It took me years to figure out how to move forward after becoming a widow. My husband’s death in 2009 was the most difficult time of my life. I made it through the process of grief by following my instincts, trial and error, and some earnest soul searching. Now it’s been more than a decade since that emotional trauma, and I have the perspective to see what worked for me. So, I’m going to tell you how I moved forward after becoming a widow.
Grief takes time. There’s no way around it. You must pass through it, allow those emotions to penetrate and then learn how to cope with their pervasive impact on your life. Express yourself. Even though my marriage was far from perfect, and I had some anger at my husband after he died, I felt a deep longing for him that took years to dissipate. Allow the process to unfold in its own good time. Don’t feel like you have to rush grief out the door. It’s part of your history now and will always be with you. Embrace those tender feelings as a memory of the love your shared.
To distract from my own yearning for the past, I turned my attention to the present, my home and my work, and I began to ask myself key questions about the future. How do you want to live? What will you do with your time? Who do you want to become? The answers to these questions surfaced on long walks, during meditation, and in conversations with my friends, and those answers changed as I evolved, but here are some of the basic ideas.
For a few years I gradually disposed of my husband’s possessions until what remained in my house was truly mine. I cleared out closets and storage spaces and made a methodical effort to reduce everything I owned by one third. That may seem like an arbitrary number, but it gave me focus, and as I made these choices, I began to discover my tastes and preferences. Downsizing was my path to better mental health, reduced stress and self-love. As I curated my new look, I was designing my new life, and I learned to enjoy the solo decision-making.
I felt I needed to do useful work. I wanted to keep busy and feel valued, to learn some new skills and try my hand at new experiences. After 32 years of marriage, I needed to build my confidence in managing my life alone. Most of all, I wanted to be fearless about the future. I had to embrace the idea of being single instead of fighting it. I started with volunteer work, then I got a part-time job, then a full-time job, and then I retired from employment and decided to become a writer.
As my life became simpler, I appreciated the freedom I was creating for myself. I got a dog, went on a road trip alone for thousands of miles, and began to write a memoir. Each of these adventures gave me a chance to explore my new identity, and as I got to know myself better, I was able to make plans for my future that gave me something to look forward to, goals that motivated me, new horizons. I didn’t feel like a widow anymore. I stopped feeling like something was missing and I felt whole.
The newness of the life I created for myself energized me. I was satisfied with being single, got used to doing things like going out to eat or seeing a movie by myself. I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely. I was open to the idea of a new relationship, but it was not a goal. Frankly, I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love again. So, I was single for eleven years before I met a man who interested me, and those were some of the best years of my life. I was successful at moving forward after becoming a widow, and I found happiness again.