could care less about what I’m saying right now, but for you, the newly widowed, breathing is a good thing and something that will become a distraction when you need one most.

Number 2. Repeat after me: "I'm not up to this conversation at this time."

Good job.

Now be ready to say these words to the next perfect stranger who asks you an inane question, the one that will cut like a knife and make you want to run and hide.

If everything everyone is saying at this time sounds inane, then already you know what I mean. So just open your mouth and whisper the above words. I promise those people will realize right away you need your space.

Not only will you, the newly widowed, need space, you must also realize you will need to conserve energy for those other important things, like washing your kid's face, if you got a kid; sitting down to eat a hot meal, hungry or not; and performing simple tasks, like brushing your teeth and combing your hair.

I know it’s hard to bury a husband. Life as you knew it is changed forever. But it’s now onto Plan B, whatever Plan B is.

Just remember my 2 tips outlined above, and like a good scout, you will have earned your badge of courage, and be prepared to conquer your new world, which is vital to your survival in the days ahead.


  1. I just don't know what to do with the rest of my life.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Thank you for stopping Griefcase. Thank you for reading my words. Thank you for posting your comment. The answer lies within in you. You are not alone.

      Truth be told, after death of a beloved spouse, every widow out here wonders same thing. The honest ones, just like you, say it. Wish I had a crystal ball so I could fill in all the blanks for all the many strangers who write me and say same thing. Bigger wish, wish I had a giant eraser to erase away all the pain. Biggest wish, wish I could tell you grieving gets easier as time goes on. It doesn't. It just gets less hard. Best I got is a different word, because that is what your life is now. It's different.

      Wherever you are at this time in your life, you are where you are supposed to be.

      Just be.

      Peace, prayers, and love, always,

      Linda Della Donna
      "...And sometime when I wasn't looking, I got a new life."


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