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