Since starting the Widow’s Walk column, I have written mostly about things that dealt with after losing a loved one. I feel like I should step back a bit and tell you about some things that you may unfortunately find yourself having to deal with if your loved one becomes ill.
I wasn’t prepared (how can anyone ever be) for anything that was thrown at my family, nor was I very knowledgeable about anything to do with losing a loved one. When the doctor said it was time to call in Hospice care, I was devastated. My husband wanted to be at home and I figured I could handle it all, with the help of family.
I knew nothing about Hospice or the nurses that I soon began to rely on for my husband’s needs. They truly are much like Angels in disguise. The nurse that was “in charge” of my husband’s case became my friend, my comfort and my support. He wanted to remain at home if at all possible, and our Hospice nurse helped us to achieve that.
The Hospice nurse did regularly scheduled visits, plus I knew she was just a phone call away. Most Hospice nurses will give you their cell phone number so you don’t have to go through the office routine of calling them. I knew if I was concerned about something, I could call her at any time and she would offer advice or reassure me. She would even come to my house if she thought I was extremely concerned, no matter what time it was.
She arranged for someone to come every few days to tend to his grooming care. At first, I was hesitant and insisted that I could, and in fact wanted to, do that myself. She gently told me that while that was fine, it would help ease my stress at allowing someone else to come in and help. The trained attendant would bathe, shampoo and shave him. I got to come back in the room and see him all freshly shaved, his favorite after shave scent lingering in the air.
The whole point of this post is that while you may feel guilty about not doing it all yourself, you shouldn’t. Hospice care not only helps your loved one get the best care possible, it will help you to know that you have this wonderful support system behind you. The Hospice nurses are not only medically trained to deal with such situations, they are also the most compassionate and caring people I have ever met.
When and if it ever comes time for your loved one to be moved to Hospice care in a hospital, the Hospice nurse will know. He or she will handle those arrangements for you as well. It is a great stress reliever not to have to deal with those things and to just be there with your loved one. I know that we all feel like we want to do it all, but truthfully, you just can’t. You will become exhausted both physically and mentally.
I hope that none of you ever have to hear the words, “You need Hospice care’s help” but should your situation ever come to that, accept the help without any guilt or remorse that you aren’t able to do it all yourself. Hospice care will be a great relief and they will take excellent care of your loved one and you.
Why does that question always seem to be followed by “YET”? Well-meaning family and friends just naturally assume that eventually you will date again. Maybe you will and maybe you won’t, but the question still gets to me, even after four years. What if you just don’t want to? What if you are not ready…YET?
The best thing you can do is tell family and friends how you feel about the subject of dating. If you don’t tell them the question will continue to come up. You may even become annoyed by it and wonder just what they are trying to say. Do they think you need a companion to survive? Are they just curious? Are they hoping to see signs that you are “getting on with life”?
You can get on with life quite nicely as a single person, if that is your choice. If you really are not ready to date or even “meet” a nice gentleman, don’t let yourself be pressured into doing it. Single friends may want to take you out “to find a man.” Simply tell them you are not really looking and are okay just the way you are.
I know some widows who are out there dating and having a good time. I also know some who are content to stay single and enjoy a quiet life. Nobody can, or should, make this decision for you. If you are happy the way you are, then they should be happy for you. You may get, “But aren’t you lonely?” or even “You are too young to be alone.” Worse yet the, “I know just the person you need to meet!”
Who says you need to meet anyone, if you are happy the way you are? You do! When (or if) you are ever ready to think about a companion, you will know. You may even think about it from time to time and not be brave enough to follow through. The truth is you may even feel guilty about dating another man even though you shouldn’t. It is just really hard to realize that you are a single woman now and that dating is okay.
Widows tend to still feel married even after many years. It’s not like we went through a divorce or a bad break up and might have been glad to be rid of our spouse. Actually it is not just widows who are choosing to live a single life these days. I happen to know divorced people who have decided to be alone and just work on making themselves happy. There is no reason to let anyone question your choice of lifestyle. You need to do whatever makes you happy.
I wrote an article on Yahoo Voices awhile back out of exasperation. It turned out as a humorous piece, yet it hit just how I felt. Take a look, I bet it will at least get a smile out of you and you might even nod your head in agreement. It’s called: Dating? Flirting? How do you do that? Click the link and check it out, then come back here and let me know if you agree.
There is going to be a lot of triggers that will remind you of your lost loved one. Some you may think about and dread, but others can take you quite by surprise. As time goes by, those triggers of memories won’t be quite so painful, but in the beginning they can be quite overwhelming. Some of them may be so random that you will never know when they will pop up.
Some of the small triggers that bring you to tears can be eliminated to help you cope and some of them can be enhanced to make you feel better. For instance, my husband always used Head and Shoulders shampoo. In the beginning, when I grabbed the bottle to wash my hair, the smell overwhelmed me and I remembered how he smelt, fresh from the shower. I got rid of the bottle of shampoo and replaced it with a lavender scented one. Lavender is a very relaxing scent.
When I was really, really lonely I would put a bit of his aftershave on one of his shirts and sleep in it. While it did make me miss him, the scent of the aftershave seemed to comfort me. I was used to smelling that scent on the pillows and bedclothes, so I guess it was a sense of normal. Strange how one scent can really upset you and another seems to comfort, isn’t it? But it does happen.
You might seem to be coping quite well one minute and then something will trigger a memory and the pain and grief will come sweeping back. I found that I couldn’t watch certain TV shows anymore because we had enjoyed them together. PBR bull riding was something we enjoyed watching. We would cheer on our favorite riders and bulls. When I tried to watch it alone, the empty spot beside me on the sofa was just too overwhelming.
These triggers are all part of the process. As time goes on, you will learn certain ones that trigger a warm smile and which ones are still too painful to handle. Some just take you by surprise. You may be in a room full of people and think you are doing fine, when you hear a bit of a song, or someone says something that reminds you of a memory. There is no reason to hide your emotion, because friends and family will understand.
It’s been nearly 4 years for me now and while some of the triggers bring a smile to my face, there are still others that will resort me to tears. Hiding your emotions to put on a “happy face” is not good for you and your friends and family shouldn’t expect you too. Your loved one may be gone, but the memories will last forever and you never know when one might surface. I promise that eventually many of them will make you smile and feel all warm and fuzzy…
My name is Donna and I am just and Everyday Woman trying to figure out this aging thing, I also get to figure out how to do the Widow's Walk through life. I lost my husband to cancer nearly four years ago, after being with him since I was 15-years old. He was always a big fan of my writing ability and I thought, "What better way to honor him, than to keep on writing and maybe be able to help someone else who is going down this same path.