Thursday, January 25, 2007

What does it mean to be a widow?

A friend of mine lost her husband and told me that she never speaks the "W" word.  I innocently asked, "What is the "w" word?"  Thinking it had to be something like the "F" word.  Well, it WAS a bad word, and to some the word may seem obscene.  The word is "Widow." 

My friend went on to explain that just because her husband had died, didn't mean that she stopped feeling married to him.  True, most vows include "Til death do us part," but the vows didn't say, "I'll stay married to you until you die and then we no longer have a relationship."  The vow merely says that death has parted you.  Most widows and widowers I know believe that when their time comes, they will join again with their spouse.  So it's just that death has parted you for a time. 

Some realists will read this and say come on now.  If we were take those vows literally then none of us would ever get remarried or become reinvested in life.  That's true too.  But that's why I ALWAYS say, "We each grieve in our own unique way."  Meaning if you want to grieve, move on and become reinvested in life, then by all means do so.  If you want to grieve, move on, become reinvested in life, but choose not to remarry again, then there is nothing wrong with that choice either.

I must admit that after the time I have spent in grief counseling I was surprised that I had never heard anyone express my friend's sentiment in quite that way before.  I always try to listen to people with an open mind, that is, after all, how we learn and grow.  Then I came across an article titled, "Spousal Bereavement" and the author wrote expressing the exact same sentiments that my friend had and I thought, "Well I'll be darned, she's on to something."  So I have included the article in this posting in the hopes that it may benefit someone. 

Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.



               Lynn Caine, Widow


“Widow” is a harsh and hurtful word.  It comes from the Sanskrit and it means “empty.”  I have been empty too long.  I do not want to be pigeon-holed as a widow.  I am a woman whose husband has died, yes.  But not a second-class citizen, not a lonely goose.  I am a mother and a working woman and a friend and a sexual woman and a laughing woman and a concerned woman and a vital woman.  I am a person.  I resent what the term widow has come to mean.  I am alive.  I am part of the world.


If fate had reversed its whim and taken me instead of Martin, I would expect him to be very much a part of the world.  I cannot see him with the good gray tag of “widower.”  He would not stand for it for one moment.  And neither will I.  Not anymore. 


But what of love?  The warmth, the tenderness, the passion I had for Martin?  Am I rejecting that, too?


Ah, that is the very definition of bereavement.  The love object is lost.  And love without its object shrivels like a flower betrayed by an early frost.  How can we live without it?  Without love?  Without its total commitment?  This explains the passionate grief of widowhood.  Grief is as much a lament for the end of love as anything else.


Acceptance finally comes.  And with it comes peace.  Today I carry the scars of my bitter grief.  In a way I look upon them as battle stripes, marks of my fight to attain an identity of my own.  I owe the person I am today to Martin’s death.  If he had not died, I am sure I would have lived happily ever after as a twentieth-century child wife never knowing what I was missing . . .


But today I am someone else.  I am stronger, more independent.  I have more understanding, more sympathy.  A different perspective.  I have a quiet love for Martin.  I have passionate, poignant memories of him.  He will always be part of me.  But –


If I were to meet Martin today . . .?


Would I love him?


I ask myself.  Startled.  What brought the question to my mind?  I know.   I ask it because I am a different woman. 


Yes.  Of course I would.  I love him now.  But Martin is dead.  And I am a different woman.  And the next time I love, if ever I do, it will be a different man, a different love.




But so is life.  And wonderful.



Thursday, January 18, 2007

We Remember Them

Before the new year begins, the end of the old year is filled with remembrances.  A yearly tradition is to post a list of names of the famous, or influential, people who have died.  We often look over the list of names and remember how that person touched our lives, how they may have changed our culture or perspective, perhaps even our laws.  But we all know a great many people who may have affected us, and our lives, in this way, but they may be unknown to the masses.  We also know that just because "the masses" did not have the privilege of knowing this person, did not make this person any less special, or any less worthy of our remembrances.

I wanted to try a blog memorial for anyone who wanted to remember and memorialize a loved one.  If you would like to add a loved one's name and any comments about them and what made them so special, please feel free to access the comments section of this posting and I will update this posting daily to include all names and comments.  I will continue to do this until people stop adding names.  If you see a loved one's name already on the list, feel free to add it again.  Your comments and remembrances may be different than a previous listing, and will show how valued and loved this person was.  I also wanted to include a popular reading that I like to do during our memorial services. 

                                            WE REMEMBER THEM


                                         Sylvan Kamens and Jack Reimer

At the rising of the sun and at its going down, We Remember Them.

At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, We Remember Them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of Spring, We Remember Them.

At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of Summer, We Remember Them.

At the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of Autumn, We Remember Them.

At the beginning of the year, and at its end, We Remember Them.

When we are weary and in need of strength, We Remember Them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, We Remember Them.

When we have joy we crave to share, We Remember Them.

When we have decisions that are difficult to make, We Remember Them.

When we have achievements that are based on theirs, We Remember Them.

As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, As We Remember Them.


Memorial Names

Judith Mae Kruse (Atwood), She was my mom and died unexpectedly when I was 20.  I miss her every day and I feel her presence just as much.  Her death was very influential in leading me on the path that I am on today.  The things I want people to remember about her most was that she was animal lover (particularly cats - for those who know me, that explains a lot, doesn't it?), she had a great smile, she was funny and she loved her family.

John H. (Jack) Barrett,  He was one of the five people I consider my role models. Mr. Barrett was my Scoutmaster and helped teach me discipline as well as respect for nature. I believe that my enjoyment of the outdoors comes directly from him.  He passed away just before Christmas in 2004.  "

Donald L. Kane (Don) was my beloved husband.  He passed away suddenly in November 2006 at the age of 56, a week after our daughter, Jacqueline, got married.  He was a wonderful, loving, caring, hardworking man who never hurt a soul in his life.  He was very quiet, and you might think he wasn’t paying attention, but he never missed anything and never forgot anyone he ever met or worked with over the years.  He was an animal lover, too…he brought home almost every stray that crossed his path over the years…4 dogs, a hamster, 6 baby rabbits.  We had 34 wonderful years together.  We really never fought…hon ..."

Eugene Kruse, He was my Godfather and Uncle.  He waskilled in a drunk driving accident when I was very young.  I don't have many memories of him, but the ones I do are of a very loving and generous man.  He was one of my first comforting memories as a child.  I still have many of the things he gave to me when I was born. 

Olivia White, was my friend and I met her while she was a client for our veterinary hospital.  I helped take care of her and her dog and became very good friends with her.  She never married and was an only child.  She took care of her sick aunt and parents and hospiced them in her home, when hospice wasn't an easy choice back then.  Her pets were her children and she loved her white poodle, Teddy. 

Charles E. (Gene) Keith, my loving spouse of 34 years who suddenly passed away on December 15, 2006.  I feel I have a hole in my being without him.  He was a kind, caring and wonderful man who loved his family and God with all his heart.  He was retired from Phillips Petroleum for about 8 years and worked as a contractor and built houses for the last several years.

Charles Randow, my grandfather-in-law.  To me, he was what every grandfather should be.  He always made me feel like I was his real granddaughter, not just by marriage.  He always asked about me, my activities and what I was doing.  He always remembered every detail of my schooling, work and my many pets.  Most importantly, he told me he was proud of me.  He was truly a loving and generous man with a tremendously huge heart. 

Kenneth James, 45. Gone from this earth way too soon. A brave person who quietly fought a battle with cancer. Among his selfless commitments to others, Ken was a volunteer Fireman with  Engine Co #1 Pompton Plains, NJ, for many years.
In the time after his diagnosis, Ken never wallowed in self-pity. Through it all, he was a rock for the rest of us who asked plenty of times, "why him?".  

Ruth Sebzda, my Mother. Another of my five role models (Jack Barrett from an earlier post was another). My Mom was always there for my Father, Sisters and me in so many important ways that it would be impossible to describe them all. Words cannot describe what she means to me. Lets just say I love her and I will  miss her terribly.  

My beloved grandson Aaron died on March 13th,  2007.  He was 24 years old & the light of my life.  I miss him so very much & keep asking "why", why him & not me.  He was a young man with his life ahead of him.  There are many things I ask myself, such as What If, If Only.  My wound is so deep & hurts beyond belief.  Knowing I will never see his smiling face & sparkling eyes, running thru the grass with his dog is more than I can deal with.  How do you get thru these days?  I know that life will never be the same again, how could it be.  When does that pain inside of you ease?   Please God, keep Aaron close to you.




Until next week, please be gentle with yourself.


P.S.  If you have found this posting or previous postings helpful, please consider making a donation to The Bereavement Center.  We are a non-profit organization that serves the community, and we operate solelyon donations from families, clients and the community.  As always, your donation will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged.




Monday, January 8, 2007


Last week I was having trouble focusing on what would be an appropriate topic to post.  I had other issues going on that were making it difficult for me to maintain my concentration and stay focused on my task.  When life throws you a curve ball and you become focused on that issue and the surrounding implications, it can be very difficult to focus on other aspects of your life; of your every day activities.  This is true for people who may be experiencing grief. 

People in grief are so focused on their loss and the surrounding implications that it becomes very difficult to focus on the other every day activities, such as work, home and family.  The surrounding implications are called "secondary losses" which mean how does this loss affect the other areas of your life.  Did your protector die?  Did your provider die?  Did your companion die?  Did your best friend die?  Did the person who handled all the household finances die?  Did the person who knew how to fix the car or fix anything that went wrong in the house die?  This list could go on and on, but you get the point. 

Take for example a widow just had her heat go out in the middle of winter.  She is already grieving and consumed with the sadness of the loss of her spouse.  Throw on top of that, she might not know who to call to come fix the furnace.  Where does she look for information?  How will she know that she is contacting a reputable company?  Can she trust being in the house with the repairman alone?  Does she pretend that she is not alone?  How much will it cost?  Does she have enough to fix it?  The estate hasn't come out of probate yet, if she pays for the repairs now, will she have enough money for food, bills, medical, etc.?  And this list goes on.  If you asked this widow to think about solving another problem or taking on another task, you can well imagine that she wouldn't have the energy or motivation to fulfill that request, let alone stay focused on that new task as well.

That is why I say, "Please be gentle with yourself."  I also like to say, "Don't have such high expectations of yourself during grief."  People have a tendency to be their own worst enemies.  During grief, you don't need YOU criticizing yourself, or berating yourself, because you didn't do something you thought you should do, or didn't act fast enough, or didn't think something through more thoroughly, or whatever it is that we like to beat ourselves up over.  As time goes on, you will be able to regain more and more of your focus and you will find that you will start to become more motivated, more energized.  You just need some patience, time and some kindness - to yourself.

Until next week, please be gentle with yourself - AND don't have such high expectations.


P.S.  If you have found this posting or previous postings helpful, please consider making a donation to The Bereavement Center.  We are a non-profit organization that serves the community, and we operate solely on donations from families, clients and the community.  As always, your donation will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged.