A Journey Well Taken:
Life After Loss by Elaine Williams

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When Does Touch Become Critical?
Elaine Williams copyright 2008
When does it become critical that you be touched with love or affection? Does something happen to those of us out of relationships for extended periods of time due to divorce, loss of a spouse or physical separation?

Speaking for myself, as a widow of four years, some days it feels like I have a yearning to be touched with familiarity, love, affection or tenderness. My mind aches for the intimate brush of fingertips, a soft touch of lips upon mine. Is it selfish to want that again in my life - to have something beyond a quick coupling or an unsatisfactory relationship?

I value myself more than the cursory affair might allow, so I have decided I want more in my life than a short-sighted tryst, a quick something that leads to nothing. Where am I on this plane of thought? Am I withholding my affections for a specific purpose? Another marriage? No, at this point I am merely looking for something satisfying in body and spirit that may turn into a long term relationship.

I have purposely chosen to walk my path alone at this time, when I feel so acutely the lack of companionship in my life. The affection of friends and family count, but not in the greater degree of when I am alone and have time to think about my life circumstances. It is a different type of affection I crave, and will eventually have in my life. I practice patience, but some days I admit patience is short lived.

How long is too long to go without an affectionate human touch? It feels like an aeon of time has passed. There's always the fear that the wait may prove fruitless in the long run. Will I regret waiting for the right one at the end of my life if he doesn't show up?

Will I wish I had seized every moment that might have been, good, bad or indifferent? I feel in my gut there is a grand plan, but perhaps I'm just fooling myself to keep from panicking. The thought of being alone for the next thirty years increases that rumbling of dismay. I deserve to find happiness - I had it once, shouldn't I experience it again? There is no giving up, it is not within me to just roll over and play dead.

I have a wonderful, enriched life, why shouldn't I share it with another? Is it critical to be touched when you yearn for it so much that it makes your skin itch and tears come to your eyes? Is that when you know your time to wait is up? You can be proactive, but in the end all you can do is live, be present in life, and wait until that hand touches your shoulder and you turn knowingly into someone's loving embrace. Some days even twenty-four hours seems it is too long to go without a loving touch. How then would you classify 1460 days without that loving touch?

Holding Out for Real Romance, What's a Girl to Do?
Elaine Williams copyright 2008

Well, I confess right away I passed the stage where I could be called a girl about twenty five years ago. However, in the intervening time there was a lot of life and living that I've participated in and lived through. Many days held life's usual ups and downs. However, when I became a widow at forty seven years of age, I thought I was pretty savvy about the world and the myriad people out there. I dealt with my grief on what felt like a long, protracted journey, a wending road through the unwieldy thickets of life and other times the ride was as smooth as new pavement. While journeying through the thickets, many days I didn't know what was up or what was down and I got jabbed along the way.

Once I began dating again, after a long absence, I found out I knew little to nothing about this sector of society's structure. At forty seven years of age it was no longer the same world, obviously, as when you're in your twenties and starting out fresh. Many people by this age have become jaded, injured emotionally and mentally by life. Life as a whole is different. When they talk about mind games in the dating sense, that's an entire genre all by itself. If you go into dating with an honest mindset, you think that's what you will find in return. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, so I learned to develop a certain type of radar to keep myself safe, not only physically but emotionally. I had to learn to grow a shell, of sorts, for my own protection. And yet at times, dating at close to fifty years of age was a liberating experience. My kids were older, I didn't have to find babysitters if I wanted to go out. Financially, I could take care of myself, and emotionally, I had become a well adjusted citizen of the world, relatively secure in knowledge of how life worked.

My first inclination was to be trusting, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I also learned not to be na ï ve. If your dating situation doesn't make you feel comfortable, let it go. And yes, even though sometimes I knew a situation wasn't serving what was best for me, it was still hard to let it go. It's a case of craving what isn't good for us. When I first entered dating it was like I had a sweet tooth that was out of control, I just wanted more and more. Basically, I wasn't getting what I needed, what I deserved in the dating situations I involved myself with, so I was searching for that special something.

I'm not sure I even knew what that special something might be, but I continued my quest by trying online dating, dating services and attending sporting events. Eventually, I decided to pull back from casual dating world. It was taking too much energy and dashing hopes too quickly. I began to feel a bit burnt. It was all too "casual." In reality, I wanted something long-term. So I pulled back from the online dating and really thought about what it was I wanted. I had been married twenty years and I knew what a relationship was about and how it worked. And yes, at times it was work. I would not settle for less than a relationship that enhanced my life and who I was today, as I expected to enhance someone else's life. I know the right person will come along, and perhaps for now, even though it's never been my strong suit, I just need to learn a little more about patience. In the meantime, my life is getting better every day.

Stress as a Widow's Companion
Elaine Williams © 2008

Beginning a life as a widow was not an easy one for me, and whether you want it or not, it is a new life. Strange, alien, different from anything you have ever known. Many days I resisted any type of change, whether it was physical or emotional. I felt too tired dealing with the day-to-day stresses to think about allowing one more thing to change, no matter how small.

Of course, you can only float for so long avoiding the changes. Your life has turned around drastically and maybe even in small ways with the loss of a spouse, and eventually, you have to acknowledge the changes as they take root. Once a widow, your life is never the same.

Some of the obvious changes occur as follows:

1. Incomes can be halved, and in some cases, become nonexistent with the death of a spouse.

2. Tax filing status, and the tax implications. I found it best to have an accountant to consult for income tax preparation.

3. Socially. You're no longer part of a couple. Sometimes other married couples aren't sure where you fit into the social circle. At times, you're not sure where you fit in anymore. There is always an adjustment and this may possibly mean letting go of old friends and meeting new friends.

4. Ecomically. The bills are still coming regularly, despite death. If you have children, it can be especially difficult dealing with this part of your life. Young children may need daycare, older children may be in college, and the in between is you're still buying food, clothing, and the everyday essentials for living. Your children will be eligible for social security until they're eighteen and in high school, and you may receive social security benefits for yourself until the youngest child is sixteen. Even though I had four years to prepare for the time I would no longer receive that help from social security, it was still a daunting prospect to think of my income dropping again.

My income halved when my husband died, and then it halved again social security stopped. However, a little creativity and planning goes a long way.

5. Family. The family unit is minus one. As the surviving spouse, we do the best we can, being mother/father combined. I tried to keep things as normal and rational as possible for my children and myself. Some days were easier than others.

6. Physically. Given the economics and almost certain changes to lifestyle, this can be the most taxing challenge. You need to take care of yourself and deal with any stress in your life in the kindest way possible. Otherwise you may have difficulty taking care of anything else.

7. Emotionally. My husband's death, the extreme feeling of loss, threw me into an emotional tailspin. Some days felt like a virtual roller coaster, and I hate roller coasters. Everyone processes their grief experience in their own way and time. Don't try to rush into any major decisions, especially in the first 12 months of loss.

8. Support. I found it beneficial to accept help from outside sources; family, friends, grief support groups, therapists. Support, in any form, will ultimately help in the grief process. Keeping your fears, feelings and emotions suppressed can serve to make you ill and perhaps delay the entire grief process. And it is a process.

So move slowly through your life as it is now. I recall times I wanted to rush ahead to get through the terrible feelings, the fears, the tears, the feeling of abandonment. I am four years into this journey, and some days it was excruciating, while other days it felt okay.

In the end, I fully embraced all my fears, so I could then kick them to the curb and freely be who I needed to be. A woman newly evolved.