It can’t be easy for a baby boomer … or anyone else … to lose the one they love so young. Boise, Idaho’s Lorraine Neeley Fortunati lost her husband when she was only 48. She wrote a book about it, about learning to recreate her life. It’s called, Your Honey-Do Gone … Endings and Beginnings.
With my husband’s last exhale, my life changed indelibly. I got through the next year by putting one foot in front of the other and attending to daily tasks. However, as seasons passed, a nagging question kept recurring; “Now what?” Going through the motions of living was not enough and I knew I wanted to live my life well and with intention. The problem was, no resources were available addressing how one went about re-creating one’s life after loss. Spurred on by my “Now what?” question, I began asking many widows and widowers, who seemed to be experiencing well-lived lives, just how they did it. This is what I learned.
Begin by reflecting on what you value and be willing to dream of possibilities. Some who are widowed have feelings of guilt about moving forward. Recognize that guilt is a normal emotion, but at some point, it needs to be laid aside. As one widow told me, “Be grateful for the love you had and build on it. Grieve, but get on with your life. You cannot go back. You cannot stand still … Life will come back.”
Next, be open to new interests or to re-kindling old ones. This takes courage and a willingness to go outside your comfort zone, like learning how to go to events on your own. Many of your friends are still coupled and many widowed feel like a third thumb when tagging along. The missing partner changes the dynamics within the friendship circle. This can cause feelings of frustration, anger, and a heightened sense of aloneness. It isn’t fair, but it happens. Understand that your friends still care for you but the fit might no longer be right. You must be bold and be open to new people. Luckily, many options exist in most of our communities. Classes at local colleges and community centers allow us to expand our minds and learn new activities. Athletic clubs offer many forms of exercise to keep us in shape and active. Non-dating websites, like Meetup.com, are dedicated to connecting people with shared interests across the United States. Volunteer opportunities abound.
[Lorraine Fortunati’s book – When Your Honey-Do Done Gone…Endings and Beginnings – is available at Amazon.com]
There will be more decisions to contemplate. These can include whether to stay in the same home and locale or start fresh where past memories are not as visible. For some, re-entering the work force will be a choice or a necessity. Dating and re-marriage may be considered. There will be pros and cons to every choice but the best thing you can do for yourself is determine what you want and need in life. Don’t let the loneliness you sometimes feel be the driver of your decisions. As another widow once told me, “What I know for sure is that life is a great privilege. Make the most of it. See as much as you can, do as much as you can.”
Re-creating a well-lived life will be different for each of us and there will be missteps. We can’t know our future, but we can enable it.