From the beginning, when I first became a widow, woodpeckers began looming large in my consciousness. Woodpeckers were my late husband's favorite bird and began showing up around me almost immediately. They were out back in my wooded back yard, they were in the front yard from time to time, they even followed me on vacation. They were around me so often that it became clear that someone was trying to tell me something! As I began to feel a calling to advocate for and help other widows, the calling was unmistakably strong. As one friend at the time said, "Mary Lee?
By and large, my holidays have gotten better. They aren't grand and glorious and giddy, as they once were, but they are finally pretty happy again. I've found ways to celebrate differently now, but the one thing I really can't do is to inject them with the element of surprise. The element of surprise is missing entirely. Where once I could count on being surprised on Christmas morning with gifts I hadn't chosen myself and maybe an activity or two that I didn't organize, those don't happen any longer.
One of the things that alarms most new widows is the fear of forgetting. Nearly all of us are afraid that those precious memories will slip away from us into the recesses of our brain, never to be retrieved again. While that’s rarely what happens, we are able to summon up those warm recollections when we want to, nevertheless, the anxiety about losing them only adds to our distress. It doesn’t have to be that way.
This was originally written in December 2011:
Saturday, I awoke and could not motivate myself to work in the morning. Instead I wasted about two hours of time watching Youtube videos until the gym opened and I could go work out. I thought a lot during that workout what it was that was putting me in this state… then it hit me.
I returned home form the gym and new what I needed to do, something I had been avoiding doing for one and a half years.
As we enter into the holiday season we have choices:
We can choose to focus on how hard it will be without our loved one(s) physically present (essentially deciding that from now until 2020 is going to be: hard, sad, depressing, etc...
We can also choose an alternative focus like focusing on spending the holiday season in the way we know in our hearts our loved one(s) would want us to spend this special time of year.
This year is coming to a close and a new one is around the corner. Some of you have seen several new years arrive as widows; some are still completing your year of "firsts"...first birthday, first anniversary, first holidays without you mate. Wherever you are, this time of year is a good time to spend some quiet moments dreaming. Dream of what's next. Dream of who you want to become now. Dream of places you would like to go and things you would like to do. What does 2020 look like for you?
At holiday time when we're supposed to be feeling joyous, many people are instead feeling lonely, depressed and grief-stricken. Adding to their pain, people who care about them might not understand or recognize their plight or know how to help.
Mary Lee Robinson, a certified grief expert, author, and editor of a lifestyle magazine for widows is encouraging people to start two new traditions this year.