How to Survive: Widowhood

By: Susan "Honey" Good

Wednesday was National Widow’s Day. In one split second, 26 years ago, I was no longer the wife of Michael Forman. I was his widow.  

Here is my story and advice.

On a beautiful and warm sunny morning, my daughter and I were making a dinner menu for my husband’s homecoming. Michael was flying back from Salt Lake City, Utah where he was attending a business meeting. My daughters and I were very excited. I was just about to leave for the market when the telephone rang. It was my brother-in-law, Michael’s brother, calling from Colorado.

This was our conversation.

“Hi Suz.” he said.

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

He did not mince words.

“Michael had a heart attack.” he told me.

“Oh no! I will fly to him today."

"Suz, Michael did not make it. He died."

My brother-in-law was a doctor. Michael kept instructions, in his wallet, to call him if anything happened.

I screamed, “Oh no! Oh no!” I began to sob and threw the phone down.

My young daughter, standing in front of me, stared at me in wonder, not having any idea what was happening.

“Daddy had a heart attack. Daddy had a heart attack. He died!" I continued crying hugging my daughter close to me as I continued screaming.

“Oh no” Oh! No.

I said these words over and over, so many times, that a neighbor fearful there was a break-in and an assault called the police!  

I recall two policemen standing over me, as I lay on the couch inconsolable and grief stricken. My young daughter, in a state of shock, told them what had happened. They expressed their apologies and left.

I was no longer a wife. I was a young woman in my 40’s suddenly in the throws of widowhood.

The day of Michael’s funeral is still a blur. I was in a state of shock. To this day, 2 things remain in my mind. One sentence. One book. That is all!

I do not recall my children, my family, the Rabbi’s words or my friends.  I do not remember how I arrived at the funeral or how I left.

For recent widows and those of you who cannot move into the now, I want to share with you how I picked up the pieces of my life.

I was handed a book at the funeral, How to Survive the Loss of a Love. This book saved me because I had never experienced the loss of a loved one before.

Number 1:  It has been proven that you cannot heal emotionally unless you go through the process of mourning.  Mourning = recovery, darlings.

There are 4 stages:

~ Denial

~ Anger

~ Depression

~ Acceptance

You can purchase the second edition on Amazon.com. The first edition was a small paperback that sold over 2 million copies. I suggest you purchase the first edition, even an old copy. It is more compact and explains the four steps of grieving. You will learn that you cannot survive emotionally without going through the four steps. The books message is beyond the beyond. The main theme throughout the book is to mourn your loss, darlings. What ever you are feeling inside…let yourself feel.

This is my personal advice:

~ Spend alone time. Living in Honolulu I walked four miles each morning and four miles at sunset with my dog. I thought about my life with Michael. I could not remember one thing he did wrong in 24 years of marriage! I let myself cry a lot and I grieved…alone.

Exercise. This was very important in my 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, & my daughter, Jenny, moved in with me.

~ Keeping faith in myself alive: trust my instincts; rely on my self-confidence: eventually retrieve my abundant optimism and stay hopeful, seeing the glass half full.

Spending time alone was the key in my healing. I thought and thought. I truly grieved my loss.

I was afraid. I thought about my fears. 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 and a lot of soul searching I began to live into my answers and made realistic decisions. This process took one year of my life. So please don’t rush the healing process.

I knew at a year that I had reached the fourth step…acceptance because…

On the one-year anniversary of Michael’s death I stood up for the Rabbi’s final prayer between my 2 daughters. I remember my girls were holding my hands. A year of tears poured out of my eyes and flowed over my face. At the end of the service…I knew …I accepted my loss.

It was time to move into the NOW…the present! It is a gift.

Do something GOOD today! Allow yourself to mourn the loss of a loved one, and make sure to support those around you who are mourning! Let's all take a minute to remember our lost loved ones today, darlings!

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