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That First Year: Coping Tips For New Widows And Widowers

When I became a widow at the age of 52, I sought out the company of other women in the same circumstances. Being confused and overwhelmed, I hoped that spending time with experienced widows, could somehow help me cope better.

I feel that the wisdom of women was instrumental in my recovery. Based on what I heard from them, and my own experience, I wrote a list of several coping tips and some general observations. I hope that those could be helpful for new widows and widowers in the difficult first year.

Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

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The Comfort of Denial

A powerful cartoon on PBS,  by Jack Ohman, with the perfect title: “In my dad’s final weeks, I was still in Denial, “  reminded me, this morning, of the time of my husband's illness. I too, till the last moment, was in complete denial.

This is an essay in which I argue that denial could be helpful when dealing with tragedy.

Sometimes I hear people remark “she is in complete denial,” several years ago that's probably how they described me. They could not have known, but at that time I chose denial as a way of life and as the best course of action. After my husband was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and heard from the Oncologist about his prognosis, I decided to put that knowledge aside.

Please keep reading in the Times Of Israel

Jack Ohman's cartoon: 

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Cycles and Baby Steps

I was reading about a professional eater this morning. She downed three seventy-two ounce steaks in one sitting. I scoff at the term ‘professional eater’ or the need for a professional eater, showing off how much they can eat while so much of the world starves. Is this our ultimate statement of hypocrisy?


Free-range parenting is in the news. Free-range is the term given to raising children as Mom raised me and my siblings. We ran around on our own, checking in when we were hungry, needed the bathroom, or bleeding. That’s now considered bad parenting, with neighbors and concerned citizens calling authorities and child protective services and police departments swooping in to round up free-range children. Free-ranging was once considered normal. It was surprising to hear one woman called ‘the inventor’.

So it is life and news cycles around us, as the sun travels the solar system and the planets travel the sun.  What was once considered a need is now done for sport (eating) and how we were raised is now considered dangerous, even though the relative dangers have been debunked. There is always a danger something can happen. I learned that again last week. Tucker, the black and white enigma is shares custody of us with another cat, Quinn, torn out a claw last Thursday. How and why, only that cat knows, like how he injured his eye. I was home then, and he went out, as he always does, and came back hours later, injured. Tucker is fine, as far as we can tell, but is limping a little this morning. He hadn’t been limping in the previous days. He washed as I typed Now he’s sleeping on my desk, on the other side of the laptop.

I was with my wife during the weekend, hiking and tramping around Bend. She’s feeling the effects of those exertions, strange to witness. It’s another cycle, this one being a cycle of her disease. Sun affects her. Food affects her. Exercising affects her. Her medicine affects her. Those symptoms flare and decline in cycles but she’s not attuned to what does what or when, only that it’s parcel of a larger cycle.

This thought of cycles stays near my mind. I follow my cycles as sports fanatics follow their teams. I’ve traced and identified my emotional, physical and intellectual cycles, along with ‘social’ cycles. The social cycle is how I view and accept socializing. It is different from the other three cycles. All are related, pulling and diverting energy. I suspect there is also a nutrition cycle but it needs more investigation. The earth’s seasonal cycles affect me, as well, and the cycles of day and night. So do the weather cycles and my work cycles. Work cycles mostly revolve around the sales cycles, which revolve around the fiscal calendar.

I see the impact and influences of these cycles in my writing efforts. The overall swirl of cycles contribute to larger cycles that travel like the moon’s phases, but while that is taking place, the individual cycles rotate in and out of influence. They swell to contribute positively or negatively to my overall cycle. My writing itself demonstrates some cycles, with some days being remarkably easy to navigate through my writing, and other days being as difficult as walking barefoot over broken glass. That’s why baby steps are always needed.

Baby steps are always required for me to deal with cycles. There are always matters to digest, begin, pursue, or end in the context of all the cycles rotating through and around me. My wife and I talked about these cycles and baby steps this weekend, this time against a backdrop of our friend. Our friend’s husband is enduring stem cell treatment for brain cancer. She and he have been dealing with his health issues for several years. What began as hepatitis C turned into Lymphoma. As it was treated and defeated, the brain cancer was discovered. The brain cancer is much tougher. Stem cell therapy is the last desperate act. He’s living at Moffett in Florida, where he’s getting his treatment. Then they’ll live in an RV parked in a nearby RV park to continue his treatment.

Our friend is gritting her teeth as she deals with this, along with taking care of her husband’s business and her business, and advising her adult children. Both children have their issues. One is suffering a mysterious ailment and the other has a broken foot. Neither has established a long term relationship. I don’t know how this fits into it, but it seems indicative of something. They are adults, one being into his forties, the other into her thirties. To cope with everything, our friend drinks more, realizes she drinks more, and realizes she drinks too much, consuming a bottle of wine a night. So she’s struggling to cope with that, too, along with her mother’s declining health. Naturally, we wonder, what do we tell a person going through all of this?

The answer is baby steps, a nicely intellectualized approach to multiple family, financial, emotional, mental and physical issues. My wife takes this advice herself. I take this advice. But – yes, there is a but. There is usually a but. We all know there are some days when even baby steps seem exhausting. The only thing to do then is break them down into smaller and smaller steps until a sufficiently small step is found and taken.

It’s easily said, harder to do, requiring energy across all the individual cycles that make us the people that we are. Watching the world and its individuals and the cycles we travel, I’m grateful that my demands are so insignificant, minute, affording me the opportunity to complain or exult about my finances, my writing, my work, my home, my cats. Too, too many lack that luxury to regard and complain about the minutiae. They seek the baby steps needed to stay alive, or the steps needed to die, part of the greatest cycles we know, the cycles of life and death, and creation and destruction.

Time for me to take a few steps. Time to walk to the coffee shop through this glorious weather, unleash the writer inside, and write like crazy.

One more time.



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