For the new widow: ten tips to help her survive … after the funeral
You’re at home now. A little while ago you were standing on a hole in the ground. She blew a kiss, threw a rose, sprinkled a shovel of dirt on a coffin and said goodbye to her husband, her soul mate, the best friend she has ever had.
As you move around greeting hungry strangers, someone whispers that the woman wandering around with mayonnaise on her chin is the babysitter for your mother’s sister’s neighbor’s cousin’s dog. It’s a scene out of Star Wars, the one in the bar, and you feel trapped in it. In no time everyone is gone, even the dirty-faced dog walker. The door closes and reality sets in. He’s not coming home. Ever. And in those first few days after the funeral, performing the simplest tasks will seem monumental. You wonder if I can do it without him.
You can. And you will.
Here are ten tips to help you survive … after the funeral:
1. Say yes to a friend, close relative, or good neighbor who offers to spend the night (or longer), while you slide into something uncomfortable: widowhood.
Don’t be alone that first night, unless you have no other choice. The first nights without Him they sting like a bee and an angel to sit quietly at the kitchen table, turn off the lights, turn off the cell phone and make a cup of tea while putting the children in bed, walking the dog, feeding the cat, it’s like aloe on sunburn.
2. Bring a small notebook. And pen.
Take them with you everywhere, even to the bathroom. New widows run out of toothpaste, toilet paper, tissues, ear swabs, and lipstick. And they forget. If your pen and notebook are helpful, don’t forget to write down the article. You will not forget to buy it. You will learn to structure and focus, something that every new widow needs. And running an errand will get you out of the house.
3. Know your financial situation.
As soon as possible, schedule an appointment with your accountant, your attorney, and your broker. Pack your documents, bank statements, insurance policies, will, and outstanding invoices. Please review them before your appointment. Do you have any questions? Write them down – In that little notebook, remember? The one in your bag.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are a new widow and there are no “dumb” questions. In fact, bury that “silly” word. You are in charge now. Information is crucial to your survival. And for God’s sake, if you don’t know how to balance a checkbook, ask.
4. Pay the mortgage. And the electric one.
Other bills may be temporarily postponed, but not these two. You can lie down and wish your world was gone after you’ve written these two checks and recorded the details in your check register, or that little notebook, the one in your purse. Be sure to put a stamp on the envelopes. Don’t forget to mail them. Again, it will give you a reason to get out of the house.
5. Take care of yourself – Comb your hair, wash your face, brush your teeth, apply lipstick – Do it every day. Even if you don’t leave the house.
Don’t cut your hair. This is not the time. No, unless you have a standing appointment and are comfortable sitting in a chair for any length of time. In the long list of things that will make a new widow feel worse, one bad day over the next six months shoots to the top. I suggest delaying a haircut for at least three months. If you find your hair very disheveled, make a ponytail and tie a ribbon to it. That? No tape? What’s that pink thing in that fruit basket?
6. Take care of your children.
If you have young children, don’t neglect them. They need you. Feed them, even if it’s cold cereal. Wash their clothes and their faces. Gently remind them to brush their teeth. Don’t be afraid to hold and hug them. Tell them that everything will be fine.
7. Walk the dog.
Change the cat litter.
Make sure all pets in the house are fed and have access to fresh water. It’s not unpleasant to fill a sink with tap water or leave the toilet seat up. Just remember to rinse.
Don’t be mad when Barky has an accident, when Kitty scratches the carpet, or if they chase each other. Pets cry too. Be on the lookout for behaviors that may require a visit to the vet.
8. Take out the trash.
Don’t wait until the kitchen smells like bad ground beef and sour milk. There is no excuse if you live alone. Put on a robe and take out the trash. A family of creepy critters is the last thing you want for company.
9. Eat. Without hunger? Drinking water. Keep hydrated.
Do not drink alcohol. Not even a beer. Even if you’ve always had a glass of wine with dinner, don’t. At least temporarily. And if you’ve never drank before, don’t start now.
Tears cleanse and will help eliminate pain. The only way to process pain is to go through it, not surround it, not under it, or get over it. That means crying. So don’t be afraid to let it out. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, call a doctor, a psychologist, a grief counselor. Don’t be afraid to join a grieving group. A new widow needs to get out of the house. It needs structure. She needs support. Most importantly, you need to know that you are not alone.
Life won’t be the same without Him. That’s for sure. But after the funeral, following these tips will help you, the new widow, develop coping mechanisms, focus, and strategies to help you help yourself through the early stages of grief.