10 RULES FOR NEW WIDOWS
1. I did not manage my grief better than any other widow. But I have learned over the past two years that there are ways a widow can help herself.
2. Stay in charge of your own life. Do not let your children or anyone else manage your money and activities. It is easy to let yourself become your child’s child. But you are not a child, you are an adult. You should be free to make your own choices.
3. Avoid hasty decisions. For the first year, don’t sell your house, don’t move, don’t make major purchases, don’t make a major change in your way of life. If this is not possible – if financial or other considerations force you to make a big decision – try to get the best advice you can.
4. Maintain your regular routine. Push yourself to get up at your usual hour, go to work, go shopping, do your chores as usual. The old routine provides a framework that helps you put one foot in front of the other, at a time when you think you are too torn apart even to move.
5. Get out of the house. Do anything to get out, even if you do not want to. Get involved in a women’s club or in local politics; take a first-aid class; volunteer at a library, hospital or museum. Get a paying job. Whatever you do, do not give in to the inertia that will keep you indoors.
6. Fight loneliness. Get together with old friends, and work at making new ones. The number of widow – support groups has increased tremendously over the past few years, and many women find them of enormous help. Your church or temple, or the American Association of Retired Persons can put you in touch with one of these groups.
7. Be good to yourself. The person who loved and cherished you has gone, but there is no reason why you should not cherish yourself. Get yourself to the hairdresser. Make an appointment for a facial or massage. None of these things will erase your grief, but they will give you an hour’s respite from it.
8. Exercise. I guarantee that physical exercise will make you feel at least a little better. The secret is to find something you enjoy and then do it regularly. I swim. You might try joining a walking group, using an exercise video, going to a YWCA.
9. Cry if you want. It helps. And do not let other people stop you. The natural tendency is to say, “Now, now, don’t cry – you’ll make yourself sick.” This is nonsense. You cannot feel worse than you feel now.
10. Beware of pills and alcohol. Alcohol can seem to offer an escape or blunt the edge of grief, but this is a temporary illusion. As for tranquilizers, follow your doctor’s advice; these can become addictive.
11. Check your progress. Take time every three months to think back and assess your progress. In any three – month period, you may actually feel that everything is worse than it was before. But as the months go by, you will notice small and consistent signs of improvement. Each widow has her own timetable of grief, and yours may be quite different from mine. Listen to your inner self. You know what is right for you better than anyone else.
Good Housekeeping/November 1990