Letter from Editor - Summer 2016

Letter from the Editor

Dear readers,

gardenSummer is a difficult time to grieve. It seems so incongruous to be teary amidst the sunshine, outdoor concerts, and fireworks. Everyone else seems to be having such a good time. It’s hard to find a place to fit in. And the memories of great summers gone by rush back – even passing by our favorite ice cream shop conjures up memories. Sure, I could get in line for a cone, but it’s just not as much fun by myself.

How do we use this summer season to our best advantage? It’s important, because here in New England, it’s a short season. We don’t want to miss the best of it. I’ve had 7 summers now since the loss of my husband. I have found that being sad and living in the past become tiresome. So I have given myself permission to be happy, and have found a few activities that are uplifting:

Setting up a bird feeder. Even when I don’t feel like doing much, those little visitors are always welcome.

Patio pots for tomatoes and herbs. There’s nothing like home grown foods to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. I admire those of you with full gardens, who freeze and can those veggies for the winter. Gardening is so good for body and spirit!

  • Summer exercise is fabulous – early morning walks seem to spark creative thinking, and get me going for the day.
  • Old fashioned rock and roll music, including the Beach Boys. It makes me feel young again!
  • If you still want to look back, do something positive to honor the memory of your loved one, like planting a tree.
  • Hang out with people who have a positive attitude about life. It’s contagious!
  • It’s okay to start a new romance…it’s an old summer tradition!

I hope you get some other ideas from this issue. Start with the strawberry recipes, because they’ll make you happy. Listen to Becky McCoy’s podcasts, and admire Katharine Graham’s courage. Tell your story to someone, and write your mission statement for the future. Get your chakras balanced and read some poetry. Most of all, get outdoors and be with positive people.

I wish you peace and joyful anticipation of what life holds next for you.

All the best,

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - March/April 2016

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

Dear readers,

Please accept my condolences on the loss of your loved one. Whether it was a recent loss or whether it’s been some time, it’s still nice to know that someone recognizes your experience.

It’s been over seven years now since my husband passed, and new widows and widowers invariably ask me if it ever gets easier. It’s a hard question to answer. Parents of infants ask the same question of parents of teenagers. The older parents shrug, and say, well, it changes. I’ll answer the same way. It changes. We are starting a new life on very shaky feet. We first have to learn the mechanics of living alone and of being more independent and competent in basic activities of daily living. We have to deal with personal relationships, both with friends and with family. Once we get our basic life structure sorted out, we have to figure out again, what we want to be when we grow up. What parts of our past do we love and want to continue, and what parts of our lives might we want to give up? What have we always wanted to try? During this exploration, we may experience anxiety, frustration, even failures. There is no one to hug us at the end of the day to reassure us. Somehow, we have to find healthy ways to manage those difficult times. 

In this issue, we offer some ideas that have been helpful for other people who have walked this path before us. I hope that you’ll find inspiration in each story. We recognize that not all marriages were perfect, but still, they are a thread in the fabric of life. Jane Milardo discusses rebuilding after the end of such a marriage. Carol Scibelli adds a humorous take on romance, while I contribute ideas on how to dress for a first date. But if staying home is more to your liking, Patty Chaffee helps you organize your craft corner, where expressive arts help with dealing with emotions and where you can make wonderful, affordable gifts. Rosemary Collins offers information about how foods can boost memory. Our featured widower this month is the inspiring Patricia Grassi. And we look back at a widower of yester-year, Mark Twain.

I wish you a spring filled with longer days of sunshine and flowers that have survived a winter. I’ll close with a quote from Christopher Robbin to Winnie the Pooh:

Promise me you’ll always remember,
You’re braver than you believe, and
Stronger than you seem, and
Smarter than you think.

All the best,

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - January/February 2016

Letter from the Editor

Letter from the Editor

Dear readers,

There is something exciting about beginning a new year. It has a pristine quality to it, like fresh fallen snow, or a blank canvas. A new year is a chance for a do-over, to start anew. I love New Year’s Day because it seems that so much possibility lies ahead. It’s true that what lies ahead is not exactly what we planned or hoped for. All of our best laid plans for the next year have been shaken up. We didn’t choose to face the new year alone.

I’ve been watching my adult children beginning their own families. I’m struck by how quickly the children move from infancy to toddlers to big school kids. Each family member seems to transition seamlessly, making adjustments as needed. There is no time for grieving the passage of the stages, because they embrace the joys of the next stage so enthusiastically. They use what they’ve learned to build upon, and they grow intellectually, socially, spiritually, and physically.

I am trying to learn from them to accept the passages of life as a matter of course. Over the past couple of months, we’ve tried to be thankful for all that we’ve had. We’ve tried to both be generous during the holidays, and to accept the gifts from our loved ones. Don’t you agree that gratitude and openness are great attitudes to draw upon in 2016? Don’t get me wrong, I am very disappointed to be facing the new year without my husband. He was my biggest fan, supporting me in every way he could. But I am trying to look creatively at the twelve months that lie ahead. I wonder what possibilities I can explore, so that I can grow just as the kids do. I’ve also found it helpful to anticipate where the obstacles may develop. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and is a pretty glaring reminder of our loss. Plan for the challenge by getting a little gift for yourself, or by spreading little gifts around your local child care center or senior housing development. There will be other special days that will present challenges for your mental health. Planning coping strategies ahead of time often helps us through.

Our writers this month present some stories to inspire, to inform, and to make us smile. I’m excited about the story on Coretta King, and on the author of The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating, Carole Radziwill. The one-pot recipes are great for making the house feel like a home, and I hope you try them and share with friends. Winter will be more interesting by trying voluntary simplicity, exploring your chakras, learning to play bridge. So get “unstuck,” reboot your life, and deal with any complicated grief. It all begins in this issue.

I wish you a sense of peace as the New Year begins, and a little burst of creative energy to get you through the cold.

All the best,

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - December 2015

Letter from the Editor


Dear readers,

I offer my compassion to you at this time of year. It is a season of contrasts in so many ways. The holiday season is celebrated by people of all faith traditions. Chanukah is a very special time for those of Jewish heritage. But festivals of light go beyond their religious roots. This is a time of unrealistically high expectations, based on rose colored memories, slick tv ads and sappy movies. These expectations, regardless of our faith tradition, set against our reality, set us up for a sense of disappointment. There is the brilliant sunshine and exquisitely blue skies of noontimes contrasting against the early onset of darkness. There are the glitzy ads for the gifts that are sure to bring happiness, set against the financial insecurity so many face. There is the quest for happiness using excessive alcohol and rich foods vying with a search for a deeper level of meaning and joy in our lives. The Christmas lights can feel like someone turning a search light into our eyes. There is almost a physical need to turn away.

There is the contrast of our past lives, secure within a marriage, with the prospect of lonely years ahead. With every decoration that we pull out of the attic, there is a memory. With every catalog that still comes in with her name on it, there are gifts that we no longer need to buy. There is no longer a need to make his favorite recipe, one that no one else really liked. Traditions are, by definition, the way we’ve always done things. Traditions have a staying power, and they resist any sort of change. So here we are, with a change forced upon us, and we need to figure out how to manage. It isn’t easy.

How do we develop a way of thinking about the holidays that can balance our grief? Escapism is one of my favorite strategies. Find some Jewish friends to spend Christmas with. While we’ve been decking the halls, they have developed some great traditions. That might seem like a cop out, but sometimes we need to step back and catch our breath, and there’s nothing wrong with rest. But if your tradition is Christmas, you will want to get back to your roots. When Jesus was born, the Bible says, the angels sang, Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all. Personally, I think that seeking peace and goodwill is a great place to start. The best gift that you can give yourself is to be at peace with all around you. This is a good time to schedule time for a phone call or a visit with your friends and family members. Thank them for whatever support they have been able to offer, and forgive those who didn’t know how to provide the support you wanted. If there is some bone of contention, try to see it in perspective, and to resolve it if you can. Being at peace with those people who are important in your life is a true path to peace during the holidays.

Continue what traditions bring you joy. One of my traditions is an Advent candle. Lighting a candle at my dinner table demonstrates what a big difference a very small light can make in a dark room. So I accept those small kindnesses that are offered, understanding that these small gestures can make a huge difference. If you love baking, it can be hard to be without your best customer. Invite some young people in and teach your recipes, or bake for neighbors or local fundraisers. And if you love to shop, it’s okay to buy yourself a little something. Or buy blankets or pajamas for the homeless shelter. It’s all part of the Goodwill to All that connects with Peace on Earth.

We’ve worked hard to prepare articles for you that will inspire you and give you strategies for finding what good there still is in this world. We try to make you smile, and fill your kitchen with good things to share. I hope that you will find Pathfinder to be an amiable companion through the season.

Peace and Blessings,

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - November 2015

Letter from the Editor

thanksgivingI had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day with 40 of you at our Healing after Loss Retreat at the beautiful seaside Mercy Center in Madison, CT. It was our first sponsored retreat, and our writers, Patricia Chaffee and Amy Barry, worked hard and fussed over each detail. Our speakers were compassionate and experienced. They led us in small group round table discussion, in therapeutic writing, yoga, tai chi, dream analysis, and in discussions based on closing one door and opening another. Humorist Carol Scibelli was our keynote speaker, and her stories provided the medicine of laughter. Deb Alt provided musical interludes. I was so impressed by the honest and compassionate conversations between the attendees. Though there were some tears, there was also a comfortable feeling of fellowship and community. I am so grateful for this time of rest and reflection.

At this time of harvest, it is our custom to count our blessings. I believe that an “attitude of gratitude” is the foundation of a soul at peace. Sometimes that’s hard when we are feeling sad, lonely, or angry. It’s hard to feel grateful when we are feeling fatigued and overwhelmed. But if we are feeling some of those emotions, it must be because we lost someone good. So the one thing that we can be grateful for is the time that we did have with our spouse or partner. Let’s just start with that. Take some time to remember and appreciate those years that you had together. Try to remember the joy that you felt when you first met, and when you experienced life’s milestones like the birth of a child. Go back through your photo album. Maybe even try to write a caption for the photos and create a scrapbook for your coffee table. During this time of memory, try to feel what you were feeling at the time of the photo. I listened to Vice President Joe Biden address a group of families who had lost a family member in Iraq/Afghanistan. He shared his experience of loss, and reassured these families that there would come a time when they would smile instead of cry when they spoke his/her name. There would come a time when the positive memories would overpower today’s grief. So start by solidifying the memories.

At this Thanksgiving, I wish for you an acute awareness of the good that has been. Those memories are precious. There will come a time to build on them, to continue the themes that are meaningful. But for now, just savor the good feelings that the memories provide.

This is an exciting issue of Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow/er’s Journey. Patricia Chaffee introduces us to Faith Vicinanza. Judith Clinton introduces us to Edith Windsor and her difficulties after the loss of her partner. We learn the stories behind Julia Child how she managed after the loss of her very special husband. Rosemary Collins stays with the theme with her French food recipes. Then we address the holiday season, with Jane Milardo’s take on how to deal with difficult people, and with Amy Barry’s look at COVE, a program that supports children who have lost a parent. We tend to our spirituality with mandalas. Our health and wellness addresses dental care. (Dental care? – yes, so easy to neglect, and yet so easy to prevent expensive procedures).

This is our first digital-only edition. I hope you find it easy to read, and easy to share with your friends. We are providing free subscriptions for 3 months in an effort to reach more readers. So please share generously!

Peace and Blessings,

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - September / October 2015

Letter from the Editor

windowI have thought a lot about you this summer, and how different summers are now that we’re alone. It is more daunting to go on the usual vacations without our spouse. The outdoor household chores are heavy and seemingly relentless. Then there are the traditional summer activities that are just more fun with a romantic partner, like watching fireworks or attending a wedding. If you are reading this, you have apparently made it through the summer. Congratulations!

As if not enough has been changed without my choice, I decided to try something new this summer. In response to the Pope’s encyclical regarding the moral aspects of my ecological footprint, I decided to do without air conditioning in my house and car. I live in New England, not Texas, so this was not a life threatening decision. But, I like air conditioning. I try to gift myself comfort whenever possible. So I was surprised by what I learned. First, I was only uncomfortable for a few short periods of time. Second, the feel of the breeze coming in was really quite pleasant. But what I enjoyed the most was the sounds of birds and of the neighborhood children. I became more aware of the world around me, and the world seemed welcoming. It softened my sense of isolation significantly. I found that I started wanting to be outdoors more, riding my bike and taking walks. I took the open window as a metaphor to my outlook on life. Have I been living in a space that has closed out some of the good? Have I put up walls that have kept me from hearing the kindness of friends? What am I missing by holding back?

September is traditionally a time for new beginnings. I’m not sure yet what lies ahead for me. But I plan to keep the metaphorical windows open. I plan to listen better, to be more aware of the world around me, and to venture out more. The first day of school was always a little scary, and I expect that trying to live a new way will also be a little scary. But to stay inside, physically or emotionally, is to surely miss all the good that is still available for us.

This issue is chock full of ideas for beginning to explore the world in a new way. Amy Barry helps parents guide children as they have to explain to their classmates about the loss of a parent. Jane Milardo discusses how to find the right professional support in one article, and in another, she visits with 9/11 spouses. But Carol Scibelli softens it all with a humorous look at bereavement groups. Patricia Chaffee not only explores Happiness Clubs, but also introduces us to JessieMay Kessler, who has 2 years of experience as a widow. Lisa Saunders reaches back in time to share how Grandma Moses explored her artistic talent after the loss of her husband. And then we appreciate the joy in life’s little pleasures – home decorating, good recipes, and shopping in flea markets. We look at Gunilla Norris’ new book, MATCH. And our poem this month is Grass, by Hugo DeSarro.

I wish for you an autumn of new beginnings. Just as in third grade, we built on what we learned in 1st and 2nd grades, let’s use this time as widows and widowers to build on what we learned during our years of marriage. Let’s continue to learn and to grow, using any support that we need to open our windows so that we can find our way to joy.

Peace and Blessings,

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,

Publisher

Letter from Editor - July / August 2015

Letter from the Editor

During this time of abundant sunshine and prolific garden growth, let’s explore some ideas about the miracle of life. Though it may be a distant memory now, last winter was devastating. And yet, the earth has recovered and is putting forth her fruit and flowers in abundance. As widows and widowers, we, too, have gone through a time of devastation. Are we yet capable of a recovery that will provide a life of abundance?

Author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier, commented on the TED show, that, “Everyone wants to hear a story that has a beginning that is normal, a middle that is everything shaken up, and an ending where you get to the new normal.” Though we may want to hear that story, we probably never wished to be the protagonist! Our marriages started out normal (though that’s a broad term!); it’s now been shaken up, and we are working toward the new normal.

We’ve all wondered about the question, “Is there life after death?” especially regarding the person who has died. I’d like to look at the question with a new perspective. Can we have life after the death of someone we love? This is trickier, because we obviously have our physical life. We can still use our senses, and move about the world as we wish. We still have emotional capacities, to feel all the reactions to our loss. We have our intellectual capacity, and it is challenged to keep up with everything that has to be done. We are able to nurture our spiritual selves, though a relationship with Deity or in our chosen way. So clearly, we have life, but what sort of life is it?

I believe that we have the capacity to live again, and to live well. The tools are all there: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. So what is holding us back? Each one of us probably has a different answer. Maybe we feel a duty to play a certain role, and that includes keeping everything in its place. Changing anything would feel disrespectful to the memory. What would other people think if they saw us trying a new style of clothes or laughing in public? Or maybe we stay stuck because we are safe and comfortable in our routine. Trying something new would be risky. Maybe we are afraid of being hurt again. We’ve been hurt in many ways, and the fear is based on experience. All of these answers are valid and deserving of consideration. But if we give them too much respect, and allow them to dominate our lives, then we will stay in the stage of “shaken up”, and it will be like living under the covers for the rest of our lives. That would be a shame, because we are still ALIVE, and have the potential for joy and meaning.

How do we work through these barriers, so that we can get to the “new normal”? It’s not easy, and it will be different for each of us. Steven Covey, management guru, says, “Start with the end in mind.” Start this next stage of life by visioning how you’d like to see yourself in the future. See yourself being engaged in life in some way. That will be your new normal. It will be a way that nurtures your spirit and allows for you to find the niche where your talents meet the world’s needs. Once you can “see” the future, you can develop a plan to get you there.

In this issue, we tell stories of how others are finding their new normal. Phyllis lives with an open heart, accepting the risk of pain in the confidence that love is worth it. Gillette, on the other hand, chose to stay single after the loss of his wife. Eva honors the memory of her husband with an outdoor opera festival, and Gerry finds a new way of seeing life through the lens of her camera. We can’t imagine life without humor, and Carol Scibelli makes us laugh in the closet. Amy Barry offers great insight for parents who are raising children who have lost a parent. Jane Milardo explores how to manage the memorabilia that fills our home. Patricia Chaffee introduces drumming as therapy. Rosemary Collins fires up the grill for great summer cooking. I put on my physical therapist hat to address how posture influences our relationships.

We have enjoyed putting this issue together for you, and hope that you are comforted and inspired by it.

Peace and Blessings,

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,

Publisher

Letter from Editor - May 2015

Letter from the Editor

May is the month we’ve all been waiting for. The air is filled with the chirping of birds and the playground laughter of children. Backyard gardeners are savoring the smell of the dirt as they plant and nurture their flowers and vegetables. It’s light enough to go for a walk after dinner. Maybe neighbors are spending time outdoors, too, and it’s easier to visit. Mother Nature is doing all she can to convince us that life is still good, and that she supports growth in all living things.

We who have lost a spouse find special meaning in the holidays this month. Mother’s Day may be especially challenging for the men whose children have lost a mother. Men who are filling the role of mother deserve special recognition during May. Their compassion and concern for their children fuels them to care for their children while dealing with their own loss. It is not an easy task. I hope that you Dads take some time to appreciate yourself in the role of Mom on Mother’s Day, even as you honor the memory of your wife. Perhaps start the day with a breakfast that she would have prepared for a holiday. One family I know celebrates by getting some helium balloons, and with a marker, writes on the balloons the things you’d want to tell her about … an “A” on science test, a scout badge, a plant that finally flowered… they then go outdoors to a special place she enjoyed, and let the balloons float up. Afterwards, maybe share the children with a loved person, and take some time for your own hobby or friends.

Memorial Day challenges those of us who lost a spouse due to military service. There is such a contrast between the solemnity of seeing all the crosses at Arlington Cemetery, and the party atmosphere of the parades on Main Street. For the first few years, I struggled with this – how could people be laughing and eating hot dogs while so many young people have had their lives cut short? I’ve found consolation in a couple of thoughts. First, when my husband was a child, he would have been the most exuberant child at a parade. Secondly, most people have been affected by a military loss at some time. They have felt the sadness, but the horror of war is not a place where healthy people want to stay. There is a reason why military bands play the music of John Philip Sousa. It deliberately influences our psyche to veer from the exhaustion of grief to invigorate us toward marching. People come together at parades and picnics to cherish the people we still have with us. We recognize that we desperately need the support of our communities. We remember, honor, and appreciate the person who gave their life for the country.

This issue is chock full of phenomenal stories. Our readers go back in time to learn about Amelia Earhart and her husband. Just imagine how it must have felt for his wife to leave for a trip across the ocean, and not ever coming home! We visit with a musician who took up rollerblading after the loss of his wife. We also are privileged to interview Ruth Crocker, who lost her husband in Vietnam. Her book, Those Who Remain, caught the attention of President Obama. We take a look at Guilt from two perspectives because it is a complicated issue for many of us, and it never hurts to get a second opinion! I appreciate the article on fatigue. I believe that God gave us a commandment to rest (note – it’s not a suggestion) because fatigue is the enemy of compassion, creativity, and of thinking clearly. Fatigue sets us up for failure. And then, as always, we have some fun. Looking at our home in a new way might include learning about Feng Shui. A trip to a summer stock theater production or an outing to the farmers market is always fabulous. Or maybe getting away for a little vacation might prompt us to consider cottage rentals. And if on that little vacation, some romance develops, we discuss how to introduce a new person to your children. One thing that impresses me about this issue is the wide variety of paths that widows and widowers have chosen to walk. There really is no script for living well.

I hope you find comfort and inspiration from this issue.

I wish you Peace and Blessings,

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - April 2015

Letter from the Editor

April is a month that starts by celebrating fools. Sometimes it is fun to be tricked, like giving your kids ice cream cones filled with mashed potatoes instead of the expected vanilla ice cream. But sometimes, being tricked is not so funny. We grew up listening to bedtime stories that invariably ended with, “happily ever after”. Over the years, through frequent repetition, that fairy tale ending took on a stature of truth and reality. We grew up, and most of our brain knew the difference between fiction and reality. But still, it came as a surprise to us when our “happily ever after” came to an abrupt end, and we realized that we would have to carry on without our spouse.

We feel cheated out of a future that we had worked for. The deal that we thought we had has been broken. Were we foolish to love, and to believe that it would go on forever? There are so many pop songs from every generation that suggests that, “Only fools fall in love”. The popularity of these songs reassure us that we are not the first to ask these questions; many people before us have questioned their level of wisdom.

If you happen to connect with Deity, April is a month in most major faith traditions that recognizes a renewal in our relationship with God. These traditions have developed because human beings need to re-affirm their connection to the life force. I believe that it is a common human condition to experience stages of spiritual winters. The religious celebrations that occur during the spring help us to see a bigger picture, and to learn that our earthly possessions and relationships are all temporary, but very important experiences for our spiritual growth.

So here we are now, a little more humble for having been tricked. We are perhaps less confident now, which is really inconvenient because we have so many decisions to make. We somehow have to find the courage to face a new reality. But along with courage, I hope that we can all develop a new faith that the future can be promising. This sort of positive thinking will allow us to step up and try new things. This issue of Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow/er’s Journey offers some very practical insight into how to look at our new lives with a creative eye. There is nothing more creative and grounding than gardening. Our guest, Toni Leland, gives guidance on planting a memorial garden, an activity that can be shared with the whole family. We learn from Joan Allen, our featured widow, and we learn from Amy Barry, who discusses using the expressive arts to help our children grieve. Patricia Chaffee keeps us learning at night, by exploring dream analysis. We give the men a little extra attention this month, helping them discern when they are ready to try dating. Lisa Saunders recounts the story of George Burns, and how he managed after the loss of his beloved Gracie. We have several practical offerings, including cooking for one, and how to stock your medicine cabinet. Carol Scibelli keeps us smiling with her humorous look at gratitude. Many thanks to Robin Lensi, for her beautiful cover photograph.

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - March 2015

Letter from the Editor

Crocus snowLetter from the Editor

We’ve made it to March, the month of the spring solstice; the days are becoming longer and the nights a bit shorter. The earth is beginning to show signs of waking up after the winter, with those irrepressible crocuses and daffodils in bloom. There may be nothing in nature that I admire more than that little brave crocus that pops up through the snow, looking so fragile and yet absolutely defiant that the winter will not win.

We, too, after the loss of a spouse, have been through not only a physical winter, but an emotional one. We are familiar with cold and dark, and have had some days when we felt fragile. Yet, here we still are. We have survived. Perhaps against great odds, we have found that we still have the capacity to respond to sun and warmth, to recognize that there is still so much good in our world. We can continue to grow and blossom.

With this awareness of our capacity to live despite our loss comes a question of how we should channel our energy. One of the big problems we face is that we still have a lot to give, but we no longer have that readily available person who needs and welcomes our love and talents. Emotional investment needs to be reciprocated. It is very important for quality of life to contribute somehow to our community. The community could be family, friends, workplace, neighborhood, church/temple, or town. After the loss of a spouse, we need to find a niche where our talents meet the world’s needs. It may take some soul searching and experimenting to help us define our talent. Then, it may take some discernment to determine where we can fit in to be helpful. If we can find that niche, we will give something of value, and be appreciated and recognized for it.

It is very common in the grieving process to focus on all that we’ve lost. A spouse is not only a companion, but also filled many roles. Perhaps s/he managed the money, household chores, the social events, or helped with caring for family members. We scramble to try to learn how to do all those things. But the other side of the coin is that our spouse was the recipient of our love and talents. In many ways, what we give defines who we are – a great cook or gardener, a compassionate caregiver, the prankster, or Mr. Fix-It. We have lost one more thing – our role as defined by the contributions we made to the family or community. This is why, when we start to feel the energy of springtime, it’s unsettling because we are not sure where to share our talents that define us and make us feel valued.

I’m very excited about this issue. Amy Barry joins us to address parenting after the loss of a spouse. Lisa Saunders recounts the inside story of the beloved, widowed Captain von Trapp, who marries Maria of The Sound of Music fame. Patricia Chaffee explores another path to peace and joy – living small. Her book review, Stitches, touches me as a quilter, as we can put ourselves back together again. We meet some inspiring widows: Courtenay McKelvey, who found a lifeline while volunteering; Diane Fasching, who honors her husband’s life by fundraising for Parkinson’s Disease research, and Suzanne O’Brien, who remembers her one true love. Rosemary Collins, RDN, gives ideas for 3 great meals. Jane Milardo, LFMT, introduces us to online dating. I’ve explored etiquette in different houses of worship, to facilitate seeking Deity. We also explore the role of mediums in spirituality.

I hope that the articles provide a spark of creativity within you so that your spirit shares in the rejuvenating energy of the world’s springtime. If the earth can thaw, and bloom, and flower after blizzards and ice storms, surely our hearts can open to the possibilities that may lie ahead for us.

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - February 2015

Letter from the Editor

Exploring the Many Faces of Love

For those of us trying to rebuild our lives after the loss of a spouse, there are a few problems with February, which is punctuated boldly with Valentine’s Day.

One is internal, that we still have hearts that are fully capable of love, and no readily available person to share it with. The second is externally. There is the glitz of those heart shaped boxes of chocolate – you know which ones I mean - they are shiny and say, “I Love You” in big letters. If we want one, we have to buy it for ourselves. Another is just a bit of jealousy as we watch other couples go off on cruises and romantic trips together. Or, how about the co-worker who gets flowers delivered to the office? It’s easy to feel sorry for ourselves and left out amid the culture of Valentine’s Day public displays of affection.

In Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow/er’s Journey, we explore strategies to navigate these very valid emotions.  Let’s start with a reality check. For most of us, Valentine’s Day was really the most fun when we were in elementary school and we decorated shoe boxes to collect silly penny valentines from all our classmates. I loved the little candy hearts that said, “Be Mine,” or “Hug Me.”  During adulthood, it was very difficult for any established marriage to live up to the romantic commercialism that this holiday suggests. It was expensive and felt too forced to be honest.

Valentine’s Day has its roots in a story of a Christian named Valentine who was imprisoned for his faith. From prison, he wrote letters espousing God’s love to his followers, and these were the letters that inspired the tradition of sending love cards on his feast day.  This was obviously not a romantic love, but a type of love called Agape. Even if we are not romantically involved with anyone, we can still practice Agape love. We can take this opportunity to use some of the love that we still generate, and make the world a better place.  Why not go back to childhood, and buy a box of those silly valentines, and give one to everyone we meet? I guarantee you’ll get a smile. Or maybe try a random act of kindness, like giving some daffodils to a neighbor. Or telephone an old friend, and share some memories together. You might drop off some crayons to a child care center, or some canned goods to the food pantry. Any of these will spark a feeling that you are part of the true “love culture”.  In addition to the giving, be sure to notice and appreciate any act of kindness bestowed upon you. Be sure to thank someone for opening a door for you, or for giving you a smile with your coffee. And maybe while you’re buying those valentines, buy a box of thank you notes to send to the people who are supportive. Let’s not get so bogged down by our loss that we don’t notice all the good that we still have.

We welcome a new columnist this month, Amy Barry. She will address parenting issues, and in this issue, she describes how children grieve. Jane Milardo, LMFT, discusses other issues involving children – second marriages and stepfamilies. Our guest columnist this month, Merrilyn McNatt, APN, shares helpful information about sexually transmitted infections. Judy Clinton describes her personal growth as she honored the work of her late husband who was a playwright.  Writing is further explored in Patricia Chaffee’s article on memoirs. She also encourages us to pamper ourselves a bit, and gives some great ideas for our time of respite. There is an article giving practical advice on real estate decisions. We explore Healing Touch, an emerging practice that enhances a sense of well being.  Rosemary Collins, RD, brings her British culture to us with an article on teas. Our modern Featured Widow is Lilo Kirby, an inspiring woman from Oklahoma. And as always, we look back into history to learn from those who have gone before us. Lisa Saunders describes how the author, C. S. Lewis, managed his years after the death of his wife.  Poetry completes our presentation. I hope that you find both compassion and encouragement to find a healthy outlet for the love that is still in your heart.

Joanne Moore

PS If you want the chocolates and flowers, go right ahead and buy them. They are mood elevators for sure! 

Letter from Editor - January 2015

Letter from the Editor

Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow(er)’s Journey

Build Upon

People say well meaning things to console us after the loss of a spouse. Very often, they say the wrong thing; though I am not sure there is a right thing to say. I am usually able to muster up a, “Thank you for caring. Your concern means a lot to me.” But there is one thing that really bugs me, and makes me simmer inside. I have come to dislike the phrase, “move on”. To me, it implies that I should forget about my 37 years of marriage, and start life over. First of all, it would be impossible; secondly, I want to remember as much as I can of those years. Instead of moving on, I’d like to build on what I had. Since this is January, let’s use a snowball metaphor. We can keep the good of what we had, and add more experiences to it. And, we can roll the parts that were negative, covering them in the nice clean white snow of forgiveness and peace, and learn from what went wrong.

January is a time to welcome in a new year. A small snowball represents our past. We can choose how much more snow to pile on, and how to fashion our snowman. The first of the year is a natural time to assess where we are, and to develop a vision for our future. For many of us, this might be the first time in our lives that we are free to set our goals without consideration for anyone else. I know that we don’t live in a vacuum, and we certainly need to consider the people who are dependent on us, especially children. But for the most part, we have the freedom to set our future course.

Freedom can be daunting to anyone, but especially for us. We have spent our adult lifetimes compromising every aspect of our lives in order to make our marriages work. Some of these compromises were made quite willingly, and they enhanced our life. Others were made to keep the peace in our homes, and kept us from developing to our full potential. Either way, the habit of compromise discouraged us from wondering about what life could be like if we could do anything that we wanted to do. So this very simple question of what we’d like to see happen in the coming year is enough to stop me in my tracks. I can easily carry on as I always have. It’s safe, comfortable, and predictable. This can even include living in the past, keeping the house and its traditions intact. There is nothing wrong with that, if it brings comfort and joy. But we may find that we fatigue of grief and reliving the past. We may find that our brains start to wonder what other choices we have. When we find ourselves developing some other ideas to try, we have permission to explore those ideas, too. In fact, it’s more than just permission. It’s encouragement. If we think of our future as building on our past, then the foundation of our married years stays solidly with us. What we learned then gives us confidence and competence to step up to the next level. It is not disloyal or disrespectful, or any of those other guilt-inducing labels, to continue to grow and to be happy.

Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow/er’s Journey has some great articles this month to get your creative juices flowing as you consider what 2015 will become for you. Jane Milardo, LFMT, recognizes how difficult it is to cope with “firsts”. Amy Martin, APRN, describes the differences between grief, depression, and SAD. Judy Clinton tells her story of keeping her home by sharing it. Patricia Chaffee tells the story of a widow who rebuilt her life after her husband died in a hiking accident. Rosemary Collins encourages us to eat well while becoming healthier. Lisa Saunders explores history to share the story of Hetty Green, a financial genius who certainly lived beneath her means. Your creativity will be sparked by poetry, Tai Chi, and collage. Toxic relationships with new partners and rewarding relationships with pets are explored. The two books we present this month add some welcome humor with their wisdom. I’m very inspired by the article about affordable adventures throughout snowy New England – maybe I’ll even build a snowperson as a metaphor for “building on”.

I hope that 2015 is a year of “building on” for you!

Dr. Joanne Z. Moore,
Publisher

Letter from Editor - December 2014

Letter from the Editor

Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow(er)’s Journey

Letter from the Editor

We finally took down the remains of our Christmas tree the Thursday before Easter. The branches had lost their pine needles sometime in January and still lay slowly (too slowly!) decomposing among the dirt bunnies. In February, in addition to disposing of the dusty ribbon candy stuck to Mom’s favorite Christmas plate, somehow we’d summoned the energy to remove the lights and ornaments from the tree, so that only the tinsel adorned the brittle branches. That last step, though, removing the tree from the stand and taking it outside for pick up, was simply too much to manage for my father, widowed at age 41, and his three school-aged children.

Not only had my father felt isolated by his wife’s sudden death from heart disease, he’d lacked basic guidance about what to do next, let alone how to do it. Grief and loss counseling were not included in the professional development of a Navy pilot. Nor did our church or schools have much to offer except in kind intentions. Other family members lived far away.

So he drifted through the holidays of 1966 into the early spring of 1967, and we drifted right along with him.

The loss of a spouse is intensely personal and individual, but the characteristics of loss can be shared, and understanding them is a start toward consolation. Somewhere between the desolation of death and hope for the future lies a path. For someone like my father, a companion like this issue of Pathfinder would have been a welcome guide in finding that path.

In this issue, he would have received guidance about blue Christmases and other holiday insights that Joanne Moore, Laurie Boske, and Patty Copp have experienced along their own journeys of widowhood. Jane Milardo would have offered him some very practical advice about surviving the holidays. Lisa Saunders’ article on twice-widowed Martha Washington would appeal to my father’s interest in social history. Dad and we would have seriously benefited from the recommendations from the professional house organizers interviewed by Patricia Chaffee, and certainly the festive recipes in this issue are a huge improvement over petrified ribbon candy!

Whether you are newly widowed or not, the winter holidays, as Joanne notes, are always “bittersweet.” May this issue be a warm, welcome, and comforting companion on your journey toward the new year.

Warmest wishes,

Susan Lyons,
Guest Editor

Letter from Editor - November 2014

Letter from the Editor

Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow(er)’s Journey

An Attitude of Gratitude

What does it take to live well as a widow/er? I’ve always believed in spending some time in introspection, so that my daily activities would reflect my core values. It’s so easy to get carried away with activities that demand time, but aren’t really very meaningful to us. And when we’re widowed, it’s easy to get drawn into other people’s priorities.

But I think it’s important to define what is meant for a good life for ME. There are lots of strategies for organizing this introspection.

There are certainly seasonal prompts for reflection in November. Veteran’s Day comes first. Those of us who lost our spouses due to military service take special note of November 11. It is a day when our grief is shared by a thankful nation, and the sacrifices of our families are recognized and honored.

It is quickly followed by Thanksgiving, a time to count our blessings and to appreciate what we have. If we have been coping with loss, it’s easy to overlook the good in what we still have. Our tendency is to ruminate over what no longer is part of our lives. But a spirit of gratitude for what we have had is a good start to opening our heart to noticing the good that is still available. Looking through old photos or telephoning long lost friends can be uplifting. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply appreciate that a traffic light turned green for us. Most of us can appreciate that we still have a roof over our heads and a cup of coffee in the morning. Others have recipes for comfort foods that keep traditions alive at Thanksgiving.

Consider what aspects of the holidays you really love and bring you joy. Be sure to treasure those activities. And what aspects of the traditions have developed into a burden that you might like to release? If you are tired of hosting a large event, you might make a gift of your special turkey platter and some recipes to the family member who will continue the tradition. And as you let that responsibility go, you will find time to forge new pathways – to try out new ways of celebrating the holidays. You may find comfort in being with family. Or you may like to volunteer at the soup kitchen, or to be with friends. The important thing about celebrating Thanksgiving is to develop an awareness that good still exists in the world. It helps us to be emotionally healthier when we open our eyes to a big picture, and not simply focus on our own loss. Can we notice that someone held the door for us, or waved us ahead in traffic, or that someone called to invite us to a movie? By noticing goodness, a light starts to flicker within us, and we garner the energy to act.

This issue provides some inspiration from people who have gone before us. Dr. Petit advises that we let friends in to help us along, and his work beginning a foundation to prevent violence is a positive example for us. Alysha St. Germain shared how a tiny house made a huge home for herself and her two young children. Milton Hershey honored his wife’s memory by building a school. Staying with the chocolate theme (another reason to be appreciative), there is an article on the health benefits of chocolate. Physical therapist Sarah Arruda gives us great information as we begin to exercise. Lisa Saunders contributed an astounding story on the misadventures of gambling. We explore practical ways to shop with coupons, and the spiritual benefits of going on a retreat. You can also create your own retreat by curling up on the couch with the book Patricia Chaffee reviewed, My Beautiful Broken Shell.

I hope that you’ll be inspired to think about one thing that you might try to help you feel appreciation during this season. Even in sadness, appreciation can foster a sense of peace.

All the best,

Dr. Joanne Z Moore

Publishersignature

Letter from Editor - September 2014

Letter from the Editor

Pathfinder: A Companion Guide for the Widow(er)’s Journey

I hope you like the name of this magazine. It was just as difficult as it was to name a child. Here’s how we came up with the final choice.

Pathfinder describes the seeking activity that engages our minds now. It implies that there are many paths available to us, and that we have the opportunity to make choices. It is a non-judgmental term, as different paths will be right for each one of us. Paths also diverge and intersect, providing more choices as we move along. Some of us prefer an easy, well-worn path that provides comfort and security. Others of us seek paths that climb rock strewn hills that lead above the tree line. Some of our paths are well marked on a map, and others require some trust in our ability to find our way. There are times for the easy paths, and times for the challenges. We are free to explore them all.

Companion derives from the Latin, com (with), and panis (bread). Breaking bread together is symbolic of friendship and camaraderie. What we need as we explore the pathways is nourishment of body and spirit. The recipe section in this issue plans a luncheon for a few friends. We hope you enjoy some time with old friends or new ones. For the next hour or so as you read this issue, know that we are very pleased to be your companion. None of us can make it alone, but together we have a very good chance.

A Guide is not an authority figure, but is a knowledgeable person who can provide information that will help us to reach our destination. A guide helps us to prepare for anticipated events. A guide might warn us of possible dangers along the way, and teach strategies for dealing with them. But a guide also points out the small and beautiful things that we may be able to observe along the way. Our guides are the widow/ers who have gone before us, and our story about Paul Formica in this issue tells of his way.

The Widow/er is the intended audience for this magazine. All of us hate the word, as it tends to imply sadness and weakness. And though we may feel sad and weak from time to time, it’s not a place we want to stay. Nor do we wish to be defined in that manner. Nevertheless, our language has not yet developed a better word for this stage.

Journey is a great descriptive term for the next stage of our life. The term implies a long adventure, with lots of interesting options. There are difficulties to be managed. There may be some fatigue and discouragement. But also on a journey, we meet interesting people who expose us to new ideas. We see new places and we try new experiences. We learn and we grow.

I hope that this magazine serves as an inspiration to us all, to explore the paths that are available. I hope that you find us to be good companions along the way. The people we feature can serve as guides, as they have walked some of the paths. And though as widower/ers we journey alone in many ways, we can also be in community with one another.

This issue focuses on friendship, on the Companion aspect of our name. You’ll find recipes to help with entertaining at home. You’ll read about friendship from Gunilla Norris. I encourage you this month to make your friendships a priority.

All the Best,

Joanne Z Mooresignature

Letter from Editor - August 2014

Letter from the Editor

Be Bold

We were bold on our wedding day. We stood in front of a judge or clergy to vow and celebrate our commitment to one another.  We invited our friends and family, dressed in formal white gowns and tuxedos, and hired musicians. We laughed and danced, and threw our bouquet and our garters. Though there may have been some stress or drama behind the scenes, we all knew the script. We knew that we were making a commitment to last a lifetime.

We didn’t really understand – no one could really – what the vows meant, and how they would change us forever. We didn’t understand that the contract would end someday, when one of us faced the end of life without the other. There are so many magazines and wedding planners that make getting into marriage so well defined. There’s not so much support for what happens at the other end of the marriage, when “til death do you part” suddenly becomes “til death has parted you”.

After some time has passed, and the grieving is less overpowering, we begin to ask, “What’s next?” We’re not sure how to re-enter the world. Maybe we need to consider going back to work. We need to learn to manage money better. Maybe the caregiving years have influenced our friendships, and we’ve grown apart. We’re not sure how to dress. We don’t want to wear black all the time, but neither do we want to appear disrespectful to his or her memory.  We really need to get some sleep and to take better care of our health. We need to deal with family matters.

It helps to have a plan to deal with so many issues. Developing a life plan does not in any way minimize the significance of our marriage. Marriage was a centerpiece of our lives.  Part of our life can be a tribute to our spouse, but there is also room for personal growth and achievement. After all, our spouse loved us and would have wanted us to be happy.  I’m here to give you permission, encouragement, and strategies, to move forward and to live your life.

This is a time to be bold again! It’s time to look forward with hope and maybe even joy. We need to find mentors, to define some hopes and dreams, and to develop a plan of action. This will take a good deal of courage, but we’ve been bold before. We have the capacity to shape our lives.

In this issue, we’re going to get specific about ways to muster our courage and begin to shape our lives. ……

As Christopher Robbins said to Winnie the Pooh, “If there is ever a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember, that you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

I look forward to journeying with you,

Joanne Moore, Publishersignature

Letter from Editor - July 2014

Letter from the Editor
Pathfinder
A COMPANION GUIDE FOR THE WIDOW/ER'S JOURNEY

I consider marriage to be Act I of our lives. This marriage, which began with vows to “love until death do us part”, was the core of our life. It gave structure to our home, to our family, and to our relationships in the community. When a spouse dies, the very foundation upon which we built our lives is shaken.

The ensuing time is one of intermission. This is a dark time, filled with a wide range of emotions. It may be shock when the death was unexpected. For others, after a prolonged illness, there may be some relief. For some, there might be anger, or guilt, or disappointment that dreams went unfulfilled. There may be anxiety about how to function independently. For most, there’s sadness. There is sadness that hopes and dreams won’t come true, and there is sadness for what has been lost. Each person grieves in a unique way, based on the quality and style of the relationship with their spouse, and based on their personality and culture. For those who are grieving, there are support groups available in local communities.

But there comes a time in the grieving process, the “intermission”, when we perceive a light flickering in the darkness. We start to perceive a spring in our step again, and our energy level starts to return to normal. When you see that light flicker, you know it’s time to go back in for Act II. The problem is, we never planned for an Act II. In other aspects of our lives, such as parenting or career choice, we had years of joyful planning and the mentorship of so many. But there has been no joyful anticipation for this stage of life. We’ve done little to prepare ourselves for this major life change. In many ways, the loneliness of this stage compounds the problems. But you are not alone. There are 5 million Americans widowed every year. This magazine will be a way to connect with each other and to learn together how to live well despite disappointment.

This magazine is about Act II. Act II honors and remembers the marriage, and many themes will continue. Each issue will spotlight a widow or widower who has in some way honored the memory of his or her late spouse. But Act II will also help readers explore the question of, “What next?” Each issue will highlight a person who has gone on to live a meaningful and joyful life after being widowed. Other regular features will address finances, family matters, nutrition. There will be articles on safety, housing, how to work with an appraiser/auctioneer, practical concerns, book reviews, travel, return to work, friendship, emotional well being, health, and spirituality. There will be articles on decisions concerning return to dating.

I invite your feedback, and your suggestions for topics. Please introduce me to someone you think is living well, so that he or she may be the subject of an article.

I look forward to journeying with you,

Joanne Moore, Publishersignature

 

 

Pathfinder Newsletter

Copyright © 2013-2017 Pathfinder, All rights reserved - Designed by Blue Group Graphics and Carbone Graphics

All content including but not limited to text, photos, graphics are the sole property and copyright of Act II Publications. Reproduction without permission from publisher is prohibited. We take no responsibility for images or content provided by our advertisers.

PATHFINDER: A COMPANION GUIDE FOR THE WIDOW(ER)’S JOURNEY contains articles on many topics. Any information provided by Pathfinder, or any of its contributing authors, is general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of legal, financial, medical or other relevant professionals. You should never delay seeking professional advice or disregard professional advice because of information on this website. The information on this website is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. ACT II PUBLICATIONS, L.L.C. and its officers, employees, contractors or content providers shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising from or otherwise in connection with your use or misuse of any content, information, opinions, advice and materials provided on the website.

Mail