Joining the Widower’s Fight Club of Lifelong Grieving + 5 Tips

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I didn’t realize when Angela passed away in August of 2019 that I had entered a “fight” club of lifelong grieving. The cost to enter this club is high, paid with the price of your wife who passed away from a life-ending disease. She had no say in it happening. And you are likely very sad. Perhaps even sadder than you realize. There is no test to enter the club except that which you went through caring for your wife in whatever quantity of time that remained for her. For me, that was 18 months of caring for my late wife.

That I will remain in this club for the rest of my life, is my challenge… one I will meet head-on. Continuing to work on my grief. And being careful to take care of myself. Taking the time I obviously need. I do expect my grief to decline in intensity over time and to some extent, it already has.

This club is fairly exclusive, what was most alarming in my research was that “…widowers were more likely to die than people whose spouses were still living, on average. The effect was strongest during the first three months after a spouse’s death, when they had a 66-percent increased chance of dying.[1]” Good thing I am now four months since Ang’s death. I apparently dodged a bullet.

But, this isn’t a regular fight club, one where what happens in Widower’s Fight Club stays in the Widower’s Fight Club. In this club, you have to share your grief with someone you trust and that is capable of helping you. It’s a process. And there is no set timeline.

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If you don’t deal with grief in the first round it’s worse the second round and can show up in all kinds of unexpected ways.

Have a question about being a widower? Contact me here.

My Top 5 Tips for the Grieving Widower + A Bonus Tip

  1. Connect with a professional grief counselor. This could be one through an agency like a non-profit hospice or, a licensed professional therapist in your area. Do not skip this.
  2. Connect with a community or communities. This could be faith-based, interest-based, community based or all of them. The idea is to connect with people. I recommend a mix of in-person and online (e.g Facebook) groups. 
  3. Take all the time you need to grieve and then give yourself some more time. Nobody but you know when you have done enough to being to move forward.
  4. Don’t let anyone tell you anything about how long (or short) you should grieve. If someone does, it’s time to seriously minimize them in your life. You will know when you’ve grieved enough for yourself. Luckily for me, I got none of that kind of feedback. 
  5. Keep the wedding band on as long as you want. I “tested” removing my wedding band a few times in the shower. The first time, I became a heap of emotional blubber. So, I kept it on. A few months later, I moved it to my other hand. I finally took it off after a guy I was talking to a party asked me if I was married. By then, I had decided if he was confused, I would take it off. It was right for me. Your Mileage May Vary. 
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Bonus Tip: What to Do with Late Wife’s Photos & Momentoes

When the time is right, consider consolidating photos of your late wife to a specific space in the home. A wall of honor, if you will. This can be anywhere in the home you feel is right. I felt it was best to do this somewhere I walk by but, it isn’t too public a spot in my home. Some widowers, like Rob Elrod from an episode of Queer Eye, created a place with a large wooden chest in their living room and pictures throughout the house. “Coping doesn’t mean erasing the memory of a loved one. The Fab Five hung pictures of Allison throughout the house. And, they gave the Elrod family a beautiful wooden chest where they can store mementos. The chest includes an inscription in Allison’s handwriting that reads: “P.S. Be nice to your brother.” When she was sick, she wrote future birthday cards to her sons and ended every one with that.”

Have a tip to share? Add it in the comments below.

Have a question about being a widower? Contact me here.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

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