It’s been over two weeks and the flowers are wilted and going into composting, the extra food has either been eaten or been given away, and the sympathy cards have slowed to a trickle. It’s starting to feel that a new normal is settling in. After nearly 24 years of marriage and 26 years of being in one relationship I have found myself widowed and entirely in a new life situation. I thought it might be interesting to share my experiences with this group – as it might be therapeutic for me but also to spark up some interesting dialogue and perhaps cause some internal thinking on your part. I hope you indulge me and I promise this will be the occasional posting and not a vehicle to go all “woe is me” on everyone. So with that preamble…
I found right away that the loss of a spouse means that all the decisions are on you, immediately. In some cases there is literally no time to think, you have to make decisions on how you want to proceed. Now Elaine never talked about what arrangements she wanted -- that would mean she was going to lose the battle and she was never going to go there. I did know she wanted a burial – not cremation; that it would be Lakewood Cemetery, and that we would have a service at our church. The rest was up to me. Plus she always had strong opinions on everything so I had to try to think what she would want.
Someone told me that she and her husband once had a “what if I got hit by a bus” discussion. They talked about what kind of casket, what songs at the service, open or closed casket, which funeral home, who gets the memorials, etc. They actually wrote it down and put it with their papers. I would suggest you have a similar discussion with your spouse. While I think I did a good job with all the arrangements and the service, it definitely was source of stress thinking “What would Elaine want?”
Also get life insurance, even if it’s a cheapy pay-for-a-funeral policy. Funeral home, church luncheon, cemetery -- these things are expensive and unless you have a bunch of cash laying around you don’t want to be making funeral arrangements stressing out on how you are going to pay for everything or worried about maxing out your credit cards.
As for home life, I am lucky in that my children are college age so I’m not all of a sudden put in the position of taking over a lot of motherly duties. Also due to my wife’s health issues over the past year I’m the one who has done the laundry, gone grocery shopping, done some basic (real basic) house cleaning, cooked meals. So all these tasks haven’t all of a sudden been dropped on me, I’m used to doing them already. For me it has probably been a little easier than someone whose wife had died suddenly and had to take on a bunch of new (traditionally female) responsibilities.
Also I’ve already made the decision not to revert to some bad bachelor habits. I make the bed every morning. I eat meals at the kitchen table, not in front of the TV. Dishes, clothes, etc get put away every evening. Beer bottles go in recycling.
Decisions on what to do with Elaine’s stuff is next on my agenda. She had a lot of medical equipment/supplies that thankfully I have found a home for. She was much more of a collector of things and I like it somewhat stark so I will bring a lot of books to Half-Price Books, clothes to Goodwill, I will talk to the school about all her school supplies. Obviously I will keep things that have sentimental value but I also think – for me – I have to move on while at the same time keep her memory close at hand. This will be one of the touchiest things I do as I am not as sentimental but I realize I need to be respectful. I will clear things out slowly, over time but it is something I will need to do, I mean do I really need 5 crystal bowls?
Finally the wedding ring. I strongly believe that I need to move it to my right hand but when that happens I don’t know. I actually googled it and there is no right answer, it’s just when one feels ready. Again I want to be respectful to Elaine and our marriage so I don’t want it to be too soon but for me, I will need to eventually move the ring. I know when it happens I’ll just do it.
Thanks for reading, not sure if I asked for any answers here but it was good to get it out and hopefully I’ll spark some reflection. I hope to come back in a few months and discuss how things are going.