I’ve been told more than once lately that I need to move forward and get on with the rest of my life. Since I don’t talk about personal things very much or whine often, the chiding is coming mostly from a few folks who are pretty close to me.
As the saying for many situations goes, “moving on” is easier said than done for almost all widows. Possible exceptions are those women who were freed when abusive husbands finally kicked the bucket. Yippee! They did a public or private happy dance about that! But even for them, there are huge holes left in their lives and tough decisions to be made. A wrong decision can be disastrous from both financial and safety aspects. No use jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.
When widows do move on, the pain, the grief, and the loneliness (and sometimes, the anger) move on with us. Those emotions don’t go away but God smooths the rough edges and uses us to help the stricken others we will find along our future path. He left us behind for a reason, to complete our work on earth. We can’t help everyone and we can no longer be all things to all people, though non-widows can’t always grasp that. But we are more than widows: we are true friends, odd-ball relatives, team players, independent thinkers, followers of our Lord and Savior, and unique in our abilities and perspective on life.
Not all widows are interested in remarrying. If children are involved, a widow has to be as cautious as a divorcée. She can’t jump into another marriage without considering the need to protect her children against a potential stepfather who might turn out to be a worm. And then God help the stepfather when Mom finds out he’s abusing her kids!! And yes, there’s a special place in Hell for mothers who turn a blind eye to child abuse by boyfriends or husbands.
On the other hand, spiteful children can make life hell on earth for any blended family at any age. Heaven forbid their solo parent should at least have a chance at finding happiness and companionship.
Caregiving Prior to Widowhood
When a friend told me it took her 5 years to get her health back after she was sole caregiver of her husband for years, I was a little skeptical. But I’m beginning to understand how that could be. According to WebMD, caregivers have a 63% higher rate of death than people their age who were not caregivers. However, stress is a major contributor to death from all causes in the United States due to today’s ridiculous demands on all of us. We can’t get rid of all stress or even minimize it successfully, as a neurologist instructed me to do 30 years ago. What we can do is start managing it by taking back control of our lives and finding stress relievers that work for us. And if we’re too sick or exhausted to do specific things, they’re not going to get done any time soon, if at all.
It’s been 17 months since my husband died unexpectedly. Emotions are still raw because I haven’t been able to grieve properly. To begin with, his grave in a national cemetery is too far away for an ailing person to visit often. Plus, as with all other widows, there have been too many life chores that needed taking care of. On top of that, an outside world keeps us too busy. Unless our spouses were healthy enough to qualify for substantial life insurance, we still need to earn a living. Since my own job could vanish in a heartbeat, I’ve also been taking online classes with the resulting load of homework assignments. I would have preferred to schedule them at a more leisurely pace but employers can’t always be trusted to do what’s right for their employees.
I can’t speak for others but moving forward isn’t something I’ve ever done without planning a few things first. Even then, I’ve made some huge decisions in my lifetime, and without exception, all have had a resulting downside anyway: my national allegiance, my city of residence, my marital status, my religion, my commitment to a very sick spouse. But at least planning had minimized that downside in each case. Plans and goals were put on hold so I could earn a living under someone else’s restrictions during those years.
Now as I plan for the rest of my life, the outside world is still ambushing me with road blocks and annoying jerks, and pulling the rug out from under me. I stubbornly get up again and push ahead. Taking a few steps into the darkness until a light appears is reasonable. Chucking it all and winging it would be a real joy but when the financial buffer is thin, that’s not realistic. I would like to be able to employ hard-working others but at this time, that’s not possible either. Goals always have steps in place to be achieved first. Then, if God approves of our desires, we will reach our goals.
God feeds the sparrows but He doesn’t throw the food into their nests. Mama and Papa Bird have to find it and fetch it home. Sometimes neither bird comes home, and the babies starve. I’ve seen the results with my own eyes. Starvation for any creature is a horrible thing. Relatively few humans choose it, but it can be forced upon them. And that’s where the rest of us can step in. We do what we can first and God fills in the rest on His timetable.