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July 2017

4 Ways for Widows to Survive Grief and Loss in the Summer

We all know that grief is hard anytime, especially holidays, but what about summer. Summer memories of swimming, fourth of July celebrations, picnics and fun in the sun can be particularly hard. We had traditions based around summer as much as any holiday. Simple things like watching fireworks or being in the pool can be sobering. We are not just marking time but living forward. We can still enjoy things that we used to do and can make new memories with our family and friends. My husband had a very sarcastic sense of humor and I can still hear him sometimes because I know what he would say about certain things and situations. He can still make me laugh and I think that would make him happy. What about Summer makes you happy? Summer can mean a relaxation of your schedule, kids are out of school and home from college, hot days, and summer trips.

Only we can define what grief means to each of us individually. I live in the South so maybe summer means something different for you. I can’t say that summer is my favorite time of year but it meant something special to our family. When the kids were younger we all spent every minute together as a family. Here’s a list of things we have enjoyed for this summer even if in unusual ways:

1. Make Lemonade
When I was a kid my dad would make real lemonade. I would roll the lemons and get every drop of lemon juice from them. Of course, the recipe called for tons of real sugar. We would ladle it out of a big silver tub. Now I buy it from the carton at the store or from fountain drink dispensers. Nothing says summer to me like lemonade. You know the old saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. I get that now in a whole new way.

2. Swim your heart out
My husband loved swimming and would get up at 5:00AM to swim. I never understood it since I am not a morning person. He could make laps in the pool for an hour or more. I know it had to be his favorite form of exercise. I have found it to be a good exercise to get out of my head for a little while. It can help you connect with nature and your body. When we try to over think things, it clears the mind.

3. Keep moving with Biking
My kids never learned to ride a bike as kids. I don’t know if it was laziness on our part as parents, or we just couldn’t take the drama of the frustration from the kids. Now as an adult and an almost adult my kids are teaching each other to ride bikes. Losing their father as ultimately made them closer. We still get a good laugh with a, “Remember when Dad did that story”.

4. Making your daylight count
Make every moment count are words to live by anytime but especially after realizing the value of life after the loss of a loved one. We get more daylight hours in summer. Nothing has ever felt right about it being dark at 5:00PM in Winter. My favorite time to do things outside in summer is 6:00Pm til 9:00PM. It’s cooler and these hours feel like a little something extra every day.

I know you can make your summer special and there is still time even though Walmart has out their school supplies already. Take in the sun and summer with your friends and family. Don’t forget to feel the sun on your face and smile a little for your loved one.

Wedding Anniversaries: 4 Ways to Survive Sentiment and Tears After Loss

Our wedding anniversaries for those of us who have lost someone are often bittersweet. I was given a great gift this year on my wedding anniversary of cleansing tears. My daughter had set up the perfect night for a much-needed cry. I thought something was up when she left home and came back multiple times “running errands”. It started with just an invitation to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.

She arrived at the restaurant with a bouquet of five flowers and an envelope. The flowers were fresh roses and the envelope presumably a card. I thought how sweet, as I smelled the fragrance of the roses. She said “Open your card! Open your card”. I opened the envelope to a cute card. On the cover was two match sticks with faces, leaning on each other. Above them were the words “A Perfect Match”. I opened the card, on the right was a photo of my husband and I at our wedding. On the right, she had written “You two always were” (the perfect match). On the left, she had written, “I left one flower with him and the others are for you”. She had a photo of my husband’s grave with the one rose flower and the exact same photo of my husband and I at our wedding on the grave.

We both looked at each other, held both hands, and bawled. She made it okay to be sad on this day of celebration. It was just a beautiful experience I will never forget. We each got it in those moments.
So, this was my experience of what would have been our 30th wedding anniversary. These tips are what I learned and want to share with you. I suppose some of these could be generalized for other losses or holidays as well.

Four ways to survive a wedding anniversary after loss:

1. Spend it with someone who genuinely understands
Don’t try to fake being okay with people who expect you to be over it and okay. Share happy memories and the sadness with someone close to you. It is perfectly alright to be happy or sad, or anything in between.

2. Don’t have too lofty expectations

You don’t have to over schedule events for anyone else including your children. This is not the time to expect yourself to be the hostess of the party. Plan something simple that will give you comfort and celebrate your memories of your life together.

3. Pamper yourself with a present

Give yourself something special either a favorite or something new. It can be flowers, tickets to an event, a plan for a trip or it can be anything you have been wanting. It can be something that will be special to you and make you smile.

4. Get plenty of rest

This one may seem obvious but emotions can be tiring and cause fatigue. Give yourself some grace with a nap. You shouldn’t have to ask yourself “Why am I more tired today?”

Ultimately the answer is, that whatever is right for you, is the right thing to do. I would love to hear how you have spent your wedding anniversaries. It doesn’t have to follow any formula. What worked for you, if shared, can help someone else.