Nurturing Yourself In Widowhood

Nurturing Yourself in Widowhood
Love, Self

I started to become an expert on widowhood on October 23, 2017, the day Ralph died, my beloved husband and professional partner of 41 years. It is an expertise I never wanted, but that I always knew would become necessary. And sooner rather than later, most likely, as Ralph was twenty years older than I, and I could do the math.

I decided long before he died that I did not want his eventual death to damage my health. I knew than many people get sick, even die, when their spouse dies, and I didn't want this to happen to me. I determined not to let it.

To this resolution I added that I wanted to deal with Ralph's death so well, grieve him so thoroughly, that I would someday have the capacity once again for happiness and for love.

My professional knowledge helped form my thinking as I knew that it was essential to experience the depths of my pain in order to get past it enough to experience joy again. So, I determined to grieve him very fully; really let myself--cause myself--to experience the depths of my loss when he died.

What you need to know is that losing Ralph was the most painful thing I have ever dealt with. Not only was he my husband and partner for four decades, ours was an unusually wonderful relationship. We'd had issues, like every couple faces, and had learned so much from wading through our own personal stuff, and doing it so successfully, that our relationship was deeply satisfying for both of us. We had it good, really good. 

So much so that we wrote a book on the topic: World Class Marriage: How to Create the Relationship You Always Wanted with the Partner You Already Have. We also developed a training program of the same name that became so successful that it spawned a family of World Class programs--for singles, for parents, for business relationships. We personally taught these courses to thousands of participants in 14 countries around the world. World Class Marriage has been published in 11 languages. We also trained more than one hundred instructors in the programs and they've now taught more than 100,000 participants in these curricula. 

Meanwhile, Ralph and I were living that "world class" reality. Those who knew his gentle, loving, and wise nature might have thought it not that difficult to accomplish with such a high quality person. There's some truth to that. But, he wasn't perfect. He could tick me off. And, I could tick him off as well. We had challenges. We had incompatibilities. We were flawed human beings, like everyone else. And, we learned so much about how to deal with these issues successfully, and reaped so much strength, confidence, and happiness from it, that we wanted everyone to have the kind of deeply loving and supportive relationship that enabled both of us to thrive. So, we wrote the book and training programs.

Then, he died. He wasn't a spring chicken, but I hadn't expected him to die that day, nor did he. He'd gone into the hospital to have the wire to his pacemaker reattached to his aorta, and it hadn't gone well. I'll spare you the details.

And, so the day came that I had dreaded with all my heart. Ralph, my dear beloved Ralph, had died.

It is unreal, on so many levels to face this. I just put one foot in front of me at first, like everyone else. You thank the doctors and nurses for their help, contact family and friends, and start to make arrangements. There are resources widely available for all of this, and people come forward to volunteer their help in a variety of ways. Somehow, you figure all that immediate stuff out.

As severe and as important as all of the immediate and long-term challenges are, can you find ways to thrive under these painful new circumstances? This is what I determined to figure out. I think I have and I want to share with you what I've learned that has helped me to thrive.

Where I'm going with this is the notion of nurturing yourself through widowhood. When you've lost your spouse, whether deeply loved or not, your life is on tilt. Your life is profoundly different, mostly much worse. More than ever, you really need to be loved, supported, and nurtured. Ralph had always helped me through the tough times, and this was the toughest one of all, and he wasn't there to help me deal with it. My reliably supportive spouse was not there to give me what I most needed at this most difficult time. Others did help--thank goodness.  But, most of the hardest work had to take place inside of me, the new widow.

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At the two-year mark since Ralph's death, I still miss him a lot. I will always love him and be grateful for having had such a wonderful, long-term relationship together that strengthened and supported me through a long period of my life. And, I have moved on. I am proud of how I have honored the man that Ralph was and how I have grieved his death. My health is probably better than ever, and I am once again happy. I want to share with you how I got there.