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.