How to Survive: Widowhood

By: Honey Good

I was sitting at my desk making out my dinner menu for my husband’s homecoming that evening. Michael was in Utah attending a business meeting. My daughter had just arrived back from the No Ko Oi flower shop with gorgeous orchids for the house. We were all excited and were just about to leave for the market to shop for the homecoming dinner when the phone rang. It was my brother-in-law calling from Colorado. He was a doctor.

This was the exact conversation:

“Hi Suz.”

“Hi Rog! So happy to hear your voice! How are you?”

He did not mince words. “Michael had a heart attack.”

“Oh no! I will fly to Salt Lake.”

"Suz, Michael is dead."

I screamed, “Oh no! Oh no!” And threw the phone down. My daughter just stared at me not having any idea what happened.

“Daddy had a heart attack and died!” I screamed. I continued screaming, “Oh! no. Oh! No." over and over so many times that the next door neighbor, fearful for my safety, called the police thinking someone had broken into our home. I remember two policemen standing over me as I lay on the couch inconsolable. My young daughter told them what happened. They expressed their apologies and left.

How did I survive the sudden shock of losing my husband and the realization that at forty-four I was a widow? It was not easy. It was an awful time in our lives. Though I met my new husband ten months later and married him not quite a year later I had not, even at the time of our remarriage, survived the ordeal of my loss. My new husband understood. He had lost a wife five years earlier.

I decided I wanted to share my story with those of you who are recent widows and those of you widows who cannot seem to move ‘into the now.’

The tools that helped me through the rain were a small handbook, ‘How to Survive the Loss of a Love’, and the awareness to spend time alone with my thoughts. The little book gave me the tools to heal and really saved me because at the time I lost my husband I had never experienced the feelings of loss. You may purchase the second edition on Amazon. The first edition was a small paperback that sold over 2 million copies. I would see if you are still able to purchase the first edition, which I own. It explains the four steps of grieving. You will learn that you cannot survive without going through the four steps. Only then can you reach acceptance. The book's message is beyond the beyond. The main theme throughout the book is to mourn your loss. Whatever you are feeling inside…let yourself feel, darlings.

This is my additional advice:

Spend time alone, with your children and exercise. The next year I spent alone with my children and my dog, by choice. Living in Honolulu I was able to walk four miles each morning and four miles at sunset. I took my time to think about my life, to cry and to grieve…alone. This is very important in the healing process. I kept my body moving to rid myself of stress.

Live in peaceful surroundings: I was numb from my sudden loss. I intentionally moved out of our home of love and deep family memories into a charming apartment with palm trees coming up to my fourth floor balcony. I lived on the ocean so I could take in the salt air and listen to the sounds of the ever-changing sea. I furnished my apartment with orchids and spent time on my balcony looking down at the Koi fish swimming peacefully in a pond. Moving into my new surroundings was very healing. I surrounded myself with everything I loved. The pictures of our family, orchids, etc.

Have faith. The word faith has many definitions. Trust. Belief. Confidence. Optimism. Hopefulness. Take some or all of these words and internalize them.

Spending time alone was the key in healing because I was able to think about what was and what would lay ahead. All the decisions of the future I would have to make on my own. I was so afraid. I worried about my daughters facing life without a father. I was now both mom and dad! Should I stay in Honolulu or should I move to Chicago to be closer to my family? Questions and more questions whirled through my mind.

After several months of indecision but a lot of soul searching I began to live into my answers and make realistic decisions. This process took one year of my life. Please don’t rush your healing period.

I knew at a year that I had reached the fourth step…acceptance. I thought to myself, on the one-year anniversary of Michael’s death, “Thank goodness my mind has its wonderful memory system. I have so many happy memories of Michael. I will love the father of my children forever. But it is now time to move into the NOW…the present! It is a gift."

If I can be of help to you please write me your questions and I will answer.

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