Widowhood 101


What I've Learned Since February 1, 2007 

The Myth of One Year

 Well-meaning friends and family would offer advice about the duration of my grief.  "You have to mark every holiday, anniversary, and birthday for that first year." The thing that nobody told me at first was that I wouldn't magically be healed of my grief after a year. Grief takes as long as it takes.  That's a hard notion to grasp. Not having an end date would be too overwhelming. 

My friend Jim lost his partner Jeff in 1991. He leveled with me.  "It takes at least two years to process the grief." That makes more sense.  After the estate is settled, after the finances are put in order, after the truck is sold, after the name has been removed from the mortgage, and on and on, then there is time to grieve. 

So here I am almost two years into my widowhood, I'm able to see a little change in my life.  We hadn't put up a Christmas tree for several years before Michael died.  Usually we spent Christmas with his family in L.A., so we saw no purpose in decorating if we weren't home for the holidays.  The last Christmas was tough, because Michael's health had declined to the point where he was unable to travel.  We had canceled a trip for his sister's wedding in November, and then canceled again in December.  I suggested that I decorate the tree, but he was too sad for that.  He didn't want any reminders of the holiday, since Christmas = his family.

Last December I couldn't send out Christmas cards, except to a few friends in San Francisco who had not heard the news of Michael's death.  There was no energy for decorating or celebrating. Fortunately my sister-in-law's family welcomed me to their home.  At the same time, I wanted to hide away from the world. 

This year it's a bit different.  I got a late start on mailing out Christmas cards, but I was able to write light and breezy messages on them.  I decorated the tree and my home about a week ago.  My widows' social group got together for lunch to celebrate the season.  We had adopted 3 families for gift-giving, and I had fun searching for the perfect Barbie doll.

I procrastinated on making my airline reservations, though. Maybe this year I could make the trip to L.A. Then I realized I couldn't do it.  The hole in the family fabric was too massive.  I couldn't imagine myself surrounded by his loving family without him.  Even the second year hadn't brought the miracle.  But at least I started to devise a plan.  I needed to visit at a time that is not so emotionally charged.  Christmas can be difficult even if the family unit is intact.  Maybe it means a visit to L.A. in the spring.  Spring was always Michael's favorite season.

December 23, 2008

 

 

 

I love Stephanie's and Susanna's brainchild Dia de Bloglandia.  When I first heard about it at A Fanciful Twist my heart leaped with excitement. Last year I had gotten into the spirit of Dia de los Muertos , but I didn't have time to put together an altar. This time I was up to the challenge.  Here is the evolution:

 

 

 I made a trip to the dollar store where I found inspiration as well as votive candles and skulls.  Then I started to gather mementos. My late husband Michael's family detested his bushy beard, and I tolerated it. He retired from General Motors with a medical disability. There was no longer a need to impress his employer.  He wanted to see how long his beard would grow.  I like this particular photo, because he was playing around with his reading glasses.  "Look, Mary, I'm Benjamin Franklin." Yes, he had the glasses and the bald head.  But I don't think Ben ever had a full beard.

 

 

 Michael's emblem was the eagle, and his wedding ring was a prized possession. The Marshall Tucker Band and Lynryrd Skynryd were two of his favorite bands.  He had a massive vinyl record collection, and I thought these albums represented his love of southern rock. His dream-catcher is displayed above the albums. At first I had the two ceramic skulls supporting the albums, but later I figured out a different arrangement. The picture on the left shows Michael in his well-trimmed beard days.  

 

He had a deep appreciation of Native American culture; it was fitting that his youthful ("back when he had hair"--one of his jokes) photo would be perched inside a birch-bark canoe ornament. 

 

 

This is my wedding ring nestled inside his ring. It's sitting atop a keepsake heart of his ashes. Our hearts were always entwined.

 



This is the altar aglow with votive candles. It gives me a sense of peace to view it.
 

 

I didn't have the traditional marigolds, but I found these mini chrysanthemums to be a worthy substitute. And if you're interested in knowing more about Michael, my blog  at MySpace will fill you in. Thanks for stopping by!
 
 

Originally posted on Typepad 11/2/2008