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Something I Learned Last Year
By Elaine Williams copyright 2008

I know when I started the year out fresh in 2007, I felt incredibly lonely. I had been widowed for over two years, and found that when a spouse dies and you're no longer part of a couple, it seems to affect the dynamics of previous friendships. Married friends no longer kept in touch in quite the same way, invitations sometimes fell by the wayside, and my entire social circle changed. Many of our friends were actually my husband's friends, and therefore there wasn't much in common between us, minus my husband. Some of it was due to my own outlook about myself, and feeling somewhat bereft without my spouse.

I began to develop other friendships, some of them likewise single women, but also new connections with other married couples. It was different though because these married couples were solely my new friends.

I had tried online dating and dating services while proactively enlarging my social life, but I kept coming up against a wall. During this time I wasn't able to find someone that I felt connected to, who shared similar likes and dislikes. The dating scene at fifty years of age felt like a revolving door and some days, I allowed this fact to make me miserable.

In the Fall, I finished up a membership with a dating service that matches you with men who share your interests. The last fellow I met seemed interesting and promised to call. A few emails, more promises to call, and five weeks later, I asked myself why was I allowing this man to mess with my head? I took charge and emailed him, in response to another email saying he would like to get together. I politely said thank you, but since he had not called at all since we had met, I didn't sense any real interest from him. Have a great day.

Many days life did not seem to be getting any easier or more comfortable. However, as the year progressed, a truth began to dawn on me. I was doing the best I could. I had begun to write again, something that had always been a big part of my life but that had been on hold since my husband's illness and passing. Gradually, the part of me inside that felt numb began to tingle and come alive.

I took myself off on a nice vacation to the beaches of South Carolina, and a part of me that had been missing was suddenly found. It was a writer's retreat with twelve other women. Suddenly, I felt energized and recharged. The void I'd been drifting in, was no longer there. My writing instincts were once more in full force and to have it suddenly back was a euphoric high. I began meditating regularly, even if it was only five or ten minutes before bed and upon wakening. My emotions felt more grounded and I knew something elemental had shifted within.

On what would have been my 24th wedding anniversary, I didn't feel shaky or have the notion to hide in my bedroom and cry. I felt okay. I accepted my life as it was and realized it was pretty good, and would only get better.

I love to dance, so I started taking swing dancing lessons and enjoyed myself tremendously. It became an ongoing vocation. I also enjoy painting, so I signed up for a watercolor class and also plan to take instruction on sculpting, interests I've long held but never acted upon.

I deliver meals to the elderly, and this year it was brought home to me, as I visited the homes of others, how very lucky my three kids and I are to have a clean, warm house.

The times when I felt that little niggle of "why me" due to my own small misfortunes, I'd see someone else in far greater straights than anything I'd experienced.

Last year, I learned more about compassion from others than I have in a long time. Many of those lessons were observed from afar. My greatest inspiration came from a woman my own age, who had very little money, lived in less than ideal conditions, and yet always had a smile on her face because she had people who loved her, and she was convinced tomorrow would be better.

When the Memories Come Without Pain
By Elaine Williams copyright 2008

My youngest son was eleven when his father died. For the longest time he would cling to me when we were parting company, giving hugs and more hugs. I know this was his way of working through the loss of his father and I knew that eventually this phase would pass. Many times he would talk about things he and his father and brothers had done and this too seemed to help him move through his grief. There were times he just didn't want to talk to me about anything, but usually this was rare. I remember picking up his wallet one day and inside he had some old driver's licenses that had belonged to his father. He also kept his father's old bright orange work shirts and wore those for the longest time. One of them said, "I survived the blizzard of 1993." This was particularly humorous since my son was born in 1992.

We would often talk about different funny things that had happened throughout the years. Like the time my husband and my kids were home and my husband drove the kid's 4x4 up onto our deck and the plastic lawn chairs were flying everywhere. He cautioned them "not to tell Mom," since he knew I'd probably not be too happy. A friend spilled the beans months after my husband was no longer with us and reminiscing about this event brought a laugh from all of us.

Another time we talked about was a day in late February, when it was bitter cold and ice and snow lay on the ground. My husband and kids and I went down the street to help two elderly neighbors. Their car was stuck on ice with them inside the vehicle. My husband had a stomach tube in place, which at times could be troublesome, but he started shoveling snow with the rest of us and helped dig out the neighbor's car. When the elderly lady was able to get out of her car, she exclaimed over him doing all that shoveling, since she knew he was ill. He just smiled at her and then we all laughed when she told him to come up to the house and she would give him a neck rub.

When my husband passed away three months later, that elderly lady passed away the next day. Her daughter reminded us of the day my husband shoveled out the car, and said that they were in heaven together and her mother was giving my husband neck rubs.

After my husband's memorial service, my sister-in-law went upstairs to the second floor of the funeral home to retrieve the urn with my husband's ashes, since he had been cremated. I still remember watching her come down the long steep stairs with the urn held carefully in her hands. About a month later my sister-in-law called me to tell me about a dream she had had. In the dream, she was coming once again down those stairs with the urn, and my husband was saying to her, "Don't drop me." We laughed so hard when she told this dream. It was exactly the smart-alecky thing my husband would have said.

When I look back on our life together, there are many memories that are told and retold, and to me it seems further evidence of healing for myself and my children. The memories are there and fondly told, with a smile and reminiscent grin, without the pain that was once associated thinking of a loved one no longer there.

A Journey Well Taken:
Life After Loss by Elaine Williams